March 17, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer plays to the fans as his team arrives to play Philadelphia Union in a MLS soccer match on Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United 1, Philadelphia 1: What was said

What was said following Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The transcript was provided by Atlanta United.

Atlanta United Head Coach Frank de Boer

 “I feel like we were finding some problems to really find our free man. Because (Philadelphia) was very organized, we couldn’t keep our man in the midfield free. So, the first 40 minutes wasn’t the type of play that we wanted to see. After that, we went to 4-4-2, we got more into the game. Directly after, Josef Martinez had a good chance when he hit the crossbar. We got better in the game, and we also created more chances. We did it much better the second half. I said to my team after the game that you all straightened your backs and tried to push forward. They (Philadelphia) didn’t play the four extra games during this period. Every three or four days, we’ve had a game. We are just missing the freshness to get a pass to the right man. We still made too many errors when it wasn’t necessary. I think the reason is mostly because of the freshness we are missing right now. Hopefully, after this international period, we can see a fresh United. One of our major players is going to play abroad, but still I think we are going to see a fresh Atlanta United with better choices on the ball. 1-1 is a very disappointing result for everyone who loves Atlanta United, but they can still proud for the team who straightened their back and tried to force the winning goal. It’s not easy when you play that many games, and you’re tired. The players are really tired right now. They deserve the two days off after this.”

On Pity Martínez:

 “He has to get use to this, and he knows this wasn’t his best game. He can play much better, and he has to play much better. He has to adapt to everything like the new culture, new circumstances, and new turf. All those aspects make it quite difficult. We know he is a fantastic and quality player. We have to have patience with him.”

On creating chances in the midfield:

 “We changed the system after thirty minutes to get Pity Martinez on the ball around Josef (Martinez). Normally, Eric can handle the ball under pressure. You want those guys to outplay some players with one turn or one control. We saw it sometimes but we have to do it more. Teams are very good when organized. They want you to fall in the trap and play in the middle. We have to recognize when we have to play certain balls. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez did a fantastic job. Miles Robinson was excellent again. There are also many positive things. I think if we are fresh, we will see a different team.”

On changing formations tonight:

 “Normally, this kind of system is the ideal system for me. Then everyone on the midfield has his own man. We have one spare man left in the back. When we have the spare man in the back, we always find our spare man. I still believe that you can do a lot of harm against opponents when you play 3-4-3. You have to not be sloppy with the ball because, then, it’s a really dangerous system. I still believe in it but afterwards we couldn’t find our free man and we changed it to 4-4-2 and from that moment on we had more control. We created more. They had one chance in the second half, unlike the first thirty minutes. We changed it, and they picked it up very well.”

On Miles Robinson’s growth:

 “He’s training, playing, and showing his form from the start. He’s an unbelievable athlete and just a normal guy who wants to play football and work hard. When you play against these kind of opponents or in tournaments like the Champions League, you see those players grow because they are playing against very tough opponents and for him it’s a great experience. We have to treasure that he’s now playing on this high level because he’s still young. Hopefully, he doesn’t fall back, but that’s normal when you’re young. Until now, he’s doing a fantastic job for the team and himself. Hopefully, he can continue to do so. Right now, he’s really fantastic.”

On Tito’s (Héctor Villalba) performance tonight:

 “He brings some other dimension to the team – especially some depth to the team – with his running with also his unpredictable actions sometimes, and I think he did well. He was very good in his discipline playing the midfield when he had to. I already gave him a good compliment, of course, you want him to be more decisive for the team, but still, I think he did quite well.”

On missing six players during the international break coming up:

 “It’s always hard for every coach from a team point of view because you really want those two weeks to get your system in or what kind-of things you want to discuss with your players. And, then you only get three days (because) they’re coming back probably Wednesday or Thursday and then on Saturday, we travel to Columbus. That’s quite hard of course. We have to accept it, but we have six team players who can really do something good and also get those trainings/exercises. I think what we are still missing – those one against one, two against two, three against three, to really get that sharpness, that freshness, to the team, so, besides, of course, how you want to play, of course. I think the main thing is to get our freshness back, but it also starts with playing one against one, two against two, three against three, because you couldn’t do that in the preseason because you have five weeks in the preseason.”

Atlanta United Defender Michael Parkhurst

 On Atlanta’s possession and lack of chances:

 “We’re all frustrated a little bit. We want to be creating more chances and scoring more goals. We’re trying to do that. We’re not just trying to out-possess a team, that’s not what we’re going into a game thinking. We’re thinking we want to score goals and create chances, be offensive, and pin teams in the other half. It’s not happening right now for us and when that’s the case we need to try and have some shutouts.”

On formation switches mid-game and if it’s difficult to execute:

 “Well, when you’re not playing well, you try and mix it up. We’re all aware of different formations, and we’ve all played different formations in our careers. You have to adjust and adapt. When we did change in the first half, we immediately created a little more pressure, and we had our best chance of the first half shortly after we switched. The idea is just to get more offensive and create more chances.”

On Miles Robinson’s growth:

 “Miles has been fantastic all season long. He’s probably been our best player. You could see the talent there the last couple years and he just didn’t get a huge opportunity to play, and he’s taken his opportunity and run with it, and now, we can’t take him off the field.”

Atlanta United FC Defender Miles Robinson

 “Obviously, you want to win playing at home, and I think we are a team that can beat the (Philadelphia) Union at home but getting that tying goal is crucial because we never want to lose at home.”

On handling different formations during a game:

 “You just got to adapt to it, adapt to the game, adapt to the position you are playing on the field and just get through it.”

On his goal-saving play in the first half:

 “I thought he was offside honestly, but I’m not sure. I had to make a b-line straight to the goal and try to get it out, and I did.”

On his starting spot and the number of minutes he is playing:

 “I am just trying to go out there and play hard every day, and that is what I have been doing, and I am just happy I am still out on the field.”

On his hopes of getting called up by the U-23 National Team:

 “I am always hoping people are watching. Obviously, it is a great roster the Under 23’s have, so we will see.”

On coming from behind to share a point:

 “You always want to try to win at home. Unfortunately, we had the tie, but it was good coming from behind.”

On his development:

 “Obviously, there are veterans all around me, and it helps learning from them and them teaching me along the way, which they have been doing for the past two years. Now, it is my time to show what I have.”

Atlanta United FC Midfielder Julian Gressel 

 “I think you could see that in the last 10-15 minutes where we did not get as high up on the field and did not really put that much pressure on them to really go for that win, and I think tired legs definitely come into play there. We have played a lot of game you know, but I think we still deserved to win the game. We had a few more chances to put away and could have created a lot more, but it was just a tough night and tough result.”

On the upcoming international break:

 “It is going to be quite big to be honest with you. I have a few knocks here and there, and the ankle is not 100 percent yet, but it is a good time now, for two weeks, to get healthy and get fresh again. I think all of us need it. Some guys are obviously traveling, and all the best to them, but for us, and me, it will be some good time off.”

On the formation changes:

 “We just tried to play the game. Ultimately, you want to win the game, and we were in the game better with the system we had in the second half with the four in the back. It was not really a fundamental change, you just kind of change it on the fly and put the players in the best positions possible and try to go for the win. Ultimately, that is what matters.”

On the confidence of the team growing:

 “I think so. Obviously, we would have liked to start this break off with a win and go into this whole thing with three points, and four in MLS. I think we played a good game against Monterrey and got a deserved victory there, and tonight, unfortunately the result was not there, but I think our energy was good and we tried to be on top of them and make them defend a lot. We had a lot of possession and would have liked to create a lot more chances and put a lot of pressure on them, but we will be very happy to head into those two weeks now and get fresh and get going again.”

Atlanta United FC Goalkeeper Brad Guzan 

 “Guy comes across the middle of the field looks to shoot and the ball comes off Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s leg or calf, I’m not quite sure, and goes the other way. Just a little bit of bad luck.”

On him saying it being “too easy” for other teams offensively:

On the team needing to collectively step up as a group:

On if fatigue is a factor in the team not having the bite or intensity:

 “I don’t know. You have to ask each individual player. Conversations are being had, from the coaching staff, from trainers on how guys are feeling. You have to ask each guy.”

On if there is a sense that the team will come more together after the international break:

On Miles Robinson’s play tonight:

On seeing anything different in Robinson’s play from last year to this year:

On if the team is frustrated right now and what needs to happen to create more opportunities:

Atlanta United FC Midfielder Ezequiel Barco

 “I think I entered and tried to do what the coach asked of me, which was to help the team, and we’re leaving with a bitter taste because we couldn’t win.”

On the possession:

“I think all game we were dominant, but maybe we didn’t have clear chances, but we controlled the ball the whole game.”

On what is the team’s system right now:

 “Try to do the things the coaching staff is asking us, what we’re working on during the week at training and try to do that on the field.”

On what the team can work on during the break:

 “I think we have to focus a little bit on everything. The coach knows what we have to work on during these weeks to try to be able to get a victory in the next game.”

On if he feels that the team is improving:

 “I think maybe it takes time for us to understand each other on the field, but we’re trying to do the easy things that the coaching staff asks of us to do our best.”

On players playing in different positions:

 “That’s not our decision. That’s up to the coaching staff. We have to adapt to that and do things the best way we can to keep moving forward.”

On playing with more will, against a defensive team:

 “I think we have to remain calm, be patient. I think we’re doing the best we can to be a team that can win at home and on the road. Today, things didn’t work out, but we’re working to win games.”

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin

On the match:

 “No secret that our season has started off difficult in terms of the quality of opponents that we have played. We have played three of the best franchises that our league has in Toronto, Kansas City and Atlanta. Going to KC, coming here, I think we have had good performances in all games, but now the thing we talked about this week was having the performance and get points. We were able to do that tonight. Obviously, the guys in the locker room are upset. We wanted all three, thought we had enough chances to get all three. Atlanta had a ton of possession but didn’t do a ton with it. I think they only had two shots on goal. Overall, happy with the teams’ performance, but a little empty in that we could have maybe closed out the game and got the second goal.”

On Brenden Aaronson’s performance:

 “For any young kid, I think you have to believe in them, you have to put them on the field otherwise you will never know. Some kids certainly step up and rise to the occasion. We had full confidence in Brenden after a great academy career, a great career with Bethlehem. He was ready. It is interesting to make your debut in front of 60,000 people that are cheering against you. Not an easy thing, but something he will remember forever. The goal that he scored aside, I thought he was really solid. He found good pockets, turned. I talked a lot with him. Jeff Larentowicz is a close friend, and he’s going to be about as physical with you as possible. Don’t try and get into any physochal duels with him. Try and find spaces on either side of him because you are quicker than him. He took to that, and he made some plays for us tonight. He played a couple through balls that should have been goals also. Overall, in terms of a debut for Brenden, couldn’t be prouder of him, couldn’t be prouder of the work that our academy has done developing him. Again, with these young guys, you have to throw them out on the field. I think we had six or seven homegrowns in our 18 tonight. That is what we believe in as a club and I think that we showed, not just Brenden, that we can go toe-to-toe with teams in this league, even the champion in Atlanta. They are a great team. I don’t say that in a disrespectful way. It is an incredible Atlanta group. Our guys were brave, and I thought we played a good match.”

On the team’s mentality:

 “I love that the group is pissed off that we just tied in Atlanta. That is a good thing. I think, obviously, we are going to have some call-ups. Columbus is going to have some call-ups. But I believe in our whole roster. I think we showed that today. We showed our depth. I think we had six or seven homegrowns in the 18. There is belief in the group. Everybody that stepped on the field contributed in a big way. It is a testament to the roster that we have. I like that they are dissatisfied that we didn’t kill the game off and get that second goal against the champion of our league. I think there is a belief now that we can play with anybody. Now we have to really start maximizing points, maximizing them at home in particular. Right now, if people eye-balled the schedule when it first came out, they probably would say, ‘Toronto at home should be a win, the other two in Kansas City and in Atlanta are two of the toughest places our league has.’ So, we are still two points behind where we need to be. We will chase those two points against Columbus and then we have to make some up on the road.”

Philadelphia Union Defender Ray Gaddis

On getting a point as a result:

 “It was a great building block for us as a team. This is a tough environment for us to play in. We felt we should have gotten all three points, but Atlanta – they’re the defending champs. We had a lot of great performances, especially from Brenaden [Aaronson]. I’m very proud of him. Great team effort to take away one point.”

On containing Atlanta’s attack:

 “Our coaching staff did a great job by preparing us with the right film and seeing the dynamic movements that they make, as well as just watching tape and preparing myself. God gives us wisdom to go about these things. “

On equaling Le Toux’s all-time appearance record for the club:

 “It says a lot more about God and how great he is to give me the opportunity to play in such a great place in Philadelphia. I’ve been here my whole career. It’s been a blessing seeing so many things transpire with this club. I just give God all the glory and honor to reach that accomplishment.”

Philadelphia Union Midfielder Brenden Aaronson

On scoring his first career goal:

 “I can’t say enough, I’m super grateful for the experience and them having the confidence to put me on the field. I’m so thankful for that, first of all. I’m thankful for my teammates coming up with the tie that we need to get a point. So, I’m just thankful for that. Through the moment, it was Kai (Wagner) dribbled up a little bit, it came through to me – and they dropped off a little bit – and I decided to shoot, just take a shot. It deflected off of one of the defender’s legs and it messed up (Brad) Guzan and it went right in the corner.”

On making his first start:

 “Again, I’m super grateful for them having the confidence in me, but of course, I’m going to be nervous, it’s the first start. But, honestly, it kind of settled in until I got here, then it was a little bad, but I always get nervous, so, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

On playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

 “Walking out, I don’t know if anybody saw me, but I was probably so pale looking at everybody. It was definitely an awesome experience for me. I’m never going to forget this moment.”

On what he learned from this experience:

 “I learned so many things out there today – definitely my movement off of the ball could be better. I could have found some better pockets. But I thought it was good and I found some good spots. Defensively, I thought as a team, we were very good limiting them to seven (or) eight chances. I mean its Atlanta, that’s unbelievable.”

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