Pinch yourself, Atlanta United has won two matches in a row for the first time since this week last year.
The Five Stripes traveled down to Exploria Stadium a.k.a. Josef Martinez’s summer home a.k.a. Orlando, the city where meteorologists have no idea as to what the weather is actually going to do, and won their first match in Mickey Mouse’s house since 2019. Kickoff was delayed by almost an hour due to thunderstorms in the area, and Orlando fans showed up in force to support their team that just won the U.S. Open Cup.
20’ Still scoreless at Exploria Stadium: Raul Gudino with two big stops for Atlanta United. Orlando City peppering the goal in the first half. pic.twitter.com/EBy2c5gKgA— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) September 14, 2022
Anyway, they dressed like seats very well.
It would ultimately be Thiago Almada who provided the lone goal in the match from a bit of interchange with Andrew Gutman. Almada played a wall-pass to Gutman, who found himself in exactly the position no opposition would ever imagine he would occupy, and the Argentine wonder kid exploited acres of space as he dribbled into the box. From that distance the shot was like Gwen Stefani: no doubt. You’re welcome.
Thiago Almada doing Thiago Almada things pic.twitter.com/mW2nrGiqkT— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 15, 2022
What’s very interesting about this match, though, was the run of play for the Five Stripes. We’ve heard all season that Atlanta United wants to dominate matches and they just haven’t been rewarded for their statistical efforts. Well, take a look at these stats:
Atlanta wasn’t “in control” of the match, a sentiment that Gonzalo Pineda shared in his post match responses. However, the team was effective at holding off the Lion’s attack and took advantage of a solid opportunity to go ahead on the road. None of Orlando’s attacks looked particularly potent, but Atlanta had a couple of very solid opportunities in which they should have capitalized on in the first half. One especially was a one-v-one of Luiz Araujo against Pedro Gallese where Araujo had Orlando’s entire defense beat and then
fired misfired a right-footed, lazy shot that Orlando’s center backs were able to clear as it approached the plane of goal.
Then Andrew Gutman, the Atlanta United pitch ninja, also found himself with a beautiful opportunity as halftime approached. Orlando seemed to forget about him as he made a run towards the six yard box and took a shot on goal. It was a sequence that goalkeeper Pedro Gallese blocked but who was left writhing on the ground screaming about a shot to his tender bits from the carnage he’d just endured from Atlanta’s free floating center back.
The two match winning streak is an interesting look for the Five Stripes, who have admittedly played better in matches where they conceded some possession. That isn’t to say possession-based football is bad, just ask Pep Guardiola, but in this iteration of Atlanta United they’ve now won twice in a row by going against the “run of play.”
However, the ultimate test of Atlanta’s final regular-season matches comes Saturday when the Philadelphia Union come to town. A battle between the current Supporter’s Shield favorites and the Five Stripes’ newfound hope could have massive consequences for Atlanta’s post-season aspirations. Of the last three matches, Atlanta realistically needs to bag 7 points, which would mean at minimum a draw versus Philly with wins against New England and NYCFC. At this point, it isn’t unrealistic.
Pineda, Ronald Hernandez, and
Lionel Messi Thiago Almada all spoke to the media after the match, but Pineda said it best when he said this run of form was “perfect timing.” Fans now have a few days to come to terms with every definition of “by the skin of their teeth” when referencing Atlanta United’s playoff hopes as the season comes to a close. It’s been a trying year and the boys are cutting it close.
In the meantime, be sure to drop your comments below and listen to our Twitter Spaces post-match show, which is linked at the bottom of the article. Positivity flooded the airwaves as the Five Stripes started their winning streak, and in case you haven't noticed, we’re potentially being set up for one hell of a decision day.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On how impactful could this win be for the team’s playoff hunt
“Perfect timing. I think it’s very good, I mean, more than those stats of second victory, second victory on the road. It’s the timing of it, it puts us in a very good position to fight for a playoff spot. We need to continue. Nothing is done yet but the spirits and the passion the players are putting on the field is very good.”
On if he felt like the team was in control of the game throughout
“I wouldn’t say we were in control. We always want to be controlling in a certain way, which is good possession and dictating the tempo. Today, it wasn’t that type of game. What I like about today’s game is my team understood how to react to that, how to adapt to that situation. They had good tactics, they start to put a lot of numbers inside, counter-movements from Facundo Torres and the left back Moutinho. The middle, Pereyra was doing a very good job at dictating the tempo, including the screens from the teams. The team understood how to adapt to that, how to close out the most dangerous areas and then, in transition, we were very dangerous. It’s never perfect. You never can create a game plan and always manifest it as a good plan. But the team understood how to play and it was good.”
On his thought process behind Matheus Rossetto’s substitution for Amar Sejdic
“I was trying to have a little bit more of the ball, a little bit more control. Amar did a great job, I thought that he was very good in the first half but also we needed to refresh a little bit that area because they were putting a lot of players in there. I felt that Rossetto was good and fresh. He was sloppy in the first couple of passes because of the lack of activity but after that, he controlled very well the tempo when we were in the attacking third. He was kind of dictating when to go, where to shift and I felt it was a good sub.”
Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernández
On the team’s level of confidence after winning consecutive matches
“First of all, you see the confidence in the games. Obviously, after winning two games in a row we’re building a confidence as a team that is evolving, right, but we need to stay humble, keep our feet on the ground, and go step by step.”
On the team being able to play a consistent lineup now and if it is able to execute what Gonzalo Pineda has been asking all season
“Yes, as you say it’s been a season very different than past seasons for many ups and downs, injuries, players that have had external things, but the truth is all this work and the three points is a product of the work that we’ve done. The reward for the effort and never giving up. Obviously, Gonzalo’s ideas are always transmitted, but sometimes it’s a mentality thing and we have to reflect that on the field.”
On the communication between him and Brooks Lennon defensively
“We need time because Brooks and I have been competing for a spot for more than 12 months. I think we’re finding a strong connection in attack and defensively, but time will tell and we’re working daily. Maybe he feels a little strange playing as a right winger but it’s a matter of time and hard work and be willing to be humble, listen and try to listen to the team’s needs.”
On depending on other results to make the playoffs
“Personally, first we have to focus on ourselves. To be able to depend on other results we have to do our job. After, we’ll see what happens. We’ll continue to keep growing as a group, the playoffs start in October. We’ll do our jobs first and see what happens.”
Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada
On how well he’s playing and if the biggest factor is the consistency with the players around him
“Yes, I think the team is playing better and understanding each other better. These two wins give us confidence.”
On Almada seeming like the only player making runs off the ball and if he is ever frustrated by other teammates not making runs
“No, simply I want to give my best for the team and connect with my teammates and create goal scoring chances.”
On Pineda saying if feels like it’s the team versus everybody and the officials and if the players feel that
“Yes, it could be that sometimes the officials play against us but we can’t focus on that. We have to do our jobs on the field. We all make mistakes so they can make mistakes too. But as Gonzalo says, sometimes we feel that.”
On describing his goal
“It was a wall-pass with Andrew. I don’t know how he was there. He returned it perfectly. My first touch was a little long, I wanted to pass it to Josef but then I dribbled and was one-on-one with the goalkeeper.”