That pretty much sums it up, in very nice words.
Atlanta United gave away two points Wednesday night to an NYCFC side that it had all but handled for most of the match. The post-match press conference was telling, in that even the normally mild-mannered Gonzalo Pineda was visibly frustrated with the result, as was every single Atlanta fan. Brad Guzan specifically had some choice words (would expect nothing less) about the “silly foul” that allowed the free kick and subsequent goal. While Pineda’s choice to shore up the formation to a 5-3-1-1 wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, it was the personnel brought in that directly led to not one, but two “silly fouls.” One just proved to be costly, and no one can blame NYCFC for burying the goal that was handed to them on a silver platter. It’ll be interesting to see how Amar Sejdic recovers from this flub, or how his minutes (if any) are handled onward.
That being mentioned, Pineda (and again, every Atlanta fan) had some frustration left over for the lack of finished chances. This has been a worrying trend, especially as the team is cutting it so close to making the playoffs. The Five Stripes are definitely creating more chances, and decent ones, but the ball just isn’t finding the back of the net at the rate it should. George Bello seems to be getting closer and closer, but his crossbar banger in this match was just another example of missed opportunities. Pineda has mentioned this multiple times in the past few weeks, and it’s high time that a shift in either the training or mindset happens to become more clinical in that final third. The “silly foul” issue wouldn’t be so glaring had Atlanta been able to put one more ball in the back of the net when it should have.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here is Gonzalo Pineda, Matheus Rossetto, and Brad Guzan giving their two cents.
Atlanta United FC head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On tonight’s result:
“I would say that we lost two points. Simple, that’s it.”
On not being able to find a second goal:
“Yes, it is very frustrating because I feel the same. After the first five to ten minutes, we were better. We were connecting passes, we were creating possession, we were disrupting their high pressure, and we were getting behind, but what frustrates me is that we had the chances to put the game away by just scoring a second goal. There were a couple of chances in the first half especially where we can make the right play with the right movement and get our second goal, then control the game and maybe even get a third goal, but something happened after we scored our goal where suddenly everybody wants to do a little extra touch, extra dribble, extra passing, extra whatever, and that cost us tonight because in those moments where we are dominating the game, we have to make sure that we score goals. That is why I am frustrated, because in the last twenty to twenty-five minutes, I felt that once [Santiago Sosa] went down we lost control of the game and lost control of the tempo. When [Sosa] was on the field, I felt that we were in control of everything, then they adjust to it, so credit to them, and then they scored that goal in the last minute, which was very frustrating, of course.”
On Santiago Sosa being subbed off:
“He had a knock, I think, during one of the corners, and then he told me that it was troubling him, so I had to make that decision.”
On protecting the 1-goal lead:
“I felt that when I brought [Franco] Ibarra on, it was just man-for-man, [Santiago Sosa] for Ibarra. The shape didn’t change, and I still wanted to attack. I still wanted Luiz [Araujo] and [Marcelino Moreno] to have chances in transitions, and I think we weren’t creating enough chances in transition with those two, so I felt that the addition of an extra midfielder was necessary because [NYCFC’s] adjustment released a lot of space for them being in the middle and made it too hard for Ibarra and [Matheus] Rossetto to shift forward appropriately because of the big gaps in the midfield. So, I made the adjustment to bring on Amar [Sedjic] and create a 5-3-1-1, but we did not give up any clear chances, some free kicks and corners, but no clear chances, and then the goal from the set piece happened.”
On the team not being clinical in front of goal:
“Yes, this has to be a learning moment. We talked about at halftime that the best way to defend the lead was to score a second goal, and for some reason, I don’t know, but we were not clinical in those moments. I will need to reflect again on how we train and how we prepare the team, making sure again they are sharp in the final third, have the vision to make the right pass, and sometimes playing a simple pass, the pass that is more natural and everyone is expecting, and the movement that everyone in the stadium is expecting, where sometimes it seems that we are trying to do something different.”
On preparing for the match against Inter Miami:
“Obviously, we saw the result of Inter Miami beating Toronto FC 3-0, and they are a team that has nothing to lose but something to prove to themselves. You know, for next year, each player wants to prove their value, and sometimes that can provide relief for them, so it could be a super difficult game against Inter Miami. Yes, I think the buildup, the possessions, the movements, the dropping of midfield pressure is getting better, we are very good at that, it is just our final third instincts are the ones that we seem to be lacking, and it is about creating the right patterns, the right areas to attack, and being in the right positions, and that is what I feel like we need to work on for next week.”
Atlanta United Midfielder Matheus Rossetto:
On the team’s performance in second half:
“I think that after the goal our level went down a little bit. But that is normal in football sometimes. We are at home, obviously we didn’t want to do that. We will learn from little things ahead of the next game.”
On what those “little things” are:
“Controlling the tempo, we need to keep the ball a little more in our half. NYCFC is a very strong, physical team. They are dangerous, and we have to learn from those mistakes and fix it for next time.”
On the preparation for this match:
“The result hurts a little bit. We prepared for this game very much. This is a great, strong rival. We need to be better. Our communication can be better, but overall, we need to play better to get a win.”
On playing without Ezequiel Barco tonight:
“Obviously, Barco is a key player for us. You look at 1-v-1 situations, he wins those, gets fouled a lot and can help us control the tempo. We are professional players, we are a professional team so we have to learn how to play without him. It was suspended tonight unfortunately. We of course miss him and would have loved to have him, but we need to figure out to play without him as well.”
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan
On the match:
“It’s certainly frustrating for all of us. We talked about it being five finals before the game – we have four left. We’re still in a decent position in terms of the table, but certainly tonight leaves a disappointing taste in our mouth.”
On what was frustrating:
“You look at some of the chances that we had and it’s the same old story. You look at a lot of the games where we’ve either dropped points or we’ve hung on and found a way. But in these games, goals define games. Plain and simple. Yes, they are a good team. 100%. They are not in a great moment. Taking nothing away from them. But, when it is the 88th, 89th minute – whatever it was – you can’t give away a silly foul. We’ve got to be able to make sure we deal with the movement. All of those things that lead to that play. That part is why it is frustrating.”
On if the team is still learning to manage games:
“We talk about managing games, we talk about killing time and this and that. Not that we’re sitting out there wasting time, but every play can be broken down into such a fine detail. You look at the play that leads to the goal and those little things that lead to him getting the ball at the top of the box, running across the top of the box, there’s two or three of our guys that are there. We don’t need to dive in, we don’t need to try to win the ball. He’s not going to shoot. He’s not going to hurt us facing the sideline. You can talk about wasting time, but you have to play the game. In those moments you’ve got to be better.”
On New York City’s goal:
“It’s a good free kick. It’s over the wall, it’s bending away from me, still got pace on it. From those distances, those are probably shooters’ distances where it’s not too close, they can get it up and over.”
On using this game as a learning opportunity:
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got four regular season games before we get to the playoffs. We’ve got to take care of business there and make sure we find ourselves in the playoffs first and foremost. But I hope we can use this as a learning moment. I think we have to. We will address it, but ultimately, we have to move on. We can’t change this result. We can’t change what happened on the play. We can’t change missing chances in the game. We have to be able to move on. We have to be able to now turn our focus to Miami. After tonight’s result for them, they are going to be on a bit of an upswing and have some confidence coming here. That game is certainly not going to be easy and we know there’s no easy games in this league as it is.”
On if the team needs to learn to play without Josef Martinez:
“When Josef is on the field, the thing that separate’s Jo from others is his killer instinct inside the box. You look at whether it is Cubo (Torres) who comes on today and plays, (Ezequiel) Barco the other night who played a false 9, all of these guys are capable of playing. We have talented players. Whether Jo is on the field or not, that doesn’t change the so-called tactics, if you will, or what we are trying to do in the game. All of the players that we have on the team that are attacking players can do those things. It’s (Josef’s) ability to sniff out plays in the box and pull off the defender for a cross and find himself open at the far post, or dart across the front of a guy and get a glancing header or pick up a rebound that nobody thought was going to fall there and Jo finds it and he buries it. That’s his difference. That’s what he brings. So, when he is not on the field, it’s not so much that our tactics change, or ‘how do we play?’ We’re still creating chances. We’re still getting chances in front of goal. We just need to finish those. We need to have guys understand that at this level, in these games, you don’t get two, three, four, five unbelievable chances or even great chances to score goals. It might be once chance, it might be two chances, it might be two half-chances and that’s the difference that Josef brings to the group.”
The team has a week to prepare, and this match against Inter Miami needs to be a dominant performance. It’ll give Atlanta the momentum it needs to not only keep itself above the line, but to push for a home playoff match. This “stern-father” version of Pineda may be just what the Five Stripes need.