at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday October 6, 2019. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Atlanta United)
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Carmen Mandato/Atlanta United
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Carmen Mandato/Atlanta United

Atlanta United 3, New England 1: What was said

What said after Atlanta United’s 3-1 win against New England on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer 

 On tonight’s performance: 

 “You always want to have a win, of course, because it gives you confidence for the next game, but also, I think the way we played was quite satisfying. I think the first half started really well, and the only thing we did not do was score a second or third goal. Of course, (New England’s) first chance, they scored, and I think after 25 minutes, we lost a little bit of control. It was a little bit up and down. They had chances, and we had chances, but in the second half, I think we did better in that aspect, and it resulted in two goals. So, yes, I am quite pleased with how we played.” 

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On defensive errors: 

 “Of course, you want to try to avoid them. That is why it is better to do it today, and hopefully not in two weeks, but also, there is a saying that if you create more chances than the other team, hopefully, we can score more and get a win. So, that was very positive, and of course, we know that we have to try to avoid those mistakes. We are going to analyze it, and we are going to talk with the boys about it and hopefully, they can learn from it.” 

  -

On starting Ezequiel Barco over ‘Pity’ Martinez: 

 “(Ezequiel) Barco could play 60 minutes, and I want everybody fit to start the playoffs. He can be a very major impact for us. I think he already showed us today that he is so lively and quite difficult to mark. He is a little bit the same as when you play against Darlington Nagbe. They can both turn so quickly, and I wanted to give him that minute, and I think that's why I started him. I think it went well for him.” 

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On the play of Josef Martinez: 

 “As I already said in the pre-match conference, Josef (Martinez) is going to decide if he wants to start. Before yesterday, he was making sliding tackles, so I was quite confident that he would be ready for this game, and he showed it. The composure he showed when he finished that goal was unbelievable. It is good for him, you know, to go into the playoffs totally fit.” 

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On the importance of Julian Gressel: 

 “He was very important last season with his assists. I think after (Miguel) Almiron, he was the second one with assists. Of course, he has that connection with Josef (Martinez). You saw the chance that Josef got, and in the second half, he got one or two more. They have that feeling, so yeah, he is very important for us. He can score goals also. Against Montreal, he scored an important goal, and now, he has a goal and two assists. I think the numbers do not lie, so he is very important for us.” 

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On ‘Pity’ not making the starting 11 in the playoffs: 

 “We have to see. The only thing that concerns me is to win the playoffs, and today, I chose this system and these players. We have to evaluate this game, and then, everybody has to be on top of it. Anything can happen and today I started with this 11, but it can be changed in two weeks.” 

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On playing New England in the first round of the playoffs: 

 “I think both teams did exactly the same as what they have done for almost the whole season. We started with five, then swapped to four, and then we went to three in the back. (New England) played the most games, and especially the most important games, in a 4-4-2 system with (Carles) Gil on the right side coming into the midfield a lot. But yeah, this was exactly what we expected, and I think they also expected how we played today, so there were no secrets today. I have heard that Bruce Arena is a coach that can suddenly make changes, so we have to be ready and prepared for that, and we have two weeks to do that.” 

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On switching formations during the match: 

 “It is always good to get a feeling in a different system, and sometimes you need to do that to get more control of the game. Now, we have a little taste of that already, so maybe now I can make one click and they can do it. So, that is why I chose to do it, and also to give ‘Tito’ (Villalba) playing time. But still, especially for next season, I want to be a team who can switch between systems. I think good teams can do that, and I think we have that experience even though we did not practice that system much. They can fit it in quite well, and I think we played a little bit deeper at that moment, but you saw in the transitions how many spaces we created. I think there was a little bit more control at that moment, but it was already 3-1. So, we did not have to press totally forward, but we will have to see, maybe we will need it in two or three weeks.” 

 -

On Michael Parkhurst: 

 “You can easily see that he is really a player who is committed to his job, to the club, to the fans, and to his teammates, so I think that is why ‘Tata’ (Gerardo Martino) made him captain. Of course, because of his experience, but also because he is a great example, and he can translate what you are thinking directly to the game. He did it for three years, so for every coach, it is fantastic to have those guys on your team like Jeff (Larentowicz) and Michael (Parkhurst). So, yeah, what I experienced during that hectic period that we had of like seven or eight months, he was a great example. He never complained when he did not play. Of course, he was disappointed, but he always trained very hard so that I knew whenever he was needed, he would be ready. That is so nice to have as a coach, and I think that is why a lot of youth players look up to him, because he is a great example.” 

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Atlanta United FC defender Michael Parkhurst 

 On the atmosphere at today’s match: 

 “It was a great win for the team. We weathered some periods where they played quite well and had some chances, but we finished our chances well tonight. It’s good to go out there and set the tone for next time, we know that we’re going to face them again in two weeks. So, it was important to throw that at them and let them know mentally that we’re capable of scoring a bunch of goals on them. So to go into the playoffs on a high with a win is important and we’re pleased with that.” 

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On Josef’s goal celebration with him: 

 “He told me beforehand that he was going to come over to me if he scored tonight. I didn’t know what he was going to do. Of course, it feels nice. I think that I can feel the love from the teammates, the respect, they wanted to play well today and make sure I got on the field, so, I appreciate that. It was a special day and getting into the game and being able to play in front of the fans again was even more special.” 

 -

On the fans at today’s game: 

 “Nothing is unexpected from our fans anymore. They’re the best in the league, and they have been since the very beginning, and I would say that we love playing in front of them. It’s no surprise that our record at home is so good. It’s because of the atmosphere that they create, and we don’t take them for granted. It’s a joy to play in front of, it’s so loud, and you know it meant a lot to hear my name being chanted there towards the end of the game. It was really loud. It was special. It will be something that I’ll be able to watch on tape a long time from now, when the kids are older, and maybe grandkids and stuff, and that’ll make it special.” 

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On his kids and their involvement in his career and appreciation for the impact he has: 

 “Yeah, they get it. It’s nice that we had them young enough that they could be out there. Know what dad does, be able to celebrate with me. They’ve been awesome, and especially to have them and my wife out on the field for sure.” 

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On if he has any mementos from his last season: 

 “No, I don’t have anything. I mean, two jerseys that are in cases, a spike, some scarfs. I’ll maybe keep the jersey (from tonight), but the tape is more important, I guess, the video tape.” 

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On the growth he’s seen from Miles Robinson this season: 

 “Miles. I think should be the defender of the year. Maybe I’m biased (because) I get to see him on a weekly basis, but that’s how good he’s been this year, and that’s really impressive from a guy that maybe had less than 10 starts coming into this year (or) around that maybe. He’s picking things up really, really quickly. His athleticism is off the charts, and he’s able to read the game better and better each week, and that’s what’s making him elite. I think he’s a future national team staple. I really do, and, the sky’s the limit for him, and I’m glad I could help just a little bit, but he does a lot of it on his own.” 

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On the team dealing with adversity and playing strong in the second half: 

 “It’s no secret that we struggle when the other team scores first. We haven’t done well in that area and today to score the first goal early was big, and then they come right back and very quickly tie it up, it could have deflated us, but we hung in there and played a very good second half. We really closed up shop a little bit, didn’t give up as many opportunities, created a bunch, could have scored a few goals there. We took our chances really well (and had) two fantastic goals in the second half, but yeah, definitely important just for the psyche of knowing that not everything goes perfectly, and if it doesn’t in the playoffs, you have to bounce back really, really quick, because if you don’t, you’re out.” 

 -

On if he was going to take a PK if there was one in the last few minutes: 

 “Josef (Martinez) loves me, but not that much.” 

 -

On New England’s development: 

 “They had a talented roster, and for whatever reason, they weren’t getting results early on in the season, and anytime there’s a coaching change, usually the team gets a little bit of a boost, when you bring in someone with Bruce’s caliber, he’s able to sustain it. He’s got those guys playing freely. It seems like they enjoy what they’re doing out there, and they’re bought into the system. When you have talent and you get guys to buy in, that’s a good recipe. Obviously, they added a couple of talented players as well, which helps the offense. Bruce has had a lot of success over the years, so it’s no surprise. It was a tough game today. It’s going to be even more challenging in two weeks.” 

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Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan 

 On the team’s strong finish to the regular season: 

 “Leading up to the game, we talked about talked about using this as a springboard of confidence, especially being our last regular season game and at home. We wanted to go out in a good way before this international break and ultimately leading up to the first round of the playoffs. We knew that if we won, we’d be playing these guys again. We wanted to send a message that they’re coming in to our house, and it’s not going to be easy in two week’s time. Over the course of 90 minutes, we probably did that. To see the reception that Parky (Michael Parkhurst) got when he came on and after the game, speaks volumes about him as a professional, teammate, and friend. He will forever be our first captain of this club. Rightfully so, he’s got a place in history. To see the reception and applause was tremendous.” 

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On going in to the playoffs as the number two seed: 

 “If you look at last year, we threw away the supporters shield in the last game of the season. That certainly was a kick up the backside going in to the playoffs. Today was a little bit of a different feeling in the sense that we sent a message going in two week’s time. When they come back, it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be even harder. We now use this time to get better on the training field. It’s going to be a playoff game. In the playoffs, anything can happen. It means nothing where you finish. It’s one and done. You’ve got to fight for your lives and fight for every inch that you get come playoff time.” 

 -

On coming out strong after the half: 

 “We made a few little adjustments at halftime. Ultimately, we probably could have had more than the three. They had some chances as well. I’ve always said, the opposition has the right to posses the ball and create their own chances. That’s sports; that’s soccer. We need to make sure that we tighten things up on the defensive end going in to the playoff game. Ultimately over the course of 90 minutes, it was a good performance.” 

 -

On New England not changing up their tempo: 

 “They’ve got players that want to be on the ball, that want to get on the ball, and then they have players that can stretch you vertically. Obviously, the first 5/ten/fifteen minutes caused us a few issues, and we just had to adjust accordingly. The second half was much better from us in closing down the space and opportunities to run behind us. Ultimately, it allowed us to dictate the tempo of the game. That was a positive change.” 

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Atlanta United FC midfielder Julian Gressel 

 On ending the regular season as the Man of the Match: 

 “It feels good. What’s important is that we feel good as a team. After that second half, I think we can go with our heads held high into the playoffs, with a lot of confidence. (We will) see that team again (and) send them home with their heads down with a loss here.” 

 -

On facing New England in the playoffs next week: 

 “It just kind of is what it is. It’s not too strange. Like I said, it was nice to win today and have them experience a loss here. Hopefully, we can end their season in a couple of weeks, repeat that performance from today. Obviously, we’ll take a look and analyze things, and create a plan again for in a couple weeks.” 

 -

On if New England did anything different tonight than the regular season: 

 “Not really. I just kind of compared the way they came out, had a few different things that felt different on the field. Like (Carles) Gil being really active all over the field and not really staying to his spot on the right. Things like that where we can certainly take a look at things and analyze it, and we’ll see. Maybe they’ll switch it up on us in a couple weeks. Who knows? That’s the fun part.” 

 -

On if he wanted to come out for Michael Parkhurst: 

 “Yeah, I wanted to come out ahead of it, a little something – a tweak I didn’t want to aggravate. I said, ‘I hope that Parky is going to come in for me,” and it was a cool moment.” 

 -

On what Atlanta could have improved on tonight: 

 “Yeah, it’s tough for me to answer that right away. I think we’ll obviously take a look at the video and like you said, in the first half they had some good chances, and we gave away certain moments – like the goal – where we can be cleaner. Even defensively, so we don’t get in too many 1-v-1 one situations with their wingers, but I don’t really have a specific answer to your question right now, but I’m sure we’ll take a look. I’m excited to watch the game back and get ready for them in a couple weeks.” 

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On having Josef Martinez back in the lineup: 

 “It feels good. We know what Josef brings, not just the quality on the field, but as a leader, as a mental presence for all of us. He had a good week of training. I’m sure he’s hurting right now, but he’s got a couple weeks to recover, but just important for him to be there.” 

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On being the second seed in the conference in consecutive years: 

 “Last year, we ended on a pretty big low, now, this year it’s a different feeling about it, for sure. But hopefully, it will do us well again, and we’ll have the same outcome at the end of it. I thought today – you can see the maturity of the team that’s there going into the playoffs. I think early in the year, going down – them equalizing one-one – after just a short amount of time after we go up 1-0, sometimes, we had games before where we didn’t really play well again after that. Today, I think we really came out at the half and played well in the second half. The will to win, make sure that we won the game, no doubts about that with the performance. I think that shows the maturity level of the team and where we’re at headed into the playoffs.” 

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Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson 

 On how tonight’s victory feels: 

 “It’s good to get the confidence up. We know that we’re going to play them again in two weeks, but it’s good to get that first win.” 

 -

On the adjustments that United made from the first to second half: 

 “They kept us spread out but also had runs in from the midfield. Coming in as a center back, that is difficult, but we just had to track them from the midfield, so that’s what we started to do.” 

 -

On how United approached the second half: 

 “It’s just about adjusting when you get out there and reading the game as you’re playing, but I think we adjusted well. Obviously, I think their chances and the goal could have not happened, but it happened, so it was good that we got three goals.” 

 -

On how United will prepare for the next matchup against New England: 

 “It’s just a matter of staying focused, grinding every day and understanding what’s ahead, and that’s this team (New England Revolution) in two weeks, but I think we’ll be ready for it.” 

 -

On what Michael Parkhurst has meant to him: 

 “As I said before, he’s taught me so much on and off the field just how he composes himself, how he treats the game and how he studies the game. I can’t say how much he means to me and this team and this city, but it was great that he got the chance he deserved tonight.” 

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Atlanta United defender Leandro González Pirez 

 On the team’s performance: 

 “I don’t know. It seems to me like we didn’t start the game fully involved as we should have started. We were trying to play the perfect ball and ended up committing some mistakes that we shouldn’t have committed, and that was costly, but then, we settled in and didn’t suffer after the first 20 minutes when we gave up the goal, which was a long ball from 50 meters that ends in a one-on-one, but those are things that happen and things we’ll have to correct for the playoffs because one goal like that will leave you knocked out.” 

 -

On if it’s a good idea playing the same team in the first round of the playoffs: 

 “I don’t know because maybe they know you. They’ll be looking at us and studying how we play but that’s the opponent that we got, and we’ll face them in the best way we can.” 

 -

On the farewell to Michael Parkhurst: 

 “Mike is very special for us. He’s like the father or grandfather of all of us, and we love him a lot. We appreciate him as a player. He’s an incredible player. I think he had more to give us, but he decided to make this decision, and we’re going to support him, and we wish him the best in his career, and hopefully, we can have him working in the club if he wants because we’re going to miss him on the team. He’s a great reference, a great captain for us, and we’re very happy with him, and we’ll miss him.” 

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Atlanta United defender Ezequiel Barco 

 On how the win feels: 

 “Very happy. I think we needed this win to start the playoffs on the right foot and in the best way.” 

 -

On how he feels coming back from injury and his performance: 

 “I feel good. I think little by little my teammates have been giving me confidence, and that’s important for me, and I try to help the team as I can in the best way possible.” 

 -

On how his role changes playing as a second striker in the 5-3-2: 

 “I try to do what the coaching staff asks and to help the team. I think I feel comfortable playing there with Josef (Martinez), and I enjoy playing and being back in the starting 11.” 

 -

On how his return and Josef Martinez impacts the team’s confidence going in to the playoffs: 

 “We know the class of player that Josef is. He’s an extraordinary player who always surprises you in games, and it’s nice to have him back on the field as he makes stronger.” 

 -

On if he’s close to being ready to play 90 minutes: 

 “I was ready to play 90 minutes, but the coach decided to take care of me for the playoffs.” 

 -

New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena 

 On his thoughts after the match: 

 “It was okay. It was a decent game. We obviously had to play a little bit better on the day, but give them credit. They played well. I thought we had our moments as well, but obviously, over 90 minutes, we weren’t good enough.” 

 -

On if he was expecting the game to be as open as it was: 

 “We never know what a game is going to look like.” 

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On what New England can take away from this match heading into the rematch in two weeks: 

 “The fact that we’ve been here. So, we got a dress rehearsal, which I think will be helpful.” 

 -

On what changed in the attack in the second half: 

 “Conceding a goal early didn’t help and (Atlanta) dropped off a little bit more. They played a little bit smarter defensively.” 

 -

On if the gameplan was to exploit the space behind Atlanta’s wingbacks: 

 “Not that specifically, no. We see their players now upfront, and we understand their team. It will be helpful for us to prepare for the game in two weeks.” 

 -

On if Wilfried Zahibo was marking Dalrington Nagbe: 

 “He wasn’t marking Nagbe. He was around him. He’s a central midfielder, and so is Nagbe. Therefore, they are going to be in each other’s faces.” 

 -

On if he was satisfied with the midfield performance: 

 “I think we could play better in the midfield. Nagbe is, if no one in this league understands, he is one of the best midfielders in the league. I thought he was a key performer for them today.” 

 -

On New England Goalkeeper Matt Turner: 

 “Yeah, Matt did a good job.” 

 -

On Brad Guzan calling him clever and saying he will have something up his sleeve for the playoff match: 

 “I would have something up my sleeve? I’m like a magician. I’ll be pulling a napkin out of my sleeve during the game. We will obviously make some changes. Probably the game that we are going to want to win, if we have a choice, is the next one. So, we will see.” 

 -

On playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium: 

 “Classic NFL stadium, right? With a soccer game going on. It’s a nice, beautiful stadium.” 

 -

On MLS 3.0: 

 “It’s the best artificial field in the league. There’s no question about that in my mind, and it is a great setting. They have done a great job here. I think they would probably prefer to play on grass, but you can’t be critical of anything they are doing here. They are doing a wonderful job with their team, with their fans. So, give them a lot of credit.” 

 -

On if he was expecting to see Pity Martinez play today: 

 “We never know.” 

 -

On if he expects to see him next week: 

 “I guess so. There must be a reason why he didn’t play today.” 

 -

New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell 

 On his thoughts after the match: 

 “I thought we had some good chances. Obviously, the goal we scored, but we had a lot of chances in the first half. They had some chances too, so pretty even first half. Second half, kind of laid down on a couple plays. A couple mistakes that it is good to concede now because we are going to play them in a couple weeks. But guys are confident that when we play well and mistake-free soccer, we can compete with this team. It is a really good team, especially at their own place. Obviously, disappointed with losing especially after the great turnaround throughout the season the past three or four months, but now, a new chapter starts with the playoffs.” 

 -

On how open the match was: 

 “It is hectic. They have a great crowd here and they play attacking soccer so they are coming at you down your throat. Kind of have to withstand the first 15 minutes. Obviously, we gave up a goal in the second or third minute, but then we scored, and we had a chance to score in the first minute, too. You kind of hit them back with the same thing and they kind of were, not necessarily taken back, but we got in behind a couple times. We had really good chances to go up. You can do it two ways, just kind of manage and hold on for dear life or you can go at them and kind of punch them in the mouth, and I think we did that. Obviously, we gave up a goal but then got back in it. If we finish our chances maybe and defend a little better, we can come out with a better result.” 

 -

On if tonight’s match with help them in the rematch in two weeks: 

 “I think it will be good to look at the tape. Obviously, we still have 13 days until we see them again. We know how they are going to play. They might change the lineup a little bit, we will probably change the lineup a little bit. But we know where we can exploit some things and where we can get better. They know where they want to make their mark and get in behind us with Josef (Martinez). Once we watch the tape and see that, we can improve that. The guys fought hard and put in a good effort, and that is what we kind of wanted to do. It is kind of a dress rehearsal for the real thing coming up.” 

 -

New England Revolution midfielder Wilfried Zahibo 

 On his thoughts after the match: 

 “It was a tough game. It was a little crazy, but I think we had a good first half. In the second half, they had two goals – I think – in 10 minutes, and that is what won them the game.” 

 -

On conceding two goals in the second half: 

 “When you concede two goals in the second half, it is tough to come back. They are a very good team. We just have to fix some things after two weeks of good training and come back and be better.” 

 -

On how New England will prepare over the international break: 

 “I think in two weeks it will be a very different game. The playoffs mean win or go home. I think we are a very good team, and we are going to pull it out in two weeks.”

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