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Machop Chol: I was enjoying my footy

His first MLS goal and a beautiful celebration to go with it!

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United headed north of the border and came home with a point after a hard-fought 2-2 draw. Unfortunately, the Five Stripes have now dropped a total of four points against the Canadian side this season as what appeared to be a 2-1 win was erased in the last moment by a late Brandon Servania goal.

Regardless, a result on the road is always good news, especially for a match that saw Giorgos Giakoumakis go down with an injury and one in which Thiago Almada didn’t feature at all.

It was Giakoumakis who got the scoreline started early, heading home a wonderful Brooks Lennon corner across the face of goal and into the side netting. From there the game became fairly wide open with each side creating a handful of chances. It would be just before the half, though, that Toronto would find the equalizer to make it 1-1.

The second half started with scary news for Atlanta fans, as Giakoumakis went down and began punching the ground. He walked off, though, and was seen standing (and celebrating) through the rest of the match, and Pineda later mentioned he “felt something” so the team was being precautionary. A handful of subs were made through the second half starting with Miguel Berry in for Giakoumakis, but it was Machop Chol as an attacking midfielder and Andrew Gutman entering the match that gave Atlanta some more punch.

Moments after being subbed on, Gutman played a nice ball over to Luiz Araujo, who had the space and time to line up a beautiful cross to the rising Machamp Machop Chol in the box. He played the header across the face of goal, similar to the earlier goal by Giakoumakis, and ran off celebrating by revealing a shirt that read “Anton Forever.”

The game unfortunately became incredibly frantic as the clock ticked closer to full time, and Toronto found the aforementioned equalizer in what was essentially the last kick of the game. It’s a frustrating way to drop points, especially on the road, but there are still plenty of positives to take from the match. Atlanta United showed glimpses of what they may look like come summer time if Thiago Almada does, in fact, get transferred, and it was refreshing to see the other two DP’s notch a goal and assist. As for Machop, his confidence on the ball has increased tremendously, and he’s rapidly becoming a very evolved version of himself that Pineda can unleash on tired legs.

Here’s hoping for good news during the week about Giakoumakis, Almada, and Ibarra, and in the meantime check out what Pineda and Chol had to say about the match below. Also be sure to leave us your own thoughts and comments!

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:

On injury update for Giorgos Giakoumakis

“Yeah, he felt something in the hamstring, we are going to assess it once we were in Atlanta.”

On Thiago Almada not being included in the matchday roster

“Yes. We want to have a close eye on him. We’re managing it day by day, we think it was precautionary on him. So we are going to have a very tough stretch of games in the next few weeks. So I prefer to save him a little bit here because he wasn’t 100% for this game, and we will assess him day by day, and the next week.”

On the second goal from Toronto and where the breakdown was

“With the second goal? Well, I feel like we over press a little bit on the left side. I think when the ball went from their right to the left, our left to the right, maybe Machop (Chol), press a little bit the center back that opens a little bit of a gap in there in the pocket and then Brooks (Lennon) goes too high. We allow the inner pass that we normally try to break and then we allow another inner pass through the channel and that’s where they get the cross. We couldn’t cover the player coming inside. It’s a shame because we were doing a great job at containing that amount of pressure with a lot of attackers for their side. So yeah, that’s what happened.”

On if this this a frustrating point

“Yeah very frustrated, upset. Second time we are on the road, and we’re winning and then we concede goals and we cannot reward ourselves with three points because I felt the team did enough to get the three points. But we couldn’t finish. That’s where we need to learn. But very happy with other things very, very happy also with the pressure, the possession in certain moments how we disrupt their pressure, very well in in many parts of the game. Machop gets his first goal in MLS, so a lot of positives as well. It’s just a sour taste in our mouth because we lost two points in the last minute of the game.

On if Giakoumakis was taken off as a precaution

“He felt something, we will assess him. I didn’t want to push or anything like that. He felt something and we just want to keep an eye on him.”

On putting Machop Chol in as a central midfielder or attacking midfielder

“Yeah, more in that role, right. He played as a 10/8/second forward so he’s a player that can cover a lot of ground once he’s on the field. He can cover a lot of ground, so I was telling him the instructions was to remain mainly as a 10 in the pocket because when we were getting a lot the ball into our left back. We were missing a little bit that pocket. Amar (Sejdic) was dropping too deep because he’s more of a possession guy. And then when we were finding Machop higher in the field, I think was better for us. But also, in the rotation when Santi (Sosa) was next to (Matheus) Rossetto, so he can be kind of unpredictable and that can cause them problems. And I think a little bit of that happened in the goal which is, he starts to play on the right side, and we switch very good playback through playing the ball into Luiz (Araujo) and then from that second line Machop arrives inside the box and he scores.”

Atlanta United forward Machop Chol

On the t-shirt he wore and how many games he’s had that under his jersey

“Pretty much every game this season, so just hoping to get one before the season was over with. So, I’m glad.”

On why that shirt? Why that particular phrase

“There was no reason in particular for the phrase. I just wanted to tribute him (Anton Walkes) in any way possible. We were pretty close so it was just amazing for me, and it was emotional.”

On how did it feel to score your first goal

“I was just hoping it wasn’t offsides or anything, but it felt amazing. I didn’t know what to do. Yeah, it was just a whirlwind of emotions.”

On Coach Pineda using him in different positions and if he trained those positions this past week

“Yeah, this week I did train it a bit. But also, in pre-season I was playing a bit in the 10 so I was pretty comfortable there and I was enjoying my footy there.