Atlanta United manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino is shown in this file photo. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta United 1, Colorado 0: What was said

What was said following Atlanta United’s 1-0 win against Colorado on Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium:

GERARDO MARTINO

On Josef Martinez’s Goal:

“Whenever Josef is on the field, we have expectations that he is capable of scoring and he has skills and chances inside the box that few forwards in the world have so it’s a welcome return for our team.”

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On Anton Walkes starting and Brandon Vasquez’s growth on offense:

“I think (Anton) played well. He showed character tonight especially since he found that he was going to play in our technical talk before the game. So, considering that he did well. Brandon has come on a few times now in that right wing position and we have noticed that he is growing. It is evident to us that he is learning new things every game. So, he is growing into that position.”

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On how the team will get less time to train and what adjustments he will make:

“One of the reasons Anton started tonight was because we’re trying to be able to give some rest to other players.

“But in (the U.S.) Open Cup, we’re aware we can only start five foreign players so that’s going to factor into our decisions as we head to Miami and Columbus.”

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“Today, we were able to keep a clean sheet for the first time in a while. I also think that we’ve left some points on the table this season. I think we could be higher in the table. We’ve left points on the table and we could probably be two spots higher in the standings.”

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COLORADO RAPIDS COACH PABLO MASTROENI

“I think the performance was very spirited. I think we came out and executed a very good tactical plan. The result left us wanting more but I think the chances that we created early in the first half is what ended up costing us in the end. If you don’t finish those opportunities that are very clear, you let a team like Atlanta stay in the game. It’s going to cost you but, overall, I couldn’t be more proud of our group of guys. They came to a very difficult place to play against a very good team and conducted themselves so professionally and pushed the game to the last minutes. There’s a lot to be excited about looking forward. But again, at the end of the day, I think not finishing our opportunities early in the game was our undoing.”

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On the first half:

“I saw in the pregame meeting the focus and the determination in their eyes. I think when you look in someone’s eyes you see a lot. I saw a group of guys that were willing to put in a shift today and knew what was in front of them. Tim Howard did a fantastic job of organizing that backline, managing the game the right way and obviously came up huge on a few saves. He had a fantastic performance. Mike da Fonte — in that backline — with Eric Miller did a great job of holding a very nice line and communicating and organizing our midfield — who I thought played well.”

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JOSEF MARTINEZ

“It was an important victory against a team that really complicated things for us. They defended really well with a lot of guys and tried to get out on some counters but it was a very important win and we were happy to get the three points.”

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On if he was surprised that Colorado’s Tim Howard saved his bicycle kick in the second half:

“That is why he is the U.S. (United States) National Team Goalkeeper. He made some big saves tonight. Luckily, I was able to convert one of my chances and that’s why the three points stayed at home tonight.”

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On the message to the team at halftime:

“The most important thing that he said was that we had to maintain our calmness on the ball. We lost the ball a few times quickly and they were able to get out and counter. The main thing that Tata (Head Coach Geraldo Martino) told us was that we have to maintain our calmness on the ball and that’s what we did.”

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ALEC KANN

On his save in the final second of the match to preserve three points:

“I knew they were going to send everyone into the box except for (Colorado GK Tim) Howard so it was going to be crowded. Everyone was going to challenge for the ball and I was just trying to get myself between the ball and the goal. Thankfully, he headed it towards me, I got my body behind it, and got the rebound. It hit my forearms and then I got on top of it.”

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On whether the defense made better decisions tonight:

“We haven’t had a clean sheet in a while. We haven’t had a 1-0 result like that all season so it’s a step in the right direction. We need to keep building off this for sure.”

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BRANDON VAZQUEZ

“I’m getting used to coming in at the last minute supporting the players that have been there since the start. I feel coming in with fresh legs is a lot of help for them. I think my role is that.”

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On his first MLS assist:

“It was a play where Jeff (Larentowicz) played me down the line and I cut back the defender a bit. I played the ball back to the 6-yard box to Josef where he took the touch and finished it off.”

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On if he thought about attempting to score:

“I was at first but I had no angle so I was looking for the best option and Josef (Martinez) was there and he took care of the rest.”

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On how hard it was for him to be patient in the moment of the goal:

“I’m kind-of used to those plays. Throughout your career, you get a lot of those so I guess now it comes a lot more naturally.”

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MICHAEL PARKHURST

On the last sequence in the game:

“We played a really clean second half and didn’t give them many opportunities but we got a ball cleared. We weren’t good enough with the second ball and they won it back and put in a dangerous cross. We did well to win the header but unfortunately, it went out for a corner kick. It’s a little chaotic in the box. There’s eighteen guys in there and they got ahead to it but fortunately Alec (Kann) was in the perfect spot and held onto it. It was a big relief to close out the game.”

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On what he saw out of Anton Walkes:

“I thought he had a very solid game. That was a tough spot for him. I don’t know how much he knew that he was going to play there. For his first start at right back, I thought he did really well because I haven’t seen him play there. I haven’t seen him train there. It was a difficult ask for him especially against a guy like (Joshua) Gatt who is very explosive and very fast.

I thought he did a good job of getting forward. I thought he was calm on the ball and defensively did his work. It was a very strong performance from him.”

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On how gratifying it is to get a clean sheet heading into the second half of the season:

“The clean sheet was a big step for us. It’s been awhile since we’ve had one. We feel like some games we’ve been good enough to get a clean sheet and it hasn’t happened for whatever reason and other games we have rightfully given goals and made some mistakes. To come out here in front of our home fans in a tough game where Colorado made it very difficult defensively, we knew that we had to be tight in the back. We knew it was probably going to be a one goal game. We said that at halftime. We gave up one big chance in the first half that Alec (Kann) had a huge save on and then, the scrum at the end. Other than that, I thought it was pretty clean. It’s a huge boost of confidence especially at this point in the season.”

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On what was said at halftime and the adjustments made in the second half:

“I think the two big points (Tata) made were just to be patient and not to get frustrated. Also, make sure we keep our shape and not allow them to get something on the counterattack. We talked about upping the tempo. It’s tough to come in here and defend for 90 minutes especially in the heat. We wanted to push the tempo really quickly and try to disorganize them when we could. Any time that they were able to attack we wanted to make sure we could hit them on the counter. I thought we were able to do that once we got the goal. Miguel (Almirón) had a little more freedom up there. He had a couple chances, but that was the main takeaway. Try to find some good spots and try to get the ball in behind them. Most importantly, stay patient and keep our shape. We knew we would be able to create enough chances to hopefully get a goal.”

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ANTON WALKES

On his first MLS start and playing a different position:

“Well, it was very challenging but a great experience. Playing with very good players always helps you out. We went out there to get a result. I think we did an excellent job to get a clean sheet and the three points as well.”

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On the challenges of playing right back instead of center half or defensive midfielder:

“You’re forward a lot more. Up and down. Up and down. It’s always a pleasure to get on the field. It’s not that much different. You’re just higher up so you might have to think a little bit quicker.”

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On whether Martino said anything to him before the match:

“He just said to make sure I stay tidy and make sure there’s no mess in the back. He said he didn’t mind a bit of risk going forward because we’ve got the players to win the ball first and do their jobs moving along.”

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On whether he’s played in a system like this before:

“Not for a while but when you’ve got players around you it makes it easier. You can follow in their steps and it’s always useful.”

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JEFF LARENTOWICZ

On why he thought the team was able to hold a clean sheet in today’s match:

“I think our preparation for the game was pretty clear from the coaching staff. We put a lot of emphasis on these last three games. We were pretty disappointed after Wednesday, obviously, but one thing (Tata) challenged us all with was our commitment.

“Our commitment to each other. I think that it was a team effort tonight and when you have a team effort you just have a really good chance.”

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On how they nearly conceded during stoppage time:

“No, I don’t know. They put players that were good in there. We knew that was going to happen. They got the corner late on but Alec (Kann) did what he’s done all year and went up and made a great save and then took one in the face right after that so it’s another good performance from him.”

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On how people have said that he is ‘playing his best soccer of his career’ and the factors that may be contributing to this:

“I don’t know. That’s great to hear, first of all, but I’m sure it’s the system and the players around you,. If you’re playing with Miguel Almirón and Josef Martínez and Carlos Carmona — all these guys in front of you — and Parky (Michael Parkhurst) and Leandro (González-Pirez) — behind you — it’s a team thing. I’m just kind of the guy in the middle that tries to let everybody shine.”

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COLORADO RAPIDS GOALKEEPER TIM HOWARD

“It’s a very small pitch. Certainly, one of the smallest we are going to play on. They put you under a ton of pressure, $30 million up front in attacking power and they proved to be worth it tonight. We did everything we could. I thought we were resilient.

“They make it tough to get out. They press you well and they take care of the ball. A little bit lopsided on the possession but they do it to many teams. I’m proud of the performance and the effort and we nearly nicked one in the end.”

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On Josef Martinez’s goal:

“A player like him with time and space in the box, our guys are sliding in trying to make it difficult, I think the obvious thing is to criticize in football, but when you play against good players, they put you under pressure and they make it really tough.

“Credit to him for staying patient and finishing in the box.”

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On the team’s fighting spirit:

“I think we had that in abundance. That’s the kick in the teeth (is) we didn’t get our reward for it. In football, you have to be good at both ends. You have to be clinical but I thought we held them out the best we could. We tried to frustrate them. I thought we did and in the end, their talent shined through.”

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On the atmosphere:

“It was good. Atlanta has done a great job in terms of promoting this team and getting behind this team. It’s a terrific organization and a credit to the league. This is a really cool atmosphere because it is really tight and they pack this place. I can imagine when they get into the new stadium, they’ll be excited.”

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