Mi corazón. What a wild ending.
While the Five Stripes weren’t able to snag the win against Columbus Crew on Saturday night in Atlanta, fans got to see another example of the fight that Gonzalo Pineda has praised all season. A last second towering header by none other than Miles Robinson secured the point and blew the roof off the Benz.
The soccer by Atlanta United perhaps wasn’t the best, but it must be remembered that Columbus is one of the premier teams in the league this season.
The match was a true back and forth affair for the entire first half, with Atlanta creating a handful of chances - including one big chance - but only outputting three shots to Columbus’ eleven. Columbus responded in the second half with a bit more pressure and despite one of Brad Guzan’s best showings of the season, the away team took the lead in the 65th minute. A quick attack was almost halted by Atlanta’s defense, but an unlucky, slight deflection saw the ball land directly at Cucho Hernandez’s feet who made no mistake in the go-ahead goal.
Atlanta, in true never give up fashion, fought to the final whistle. Jamal Thiaré was brought on to help throw bodies forward, but he ultimately had to be subbed out due to concussion protocol after a nasty fall. Edwin Mosquera also stepped in as a sub and continued his excellent run of form by being an absolute energetic pest on the right wing, throwing the game back in favor of Atlanta.
The Five Stripes created some more chances, but it was ultimately a free kick just outside the box by Thiago Almada that led to the header by Miles Robinson.
The draw completed Atlanta’s best home record since 2019, though it also eliminated them from top four contention. Pineda openly admitted that Columbus did many things better than Atlanta on the night, but it’s hard to be upset at this point. There are many positives to take away, and at this point, the ultimate goal is to key in on deficiencies, motivate the squad, avoid injuries, and point eyes towards standing atop a podium in Mercedes-Benz Stadium hoisting a second MLS Cup.
Will it be easy? No, but preparations start now, despite what may happen on Decision Day. The team has shown it has the quality and talent to win on any given day and, regardless of the lack of home field advantage, the singular focus of the playoffs and winning at all costs is on the horizon.
Take a look below at what Pineda, Mosquera, Miles, and Lennon all had to say after the match.
Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:
On the not being able to secure fourth place in the Eastern Conference after the draw:
“Well, yeah, we couldn’t. We couldn’t. And I think we tried. We certainly fought for that spot. Today, Columbus I think was better than us in many ways, and I felt that tactically we could have done a bit better on and off the ball. What I take from today’s performance and kind of summarize the season, is the fight. The team was always present. Always, many many games where we were fighting until the end. Sometimes we were not playing probably at our best, but we’re fighting till the end and that’s a signature for a championship team. Those are champion behaviors of never quitting, always fighting till the end even though at times we know the product can be better than us. We are humbled to know that at times, we cannot be the best team in the league. We try, certainly, to be, and to play as the best but today wasn’t the case. Columbus, they have a very good team, a very good coach. We earned one point and that’s very valuable to me.”
On how the tactics could have been better and how you build on this to get better heading to Cincinnati and into the playoffs:
“Well, I take it on me this time. I think the players did everything we asked for. Everything. It’s just a tactical switch that Columbus did that we couldn’t fix until the first half and after that there was more of an open game. The second half, I would say we knew that this was an opponent that was very similar to us always wanting the ball. Always disrupting, and when they break through the middle, they change the pace very similar to what we do with Thiago and Brooks in the pocket or Tristan, and then we change the pace, and we attack with some danger. They were the same today just they were better…In the second half we tried something different by just putting more pressure with a 4-4-2. Unfortunately, the concussion with Jamal Thiaré, we changed a little bit there, but again, tactically, yes we as coaches we can do better. The players did everything I asked for with a lot of effort and I think that’s a positive point form today.”
On the goals of the team in the final two games ahead of the playoffs and build momentum:
“Yes for sure. I would say we have almost two weeks to prepare that final game. I haven’t made my mind on what is going to be the goal because I was hoping to win tonight and then fighting for the top four. That was the idea. Now that you ask this question I start to think about now trying to prevent some injuries; trying to prevent some suspensions. I think we have a couple of guys with four yellows so do we need to take care of that. In the international window, guys will come back from long flights and international games, how many minutes they will play so we don’t risk any injury, but also push for the best possible. Maybe the best possible we can get now is fifth. We have to push for that, but there is a bit of a balance there. A couple of objectives there but I have to make up my mind after tonight’s game, and we’ll come up with a plan for sure.”
On Saba not being as affective in the last two matches compared to his previous matches when he first arrived:
“This happens. I would say that they (the players) were doing everything I asked for. Saba I think was very incisive. At times, I think he was maybe a little to far outside. He was coming too far inside at times in the first half. But even there, there were quite a few half chances and yeah, for sure he didn’t have that final touch that was happening before but again, that happens. He (Saba) is a fantastic player and is going to be an amazing player for us.”
Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson:
On his goal tonight
“I mean Thiago put in a great ball, I was just trying to start behind the defense but yeah obviously without the ball I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to put it in so I just put it on target for the goal.”
On where his “Never Give Up” attitude comes from
“I think it comes from the fans, first and foremost. Just the energy that comes with playing in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is definitely something that we appreciate, and I think that the fans have continued to give us this energy time and time again.”
On how the team currently feels
“I think that we understood that Columbus is a great team, they showed it today. But just to get a point out of that, it kind of shows some encouragement to some guys.”
Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon:
On any concern with not finishing in the top-four of the standings:
“No, we are not worried at all. We have a good team. We are ready to win in the playoffs. We have the team to do it home and away. So, we are not worried.”
On what the team has learned playing against two playoff teams in last two matches:
“It’s good to play these teams now. We are playing Philadelphia, Columbus and Cincinnati back-to-back-to-back. Those are three teams that are probably going to finish in the top-four and we are going to have to play against one of them probably. So, it’s great to see them now and it’s almost like a playoff game before the playoffs. That’s what tonight felt like. I thought they played really well, give them credit and tip your hat to Columbus. They controlled the ball very well. Not every game is going to be beautiful. We are not always going to have all the possession. Sometimes, you have to defend really well. I thought we did that. I think the goal we conceded was a little unlucky. Other than that, I thought we defended really well. We didn’t control the ball, but we move forward. Now we get some rest and train and prepare for Cincinnati.”
On the maturity of the team shown in the last couple of games:
“I think that’s the point. At times we are not going to control the game like I said before. In order to keep our composure and stay calm and understand at times in the game we are going to be under it. If we stay solid defensively, we have the attackers to make a difference in transition. We had some good offensive transition moments tonight, not great. I think normally we are more lethal in the final third, but that’s ok. We did really well defensively and we need to build off that.”
Atlanta United winger Edwin Mosquera
On how he feels in his role coming in as a substitute and being a difference maker
“I think I’m going in to do my job and contribute to the team from my game.”
On where he feels more comfortable, being a starter or coming on as a substitute
“I think like all players we like to start. Now I’m coming off the bench and I’m doing well but I would always prefer to start.”
On his role taking players on, getting to the endline... and if those were the instructions from the coach
“Yes, he told me we needed to be more protagonists on the right wing and my job is to take players on, play crosses, give assists and I tried and tried as much as I could.”
On how he’s feeling physically
“I think I’m training very well and that training is showing on the field and in the games.”