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Atlanta United plagued by the “little details” in loss vs Orlando City

These small details were a common theme by Pineda and players in the post-match comments

MLS: Orlando City SC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United fell to Orlando City Saturday night in another match where a couple of defensive lapses cost them dearly.

It was the last match prior to the League’s Cup break, and the loss leaves the Five Stripes sitting in seventh in the Eastern Conference, six points ahead of the playoff line but with an extra game or two already played over most of the rest of the pack.

The evening started well enough; Machop Chol was a spark plug early on and found himself on the better end of Orlando’s backline. It would be a weird combination play involving Chol, Miguel Berry, and Caleb Wiley that resulted in the opening goal. A ball was played out to Berry at the top of the box, and he was initially dispossessed. However, he did an outstanding job running around the defenders to get back on the end of the ball, where he chipped it over the defenders beautifully to Machop Chol. Chol scuffed a shot, which was actually fortuitous as it beat Pedro Gallese. However, the ball was so slow it was cleared off the line to an on running Caleb Wiley who drilled it to the back of the net.

The celebrations didn’t last long, though, as Orlando would score just moments later from a set piece. Machop Chol was taken off with a foot injury and subbed in the first half, and the first 45 minutes ended at a 1-1 draw.

The second half began with both sides creating opportunities, and Pineda made various subs to counteract the tired legs from Atlanta’s congested prior week. Orlando would then catch Atlanta’s back line slightly disorganized and they capitalized to put the visitors up 2-1. Atlanta turned up the fury of half-chances as the clock wound down, including a banger of a free kick by Thiago Almada that was on target but successfully parried away by Gallese, but it would ultimately end with Orlando the better side on the evening.

There isn’t much to evaluate from this one. The defense has to be better, period. Gonzalo Pineda noted there are “little things” that need to be fixed, and that’ll be the main focus entering this League’s Cup break. The various players who commented also noted the same theme of “the little things,” so perhaps the next week will reveal specifically what that means in particular. The reinforcements also need to start rolling in for Atlanta to give the team a wildcard that could alter the last part of their season.

Check out the comments from Pineda, Amar Sejdic, Ronald Hernandez, and Juanjo Purata below, and be sure to leave us your own comments!

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:

On commonalities in today’s defeat with Orlando and the previous game New England:

“No, I don’t think so. I think we face a good team. Credit to Orlando. I want to give them credit. They did a good job. I think it was an even game. We for moments when we had the ball were dangerous. When they had the ball, they were dangerous. Little details for me were the difference. We’re ahead in the game and then in a set piece, we concede a goal. Of course, that took a little bit away the momentum that we’re getting right after scoring the goal. So, we couldn’t capitalize that advantage. And then in the second half, I felt like we tried, we tried and then in a play where our back line was disorganized or not cohesive. It was not high enough, there was a lot of space between the lines and then a little discoordination there in the middle of the back line, and they get the second goal. After that we changed the game. I think we put enough pressure on them. We put them back, and then we had a couple half chances, a couple opportunities to score goals but we were not able; they did a good job at defending that. I think it was a very different game compared to New England.”

On his thoughts about Caleb Wiley’s goal and his confidence gained from it:

“Yes, for Caleb it’s amazing. I think it was a good play overall. I think those were the moments where we were probably putting a little bit of pressure and then I think Caleb with his speed, his power and decision, he is going to get a lot of those. So, I am happy for him, he did a tremendous game. I think he had not just the goal but had a very, very good game. So happy for him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t, again, capitalize that advantage and then use it in our favor and from there trying to score the second one with some momentum, then the game should have been a little bit easier.”

On any preliminary information regarding Machop Chol’s injury and his play throughout the game:

“Yes, I felt he was having a very good game as well. He was very good in terms of understanding when to stay in the pocket receive turn, and then from there creating chances, runs in behind, lots of energy, and then I think it was his foot. Something in his right foot. So, I still don’t know the magnitude of the problem. I hope it’s nothing severe because he’s a very good player. He was doing a great job and it certainly changed a bit of the game plan.”

On what he wants to see the team improve on in this next stretch of the season:

“Number one is defensively. We were missing for a long time Miles Robinson, one of the best defenders in this league. We need to get him back with us. Take a little bit of a break, because it was tough to be that long with the national team. He’s missed a lot of games, so he needs to reintegrate. A couple of the new signings, we of course are hoping that Tristan (Muyumba) can soon be available with his visa and be integrated into the system. If there are any more new signings coming soon, I hope we can integrate them soon enough as well. So, we can have the full squad available. Today, we had it, but some guys like Giakoumakis and Ozzie (Alonso) weren’t 100%. Miles wasn’t 100% to play either. We’ve lost already some players like Luiz Araujo, Andrew Gutman and Franco Ibarra. So it feels like almost we are down six important players. So, we need to come back with everybody fit plus the new signings coming. Hopefully then we can get some integration there. We want to have a good Leagues Cup and from there in late August start the last 10 matches of the season and ramp it up to compete for a top-four spot. That’s the objective. We have to work a lot, but there are little details that we are missing currently, but we are working and I hope with the new personnel we can improve.”

Atlanta United FC midfielder Amar Sejdic

On playing the third match in eight days:

“I wouldn’t say there was fatigue. I think we just had our heads locked on a nine-point week that we really wanted and going into New England, I really felt like the guys were motivated and conceding those two goals early set us back a little bit. Then, we started out on the front foot tonight going up 1-0, and conceding on a set piece isn’t always fun, but nonetheless, I think the guys just continued to push through. Obviously, the second goal came at a terrible time, when we were trying to put our foot on the gas, keep going, and create chances, but it just wasn’t our night tonight.”

On what needs to change after losing consecutive games 2-1:

“It’s tough to say, and I can’t really pinpoint it yet and we will figure it out, but at the end of the day, it is a team effort with 11 guys on the field and they are subbing guys in off the bench, so it is a matter of just playing football sometimes. You win some games, and you lose some games, and you have to take a step back, learn from how we played, the formation that we were in, and get an understanding of each position and what individually could be better to help the team collectively.”

On what he will focus on during the break:

“We have to get ready for Leagues Cup. Leagues Cup is going to be a very big tournament, and of course, we have high expectations. This is Atlanta United and we want trophies, so we are going to go for it all in Leagues Cup, and then once MLS [regular season] resumes after that, I think we have 12 games remaining after that, we are going to have to put our foot on the throttle and try to get as many points as we can to get a home playoff game.”

On the growth and play of Machop Chol:

“Back when I came here in July of 2021, there was this very tall guy, and you wouldn’t expect him to play football, nonetheless, [Machop Chol] is very crafty, very creative, and for as tall as he is, he is very agile and able to shift his hips and put defenders where he wants them. He is capable of doing great things, and the more confidence that he continues to get, I think he will continue to do an even better job, so it is just a matter of time. He is a great guy to have on the team both off the field and on the field.”

Atlanta United defender Juanjo Purata

On having two consecutive losses now and how to get momentum back:

“Working. I mean this is football. We have to look forward. We have to look at the film. See what we did well on and what mistakes we made. We have to improve them. We have 10 days for our revenge. We want to do a great job in the leagues cup, that is the mindset.”

On how to fix the little things that cost the team goals tonight:

“So hard because there are little things that maybe those things, those little details, make a difference between a good team and a great team. So I think those details we have to improve them. We have the Leagues cup ahead and 10 more games left in the season. And it’s time to fix those details because we want to be in the top 4 of the standings and that is our first goal. And yea we have to improve.”

On the differences in the last two matches:

“Yes, in the first minute we were struggling honestly, because they put a lot of numbers on their attack. At times they were 5 to 5. Our back 5 were against 5 attackers of Orlando, their mobility was very interesting. Really good. The one thing they made us struggle with those things. New England were good players. They were moving around that made us confused.

Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernández

On his analysis of the game tonight

“The sensation is bitter. The truth is we are a little bit hurt with the result because the game comes down to the details. We need to improve on that. We need to be there 100% mentally. In the line of three, in the line of 5, we are hurt but we need to improve.”

On the formation and what he feels more comfortable playing, with three back in attack and five back in defense

“The truth is I’ve had my first three games back playing as a right center back, I’m adapting to that new position. It feels a little new but with the help of my teammates I am adapting well. I think it’s going well. The coaches believe I can play the three positions in the back.”

On if he feels more comfortable with the back line

“The MLS depends on the opponent. Sometimes it’s complicated because there’s teams that play with two or three forwards and actively defend. Other times, teams only mark you with one and I can be more aggressive in attack. It comes down to reading what the game gives you.”

On the first goal tonight and what needs to be fixed

“I think we need to be on the same page and play with urgency. When we play with that urgency, we have had great games and come away with three points. I’m not saying today we didn’t have that but these games come down to that, the details.”

On the final third today and the struggle to create in the final passes

“We look at that. Maybe during a heated game it’s difficult to see what’s going on in the moment. We need to be able to be available in attack and look forward more. We know Atlanta United’s philosophy. Play in possession, create space, create more options than the opponent and maybe we have to be more vertical at times. I think that is a big key for us in the next games.”