The rest of MLS: “Wait…what..?”
Them Five Stripes! Atlanta United just feasted on F.C. Cincinnati 4-0 and shot straight up the Eastern Conference standings to above the playoff line. They firmly hold their playoff future in their hands because their next few games are against opponents sitting all around them in the standings. Josef walked away with a brace, Araujo scored his first absolute BANGER-SOLO-HOLLYWOOD goal of the week contender, and Barco scored the first direct free kick for Atlanta since 2018…and he continued to prove why he’s probably going to be reigniting European interest soon. Plus, Alan “Freaking” Franco, a center back, set a club record by notching 3 assists! It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but y’all, Atlanta United is officially fun again.
Along with the great post-match quotes from the press conference you can read about in a moment, there were also some great quotes from the Bally Sports broadcast. One that I absolutely have to mention is Gonzalo Pineda responding to Jillian Sakovits when asked about a message for the fans:
“We are fighting for you…,” he said, and if that doesn’t tell you something about the complete U-turn this club has taken over the past two months, I don’t know what will.
The quote of the night, however, was shortly after Luiz Araujo’s goal. Gonzo speaks what everyone was thinking, “That was a F&$#ing golazo!”
And, everyone goes wild ‼️
Celebrations from the bench pic.twitter.com/TcpN1uaHWi
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 15, 2021
In the actual post-match press conference, Josef Martinez mentioned once again how he is “so happy here,” and I think it’s worth noting that the city of Atlanta and the whole Five Stripes nation should be thrilled we have such a generational talent in this man. Say what you want about “he’s just in the right place at the right time” or whatever,
Orlando haters, but the man can score goals, and he’s got 85 to his name in an Atlanta United regular season kit. What’s even crazier is that during that time, he went almost a year and a half without scoring one because of his ACL. There will be a statue one day. Also, his second goal will absolutely be under the radar because of the hype around this game, but El Rey showed once again that he has that God-given talent to almost slow down time when he’s on goal and put the ball exactly where it needs to go i.e. about an inch right of a falling defender. He timed it perfectly.
Before we get into the full quotes, I’m also quickly going to toot my own train horn here and share this tweet with y’all from before the match.
Ok…my score was close but my goal scorers we’re off against Orlando.
— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) September 15, 2021
I’m kind of enjoying this whole prediction thing just before matches lately; maybe one day I’ll be dead on, but this was close. Anyway, enjoy the win for now and let’s pray the Five Stripes stay consistent on Saturday against a tougher D.C. United. In the meantime, let these quotes from El Rey and Luiz “Hollywood” Araujo give you some insight into the team. Josef even speaks about Miggy and I felt something in my eye.
Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez
On if the team is feeling similar to Atlanta United from the 2017 and 2018 seasons…
“I don’t think so. They’re a different team, different years. Today, we played good. In the first half, we started to play and move the ball side to side, slow(er), but it’s important that we win. We have to keep going, and see the mistakes we made today, and we have to look forward to DC.”
On why Luiz Araújo has ‘been so consistently good as of late’…
“I don’t know, you have to ask him, but he trains so good. He trains so good. His mentality is OK. I think he’s happy, so he deserves it.”
On his two goals…
“We train everything. … We have to continue like that because Saturday’s a tough game. We’re happy right now, and we have to rest.”
On what it means to have the record of 85 goals in 100 appearances…
“A lot, because six months ago, I didn’t think I’d play again. I have my own goal, and I love this team. You know that already. That’s my job. My job is that one. I’m a striker. My job is to score. I’m so happy here. I try to help my teammates, and I’m so happy because 85 goals is not easy. I have to continue it because I want to arrive at 100 goals.”
On Luiz Araújo’s first goal and ‘if it reminded him of his former Atlanta United teammate Miguel Almirón’…
“Yes. I’m so happy because he deserves a lot. Today, he made a beautiful goal. He’s a good guy, so congrats to him. I know he’s kept going with the pressure.”
On playing with his teammates…
“They are playing amazing right now. They are playing so good. I try to help them, because it’s different when I am not on the pitch. I just enjoy them. I just enjoy Luiz (Araújo) and Marcelino (Moreno) and (Ezequiel) Barco and everyone. … We have an amazing team. Today and the last two games, defensively, we played so good, so that we have to continue that because we are just shy of something special.”
On his goal at the end of the season…
“Be safe. That’s my goal. Be safe. … 100 goals by the end of the season.”
On how he feels right now…
“Since I got back from the national team and watched the last game, I have seen a different team than I watched before. It’s just beautiful to watch Ezequiel Barco, Brooks Lennon, George Bello, and the whole team play together. I think we have to try to focus on enjoying the game because sometimes, we’re thinking about playing and playing, but really, we need to focus on enjoying it. This year it is shorter, and we have to think about it like that.”
On his goals…
“That’s my dream and my goal is to get to 100 goals. It’s something that I have talked about with the other people around me. It’d be very nice to do it especially given all of the experiences that I’ve been through here, so, now we’re still trying to improve and give back to the fanbase. Now, we’re fighting for these playoff spots. We deserve it.”
On what he was feeling before the game:
“I was talking to Coach [Gonzalo Pineda], and I told him that I had a good feeling, and I had a really good feeling coming out of yesterday’s training session. Today, things worked out, we were able to get the three points. I was able to get more minutes, seventy plus on my knee, and it felt good, which is important to me because of my health, and our health is so important. So, today we were able to get that win, and we still need to keep it up.”
On having two Brazilian players on the team and the addition of their culture:
“The way that [Luiz Araújo] and [Matheus Rossetto] live, the way that they express joy, those two are definitely having a party right now in the locker room. This week we had a barbeque that those guys wanted to have, and we had it at my house, but I’m really happy for them. Obviously, everyone was invited, not just South American players. Rossetto is playing well, and I am happy for him, and Luiz scored his first goal, so I am very happy for him, and they both deserve it.”
Atlanta United Midfielder Luiz Araújo:
On what he saw on that first goal:
“I’m very happy to score my first goal in this shirt. I was working very hard to get this first goal. I came close in the first four games, but it wouldn’t go in. I was working hard, I knew it would come. I’m happy it came today and I’m happy with the win.”
On if he saw that four defenders were around him at beginning of that goal:
“No, I didn’t see that. It’s like an automatic thing for me to just turn and go. Speed is one of my characteristics and I just went for it.”
On his impressions of MLS and how he’s been able to adapt:
“It’s a very good league. I’m very impressed by the level of it. I haven’t shown yet what I can do. It’s only been five games and I think I have more to prove. I’m going to keep working very hard and the main goal is to get wins.”
On him bringing happiness to the group:
“I’m very happy here. I’m happy with all the players and the way we get along. As a Brazilian I love to play football. This is what I do. I’ve loved playing football my whole life. Like I’ve been saying in other interviews, there is no reason for me not to be happy every day. There are a lot of kids that want to be professional footballers, and thankfully I’m living my dream. I’m just very happy that I’m living my dream.”
On why his adaptation has been so fast to the team and league:
“The team does everything very well, that’s helped me a lot on the soccer field. I can play a type of football that I love, which is a happy football. So, when I’m on the field, I feel the freedom that works well with the characteristics I have. I have to be thankful to everyone that has helped me with my adaptation. Credit goes to the staff and my teammates.”
On lifting a trophy in France and seeing himself lifting one here:
“I lifted two trophies in France, the Ligue 1 title and the French Super Cup. At the moment I accepted this challenge, I had in my head to win titles. We are going to work very hard to achieve that objective.”
Speaking of Luiz Araujo and Miguel Almiron, the Brazilian Steakhouse celebration is the spiritual successor to the Fusion Dance. Ha.