Atlanta United 1, Dallas 0: What was said

092320 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz makes a penalty kick for a 1-0 lead over FC Dallas in the 55th minute of a MLS soccer match that proved to be the game winner for a 1-0 victory on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

What was said after Atlanta United’s 1-0 win against Dallas on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

Interim head coach Stephen Glass

On the team’s performance tonight and how satisfying it was to get result:

“I think in the first half we were really good. Maybe didn’t threaten the goal as much as we would have liked, but the intent of the team was there. You could see the focus of the group, there was a real determination to not give away a goal and get this result. That was great. We were forced into a couple subs at halftime, which is unfortunate. But the strength and resilience of the group was evident in the second half. That was as pleasing as the good first half performance was.”

On getting a result with no DP’s playing against a strong Dallas side

“It shows the strength of the group, the resilience and the belief they have in what we are doing. We knew Dallas were coming in off the back of three very good wins. A very vibrant group, similar in a way to Miami. It was pleasing that we could stand up to that tonight. You didn’t even mention Josef (Martinez), so there was no Josef, no Pity (Martinez), no Ezequiel Barco. We had to take off Matheus Rossetto and Miles Robinson at halftime, who are fantastic players. But the strength of the group was evident. The subs that came on late were brilliant as well. We asked Edgar Castillo to do a different job because of Reynolds coming on for Dallas and his danger. So it was good to see the work rate they put in. They were just so determined tonight to not get beat and pick up the win.”

On the team pressing high tonight and maintaining that over the next stretch of games

“I believe we can. It obviously is demanding. Now, you have to maybe be a little more clever in picking the right moments on when to press or when to decide to leave it and stay in your shape and trust that shape. There are times in games where it might appear a little disjointed, but that’s because we are trying to change something here. The physical demands, we’ve had to alter we’ve trained. But we’ve tried to change the mindset of the group, to make them believe they can play like that and win like that. The club, when it’s been at its best, has played like that. So it’s important that we are trying to continue that trend and push the group towards that. It’s going to be a long season and I think we can do it to win enough games to where we want to be.”

On Jon Gallagher and Jake Mulraney’s play tonight

“They did everything we asked of them. Obviously, Jon started through the middle tonight. We asked him to finish the game a little wider and I feel he was dangerous in both positions. He had a great shot that led to the corner for the goal. Mulraney is the same, he can play on the left or right. He has two good feet and he’s dangerous when he’s on the front foot the way he was tonight. They can both be very proud of their performances.”

On the halftime substitutions

“Miles and Matheus both had issues that we felt we could protect them looking towards the weekend. They were at risk of getting injured, struggling with something in the game and had to come off. The changes was a decision on how to keep the team as effective as possible and strong defensively. So we decided to put Franco Escobar at center half because of Dallas' pace, which they tend to use later in games. Brooks Lennon moved to right back, where he is a very capable and we brought on Eric Remedi and Adam Jahn. Eric is a fantastic player, we’ve asked a lot of him in the first few weeks we have been in charge. He’s done a lot for us, and he’s probably suffered for it, but his performance in the second half tonight was fantastic.”

On Franco Escobar’s leadership tonight

“I’ve actually spoken to him personally about leadership. I feel like he can be a leader. When his body language is correct and his work rate is what it always is, people will follow that. Franco can be a leader for this group absolutely. Fernando Meza came back into the group tonight, he leads by example a lot which is great. You have Jeff Larentowicz on the pitch, Eric Remedi on the pitch, so you had a lot of leaders tonight. Everyone knew their job and worked as hard as they could and they got a reward. When there aren’t real standout leaders, others have to pick up the slack and a lot of them did that tonight.”

On doing anything different in training to focus more on the details

“Probably the biggest thing we did was on Sunday morning we sat through video and picked apart the goals we gave up on the weekend and picked them to death. There were several switch off moments within it from several individuals. Sometimes, you can get away with it and it doesn’t result in a goal. But when a lot of things happen and it turns into a goal, people see the impact of what they feel like are minor mistakes. There were so many last week, that it was an opportune moment to point a lot. The players took that on board tonight and you saw people learning from their mistakes, which is what you want to see happen.”

If player criticism from himself or Carlos Bocanegra have served as realities for the team

“I would say so, yeah. I was fortunate to play at big clubs and sometimes it wasn’t going as well as it should have – anytime you’re at a big club and things aren’t going the way they should, there’s plenty of people that want to tell you. But to be honest, the guys in the dressing room in here know that it’s not been as good as it should be, and they’re determined to put it right. Sometimes that can be an area of motivation. You’re trying to find what motivates individuals and I’m not sure exactly what part it is – we pick a lot of different bits to try and push the players, whether they’re loving winning, hating getting beat, hating what people are saying about them. And us, as a staff as well. So I think there’s a motivation there. And there always is at a big club. And you’re seeing that people are determined for that not to be the case.”

If he saw the game as being wide-open in the first 15 minutes, and how Atlanta was able to control the match after that

“I honestly think we were in control from start to finish of the first half. I think that any time they had opportunities was how it’s been recently with everyone – a couple of cheap giveaways, a couple of switch-offs when we were trying to build out of the back, which again are minor problems. But there was a resiliency and a reaction as soon as we lost it to go win the ball back tonight. So I think we were in control of the first half, so I read it slightly different; I have not seen it from a high level like you guys are able to watch on the television, but that was my understanding of the game in the first half. Obviously, I’ll go home tonight and analyze it again.”

On if he was disappointed with the number of crosses in the first half without having an aerial threat

“I wouldn’t say Jon’s [Gallagher] not good in the air. I think the three guys that we had up top are not the biggest, but with their movement and speed, they can get in front of bigger defenders. So, I think that can be an area where other teams think these guys are not good in the air. Brooks Lennon’s fantastic in the air. Jon’s good in the air. And Jake [Mulraney] competes pretty well in the air as well. I think it’s the choice of the final cross that can be an effect when people are not scoring from crosses. So I think the quality in the final delivery – it’s not always crossing it onto someone’s head, just not hanging it up and hoping that they beat the center back in the air. So, I was pleased with the first half performance.”

On what he saw from Jon Gallagher in training to think he could succeed as lone striker

“I think starting last week, Jon showed that he can be dangerous and he’s got a belief in himself. We just felt like we could utilize that a little bit different tonight. We did feel like the threat of pace in behind was going to be really important for us. And I think the feeling was that Jon would offer a little bit more of that than Adam [Jahn]. So that was the reasoning for that choice. In terms of Jon’s performance, he did well as a center forward, but we just felt Adam – when we had to make changes at halftime – was a good choice. We didn’t go straight like-for-like. It’s easy just to take off Miles [Robinson] and put in a center half and switch a midfielder for a midfielder and leave everything else similar. But there was a chance tactically to do something different and I think we got the result of that early in the second half, which was great. And then we were forced to sit in a little bit, which is probably understandable considering the run that we’ve been on recently. But again, the resiliency of the group was fantastic in the end.”

Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz

On if Atlanta can consistently press high and defend high across a stretch of games

“Yes, I mean if you have 10 outfield players, 11 players on the field that are committed to it. There are two sides to it. That’s why Dallas is so dangerous. They do want to play out of the back but they have the ability to hurt you if you don’t get it right with the speed up top and I think we got both pieces to the game right. I think we pressed well and created turnovers but when they chose to play long, our back four were winning the first ball and then we were picking up the second one. If the commitment is there, I think it’s certainly possible that we can play that way. I think building up the stamina of the team, to find the right moments to do it, to not press within the game so that you have the ability to do it for longer stretches throughout the 90 minutes is probably what we need to do next but it is just one game and we have to look at all the positives and carry it through to the weekend.”

On the team’s meeting on Sunday morning and if that message helped the team’s performance

“Yes, the message in that meeting was not one of finger pointing it was that in a league like this the margins are really fine. The difference between teams are not usually very big. When you go winless in six or five or whatever it was, it can feel like the gap is pretty large but when you watch the mistakes back you see that ‘man, this goal came from a 50-50 at midfield that we lost and then things just domino’d from there.’ Or one person makes a decision at the wrong time and we get opened up and if we can rectify that then it doesn’t create a goal. It’s really just recognition that those differences from winning and losing are fine and you have to look at the mistakes so that you can change those. Tonight, perfect example, Miami is a team that will want to break on us and Dallas is no different but I think we handled the turnovers, the counters, the other team’s ability to get behind us when we turn the ball over and make mistakes. And that was a big difference between tonight and our previous game.”

On why the team was able to play on the front foot tonight compared to other matches and put in a performance like that

“I think off that last question it helps to look at what was happening. I’m not saying that we hadn’t been doing that in weeks prior but it seemed like we were kind of hurdling towards the next game trying to get things right over the last few weeks and we never really acknowledged in, and acknowledged it with each other. And the meeting wasn’t only about watching film it was people speaking up and saying what’s on their mind and getting it out there. Clearing the air in a sense and owning up to some things and demanding that guys buy in, whether you want to be with us and you want to be out on the field and find a way to win, whether it is scrappy like you said or not, and that’s all part of it. So maybe it is on the back of a game in four days but it’s about recognizing those things, owning up to them, clearing the air with each other and then playing again.”

On scoring his goal and ending the team’s losing streak

“When the penalty opportunity happens I was kind of upset that my bicycle kick didn’t go in so that when they gave me the opportunity to take the penalty I was happy to step up. All joking aside, I want to win the game. If our normal penalty takers aren’t out there and I need to step up, I’m happy to step up. I’ve done it in my career. I just want to find a way to win. I think I said on television that the fans deserve more and the coaching staff deserves more and hopefully tonight is a step in the right direction. It is only a step, we have to do it again, but it is a step in the right direction.”

On his message to the team before the game and the mood after the win

“I think before games that players speak and coaches speak. It’s a natural routine but over the course of several weeks, words can only mean so much and you have to back it up with your performance and I try to simplify it when it’s me speaking to the team and give a simple point. I gave two simple points tonight. It starts with one play. One play leads to the next and the next and if you’re making the right decisions it leads to a win and you can build that momentum. The second was that you have to communicate. You can’t be half-asleep on the field while you’re communicating so if you’re screaming you’re getting someone to come in and help you defensively, you’re pushing someone on to press, you’re talking to the guy next to you to get in the right shape. Then the team is going to be in a better position. That was the talk before the game. It’s pretty simple, but like I said, backing the words up with action was the most important. I think we did that as a team. I think a win feels good. I think the guys are a bit tired. It took a big effort. We were obviously suffering a bit towards the end of the game but it will be a lot easier to come in tomorrow and prepare for the next one knowing we’ve got three points.”

Atlanta United midfielder Brooks Lennon

On what it means to win with a different style of play

“First and foremost, it feels great to get back to winning ways. We’re coming off a lot of bad results and it’s good to see the group come together and get a win. I think it was one of those performances that might not look the prettiest, but we got the job done. That’s all that counts.”

On if the team can build off the performance

“It is not always going to be pretty, but first and foremost we need to go out every single game with that kind of energy and intensity. The footballing and the prettiness will come. I think just as long as we go out there with 100 percent effort in every single player that is on the field like we did tonight, the wins will come. There are not many games left this season just because of the season being rescheduled, so every game and every three points matters now. Effort is much needed.”

On how the team was able to focus for 90-minutes

“I don’t know what was the one thing that changed the guys' mentality, whether it was guys just being sick and tired of coming in the locker room after the game without three points. I think from minute one we were collectively so good tonight. There were no individual defensive errors, clear errors that we had been making early on in the season. And I think one of the main problems we were having was conceding goals really early on in games. Our main focus tonight was to get out of the first 10-15 minutes either up or level. I think that changed our mentality and the way we were pressing and getting after them and creating chances, it was just free-flowing, and it felt great.”

On if the team meeting impacted the team performance

“I think it had a major impact on the performance from the guys tonight. We had a hear-to-heart meeting with the entire group. We watched film and we just talked about what was going wrong in the season and the things we thought were going well. I thought tonight it definitely translated to the guys' performance and it is great to see a positive reaction from that meeting.”

On players playing multiple positions

“It is great to see. We’ve had a lot of guys go down this season. Especially tonight, we had a lot of substitutions, guys coming in areas that they don’t normally play in and coming in and doing their job. And that is all you can ask, coming in and affecting the game in a positive way. I think everyone that was on the field tonight did really well and we just need to carry this momentum into Sunday in Chicago and keeps these wins rolling. We are in a big playoff race right now and this club needs to be in the playoffs.”

On if the team can go on the road and play with the same style

“Definitely. I think the way we started the game tonight, there is no reason why we can’t do the same thing on Sunday and go after teams and make them understand we’re there to win. We’re not just going to roll over and let them take the game to us. It is the other way around. We are here to continue to fight no matter what happens. Whether guys go down and other guys have to step up, that’s football and that’s life. I think everyone is ready and everyone is ready to get three points on Sunday.”

FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez

General thoughts…

“I think a casual 10 minutes starting in the second half led to their goal, we have to be disappointed to concede that goal, but we have to look at the game overall. We tried to look at some things with our press. I think we were good at making them play some long balls, but we have to do better and win more second balls in the midfield. We were missing that kind of personnel, but I like that we got on the ball and tried to possess, we tried to play through the lines and half a little bit more possession this game but didn’t produce enough volume in crosses. And the crosses we did make I don’t think were high quality. And didn’t produce enough volume of just being aggressive and getting shots off to test them. Credit to Atlanta, that’s a team that played with a lot of heart tonight and they found a way to beat us. A flat 10 minutes punished us, and we didn’t push the game. Obviously, being down, we went for it, but it wasn’t enough. We’re disappointed because we thought we could get points here. But we don’t have time to waste, we have to reflect quickly and have a lot of things we want to improve with the opportunity we have with Orlando next.”

On the penalty decision...

“I saw the replay quickly. I don’t know what Matt’s supposed to do honestly in that place; it’s a fast play. But I’ll look at it more, I think it could’ve gone either way. But the ref made his call and it is what it is. We’ve got to own it. But the things that led to that are more important. We have to not give away as many dead balls and free kicks in our half because that’s just free service into our box.”

On the halftime talk to the team…

“Our guys are experienced now. We had a really young team last year but most of our guys have experience in the league. If we’re going to fight for a top conference spot, we have to find consistency in our desire no matter who we play, where we play or where the other team is in the table. So, I felt the team prepared well. I felt the warmup and mentality was good before the game. When the game started, I think we had some good moments and we were in it. In the second half, those first 10 minutes were a little too reactive and weren’t aggressive on our dead ball and it led to an unlucky play in the box. We lost on a PK, and other than that PK I’m not sure of what other clear, clear chances we gave away. But that’s the game. Small margins and we didn’t do enough to get on the scoresheet. We’ve been scoring in the last few games, but we didn’t score today. We’re disappointed and it’s not good enough. We’re going to think about it and move on quickly because that’s the way this league is, that’s the way the schedule is; we don’t have time. We’re going to wake up tomorrow with a hurt but also a desire and excitement to play Orlando next.”

FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges

Thoughts on the match…

"I thought it was pretty even besides that penalty. I didn’t think they had much better chances than we did. I mean we had some chances, they had some chances and it was pretty even. I feel like we had good spells of possession and they had good spells of possession. There were times when the game was open and times when it was closed. Overall, I thought it was pretty even. "

Thoughts on short turnaround for Orlando game…

“We’ll have time to prepare but there will be guys with fatigue because there’s a game every three days for months at a time. It’s going to happen. I’m starting to feel it. I’m sure there are other guys who also feel it. We’re resting people but it’s unusual circumstances right now to have these many games so closed together.”

Thoughts on having different backline

“I thought they did well. Ryan switching to the right, it’s not his favorite position, but he does it well. Bressan comes in and I play next to him in training all the time so it’s a natural transition. You can probably tell in the first ten minutes we’re trying to build out just trying figure out where everyone was and get used to each other, but after that I thought it was fine. Defensively, we do enough together in training that it was pretty seamless in our positioning, marking, etc.” 

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer

Thoughts on the match...

“Felt good, just disappointed in the result. We came here to get some points on the road, whether a win or a tie. Just disappointed. Individually, I felt good, second game (back from injury). Just building on the last game. I felt good individually.” 

Thoughts on what he saw in the back in terms of the buildup play and how evenly the match was played...

“One of our focuses, something we talked about - in the back. I thought it was a lot better, it’s something we can build upon going forward. We’re getting back to finding spaces and taking some more calculated risks to play out of the back and I think it created some chances going forward when were able to beat that pressure. I think we were just a little bit better with our movement, a little bit better with finding the spaces in between lines and knowing when to skip lines. It took us a minute at the beginning of the game, but I think we found our rhythm towards the middle end of the first half and I think that’s one of the positives we can take.”

Atlanta United coming games

Wednesday vs. Dallas (5-2-4), 7 p.m., FSS

Sunday at Chicago (2-7-3), 7:30 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 3 at D.C. United (2-5-5), 7 p.m., FSS

Oct. 7 vs. Orlando (6-2-4), 7 p.m., FSS

Oct. 10 vs. New York Red Bulls (4-6-2), 6 p.m., FSS

Oct. 14 at Miami (3-7-2), 8 p.m., FSS

Oct. 18 at Toronto (6-2-4) in Hartford, Conn., 7:30 p.m., FSS

Oct. 24 vs. D.C. United (2-5-5), 4 p.m., FSS

Oct. 28 at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSS

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSS

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