Atlanta United brushed aside NYCFC’s attempts to play mind games ahead of the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal, which is scheduled for Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Attempting his version of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who lives to influence games through the media, NYCFC manager Domenec Torrent shared his thoughts to the media in New York this week that Atlanta United may dive or use delay tactics should it have a lead. He also complained about how often midfielder Maxi Moralez was fouled in the first game. Atlanta United took the first leg 1-0 at Yankee Stadium. The winner of Sunday’s game, which Mark Geiger will referee, will advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
“I say to my players, I want to say to Tata Martino, we will not throw the ball out because we have a referee,” Torrent was quoted as saying on mlssoccer.com. “When it’s a foul and one player is diving, the player from Atlanta, New York City decides (not to) throw the ball outside. If not, you can waste 15 minutes and it’s a final.”
Regarding Moralez, who was fouled six times in the first leg, Torrent said: “It’s not possible to play because when we try to play, especially Maxi, it’s foul and foul and foul and foul. Every single ball is foul after that. But we have a referee. It’s the same when they waste the time because that can happen in Atlanta.”
What Torrent may not realize is that Martino has criticized opponents that use delay tactics against his team at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Though he did say he would consider using those tactics, he has also said he prefers that his team just play if it has a lead.
Martino’s response to Torrent on Friday took the sting out of the accusations.
“I don’t have much to say about that,” he said. “I don’t think we delayed the game in any exaggerated fashion in the first leg. It’s a statement that he’s made that I agree with in general.”
Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst and goalkeeper Brad Guzan said Atlanta United isn’t going to shy away from playing as physically as it did in the first leg.
They also didn’t directly mention, but did reference, that NYCFC players Alexander Ring, David Villa and Ronald Matarrita committed plays that could have resulted in yellow or red cards in other games.
“It’s a physical game,” Parkhurst said. “There were fouls on both sides. There are guys doing stuff off the ball. Everything gets seen, but not everything gets punished. You are expecting it to be physical. We are going to make sure that we look after our own guys. Whatever it takes we are going to do it together.”
Guzan said he thinks Torrent’s complaints are born of frustration from losing at home for only the second time this season.
“I don’t think anyone’s stated that we are a team that dives,” he said. “To see those comments, he’s entitled to his opinion. We are not a team that goes out trying to look for fouls. We are a fast-paced team that looks to get after the back line of the opposition. We aren’t looking for diving and fouls and that sort of thing.”