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Brooks Lennon: Just don’t give up on us. We aren’t going to give up on ourselves

If Atlanta United makes the playoffs, we’ll contemplate all possible definitions of “the skin of their teeth.”

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United is teetering on the precipice of being eliminated from the playoffs after a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers Sunday evening. Mathematically the Five Stripes still have a chance, but at this point Atlanta needs to put another foot forward and try something totally different. They’re rapidly running out of time, though, as only five games are left in the season.

Unfortunately, Atlanta’s play against Portland didn’t inspire much confidence going forward. Moments of dominant performance didn’t really exist in this match; in fact, Atlanta had trouble really unlocking any sort of attack. The first shot on goal of the match came around the 31st minute by Luiz Araujo after a break, and it was scooped up by Portland’s keeper (who didn’t have much to do all night).

Admittedly the Timbers never appeared truly dangerous either, but their relentless efforts eventually rewarded them with a pair of penalty kicks. Raul Gudiño, who notched his first Atlanta United start, could do nothing as both PK’s were slotted home expertly by Santiago Moreno and Dairon Asprilla. The two penalty calls in one match were equal to the total amount Atlanta United has received all season, and they were never able to recover.

Josef Martinez gave his best effort, though, as he came on in the 63rd minute alongside Edwin Mosquera and found himself on the end of a Marcelino Moreno (another very late sub) corner.

Ultimately, the late game heroics to pull off a result were not in the cards. The match ended 2-1 and now Atlanta United sits at 11th in the Eastern Conference, five points outside of the playoffs. Pineda was visibly frustrated after the match, and rightfully so, as he spoke to the media. Brooks Lennon and Raul Gudiño also took a moment to give their thoughts about the loss in their latest “must-win” match, all of which you can check out below.

Be sure to leave your comments below, as well, and check out our post-match Twitter Spaces show as we were joined by Michael Parkhurst to chat about the Five Stripes, footy, and Beyond Goals Mentoring!

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:

On if he’s disappointed in the team’s performance today:

“Obviously with the result, I feel like we could have done better in the final third. We got in good areas to cross and we just couldn’t finalize the half-chances we created to put more shots on target. We tried 10 total shots, but couldn’t put more than two shots on target tonight, so we have to do better in those moments. Then again, we need to do better on those PK moments and we have to reflect on how we can do better in those moments.”

On his level of frustration at this point of the season:

“At this moment, right after the game, I’m frustrated and upset. That’s normal when you don’t get the results. But obviously, we don’t gain anything from that. We need to overcome this part and try to analyze this game and try to see the next game plan, this next week and how we can approach that. How can we do things better. Just move forward and move on from this game and continue with the season. We need to go into these last five matches with good preparation.”

On his decision to insert Marcelino Moreno at later stage in the match:

“I think that Santi (Santiago Sosa) was doing a good job at holding that position as a holding center mid with the center partner in Amar (Sejdic). We were waiting for a little bit of the connection between Luiz (Araujo) and Josef (Martinez) in those minutes and I was waiting for that. I felt that in those moments we were dangerous in the final third, we created a couple of half chances through Luiz, Brooks (Lennon) Josef and Edwin (Mosquera) on the left side. So, then I was just waiting and then the second goal from Portland came and we decided to bring on Marcelino. I think Marcelino is better when he plays inside, and I felt that Amar and Thiago (Almada) were there already, but I will reflect on that.”

On the team’s confidence and belief of making the playoffs being shaken after tonight:

“Well, probably right now after the game the confidence level is not great for sure. It’s a moment where we need to try to analyze and reflect on what we can do better and come back with a better response next time. This is football. This is part of the game. We wish we could be in a different position and try to increase those energy levels or confidence levels, but we are not. Now, what happened tonight we can’t do anything about it anymore. It’s in the past. We have to try to move on and continue with the next game.”

On starting Ronaldo Cisneros:

“Look, I’ve been very clear on why I start certain players and not start certain players. I don’t want to go into that trend every time I make a decision. It was my decision. The energy that Ronaldo brings in the way we want to press and stretch opponents for 90 minutes, not just for 30 minutes, Ronaldo can provide that at the moment. That’s part of my decision, but again there are many things that are going into that decision.”

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon:

On the execution of the team’s tactics tonight in the attack:

“Obviously we are disappointed not to come out with three points. We battled until the end, great goal by Josef (Martinez) at the end. I just don’t think we had enough numbers in the box at times. When the ball got into the wide areas, and whoever was out wide was trying to put the ball in the box, we didn’t have the numbers we expect or want in those areas. That was an issue for us tonight, obviously you have to give credit to Portland and their defense. I thought they played well tonight, but back to the drawing board and back to film and understand the reasons why we didn’t create as many chances as we normally do.”

On the team’s confidence after tonight:

“This group still has belief. We have five games left in the season. We have a big one at home on Saturday against Toronto in front of our home fans. The most important part now for the remainder of the games this season is for everyone to give 110% and never back down, never give up and do everything they can to get three points for this club and gives us a chance at making the playoffs.”

On what was difficult today in the match:

“I think one of the main problems we had today was shifting the ball from side-to-side. I thought the ball movement from one side to the other was slow tonight. That hurt us in many ways. In transitional moments where we gave the ball away in tough areas, and if you don’t move a team side-to-side, shift the ball quickly with one or two touches, you are going to get yourself into some trouble. That’s what happened to us tonight.”

On his message to the fans after tonight’s loss:

“Just don’t give up on us. We aren’t going to give up on ourselves. We still believe in ourselves to get wins at home, and that’s the most important part now is to prove to our fans that we are dedicated and believe in ourselves. Like I said earlier, we are going to give 110%. We are going to get back to the Training Ground and work as hard as possible this week. We will do everything we can do finish out the year strong and continue to fight until the end and never give up.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Raul Gudiño

On why Pineda told him he was starting tonight and how he thinks he performed

“Good, I think individually I did a good job, trying to help my teammates. Unfortunately, the goals were from penalties and it’s random, sometimes you can save them, sometimes they score and they were well taken. I think each person works every day to win a place in the starting 11 and Gonzalo had told me that I’ve been training very well and I had the opportunity.”

On if it’s normal for it to take so long to get an opportunity and if he had other expectations

“Of course, as you say, at the end of the day the expectation was different but the decisions aren’t up to me. There are things I can’t control. At the end of the day, the coach is who decides who plays and one has to keep training and preparing themselves. He gave me the opportunity, it’s only one game. I have to keep working to be able to stay in the starting 11.”

On what he’s noticed on the team’s confidence level

“Correct, we know things aren’t all good. At the end of the day, the team, the players, I think we’re working well but the results aren’t coming. That’s soccer. We have to stay strong, maintain that passion, commitment to keep moving forward and the results will happen. Soccer is grateful to those that work, that fight, don’t put their arms down and that’s why we’re here. It’s a great challenge and in these moments is when you see the truth in things so we’re going to keep working, not put our arms down. We have battles ahead of us and we have to keep fighting game after game to get points and make the playoffs.”

On if the players still believe the team can make the playoffs with five games remaining

“Of course, we’re aware of that. We have five finals left, five battles, and we have to fight them like that, try to take the maximum number of points possible and try to be higher in the table. And then once in the playoffs, it’s a different competition.”