Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2: What was said

May 29, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze shouts instructions during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, May 29, 2021. The game ended with 2-2. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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May 29, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze shouts instructions during the second half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, May 29, 2021. The game ended with 2-2. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

What was said after Atlanta United’s 2-2 draw with Nashville in Saturday’s MLS game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

Atlanta United Head Coach Gabriel Heinze

On the two goals by Nashville late in the match

“I’m not sure if there were mistakes yet, but they weren’t paying attention to the action on the plays.”

On the attack scoring two goals and creating chances today

“A football game can’t be analyzed by individual parts. You have to analyze the whole context. The way I feel is to analyze the whole game. You can play in different ways. You can be attacking well and defending bad. But the results are not going to appear often. I think you need to work in both parts in order to win a game.”

On the message to the players after a match like this

“What I tell my in players inside the locker room is something I keep inside. What we need to think is that until the end of the game there are chances for both sides. It’s true that the team was better for most of the game. But in those late moments we weren’t calm and that’s when football brings you back.”

On the team playing more direct today

“It’s true because the Nashville group of players don’t give you much space. Then we have different options to put into the game for our team. That they did very well.”

On anything specific to work on in international break

“I don’t have the answer to that yet. I have some ideas that I’m going to continue doing. But I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t thought about specific exercises yet.”

On Nashville’s second goal

“The mistake is if an opposing player is in the box then he shouldn’t be free. I’m not talking about specific names. Each player has an opponent he should mark. If there is one free, that means one of our players wasn’t prepared.”

On player additions

“I don’t have this information. We work with the scouting department of Atlanta United to be able to improve the team. But I don’t know about the name you mentioned in your question.”

Atlanta United midfielder Erik López

On his emotions when he scored his goal

“Thank you. It was a beautiful feeling to score my first goal in this shirt and in this stadium it was amazing. It’s one of the things that I’ll always remember for the rest of my life.”

On scoring with his right heel and how many goals he’s scored using that part of his foot

“Thank you. I think it’s my first back heel goal in my career. George Bello played me the perfect ball, at that height, and I didn’t think twice, I just used the part of my foot based on how the ball was coming in.”

On how the attack played and if he was playing with more freedom

“Of course, I agree. It was my fifth game, maybe fourth consecutive and each game I’m playing more freely. I think with the help of my teammates and coaches, a young player can play more freely and today we played well but unfortunately the result didn’t come with it. We have to keep working because it’s a long road.”

On the chance he had to score his second goal and why he decided to finish the way he did and if that would have changed the result

“After the game I thought about that play also. When I looked at the goalkeeper, he was giving me the near post and I wanted to hit it at a medium height with my weaker foot and unfortunately the ball went high. I think if I would have scored that goal for the third, the game would be even more in our favor. But we just have to keep working and keep improving because this is soccer and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you draw.”

Atlanta United defender George Bello

On the emotions for the result of the match

“There’s a lot of emotions for sure. You go through the game thinking that you are playing well and the team is going well, then that happens. Results like that, for me at least and I’m sure for a lot of the guys, it feels like a loss. But we have to keep going. It’s in the past now. We have a break, so we have to regroup. We just have to get ready to keep going. It is still early in the season. We have to move on from it.”

On how the team can grab more wins

“I wouldn’t really say anything specific. Just keep working as a team and keep building that chemistry. Obviously, we have some new players, a new coaching staff, so we are not going to be able to be perfect right away. No one is perfect. We are going to do what any other team should do and just keep working and keep trying to better ourselves in any way we can, but I cannot really any specifics right now.”

On the team’s game plan for possession and long ball play

“We knew they were an aggressive team. If we tried to play into the middle channels, and they like to press that. We were able to exploit those long balls, whether it be out wide or in the middle, like Myles did in his assist. That worked out pretty well. I thought we did pretty well for the most part, except the last ten minutes and, like I said, we can’t keep our heads on it or else we’ll go downhill from there. We have to keep moving and try to better ourselves. We have this little break, clear our heads a little bit and come back even stronger.”

On the play on his assist

“I saw him making a run from the far post. It was a great run. Obviously, I also knew I had to get it in because it was really my only option. Marcel played a pretty good ball down the line and I knew I had to whip it. I knew they would be expecting me to try to lift it to maybe Josef. But I just tried to whip it near post and obviously it was a great finish from Erik. Better finish than assist for sure, so I’m happy.”

On Heinze’s post game message

“The main thing he said was to be focused for the full 90. We can never think that we are the better team because that’s when everything goes downhill. He said in both football and life you should never think that you are better than the person in front of you because that’s when you start rewarding them. Basically, we have to be focused for the full 90. Even if we are up by a little bit, we shouldn’t think that the game is over. We’re better than them when we finish the game and beat them. And not when we have a 10 to 20 minute span when we’re better than them.

On the early two goal lead

“I can’t really say. It is soccer. A lot of things happen. Like I said, we just got to keep focused and push past this and come back stronger after the break.”

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Head coach Gary Smith

Opening statement on the match

“That was a hell of a game. I have to be perfectly honest, I was very hopeful that we would take something away from this, as you can imagine. I always knew that it would be an incredibly difficult challenge and that certainly played out. We looked flat in the first ten minutes of each half and we paid the price for it. I don’t know whether that was the field in the first half. We certainly chased the game an awful lot in that first period and, maybe, the opening exchanges in the second half just looked to be leggy. I did feel that the two goals were a tad soft from our point of view, but nevertheless our character and the internal fight that this group has shown on many occasions was there for all to see. I just don’t think that too many people come back from a 2-0 down situation in this stadium, in front of this crowd, on this field, and against this team. We’ve shown tremendous character today.”

On Atlanta United’s goals

“We looked at the areas that might cause us a few problems in trying to win the ball back. They’re a team that possess the ball very very well. We were comfortable if they kept the ball in front of us, but certainly didn’t want them to penetrate too often. Our local derby, we wanted it to be a real blood and thunder affair if we could make it that and try to upset them a little bit as well, and not maintain any rhythm. Robinson’s distribution in the first half was very good, it caused us a lot of problems and the goal came from there. My concern was that I felt we might have dropped slightly quicker, it was a little bit too easy for the ball to be dropped in behind our backline with a pretty routine run from outside to in, and before you know it, it’s gone through Dave’s legs, and it’s caused Joe a serious problem. I just know that the guys are in a better place normally than that. The ball did kick up, it did skip on, which is what it does on turf, and maybe there were a few difficulties there trying to read the bounce. And the second goal wasn’t dissimilar. I thought we had done enough to force Bello out wide and it wasn’t the greatest cross in the world. The guys normally do a fabulous job protecting that near post and it was just a little bit to easier for their player to get to the near post and get a flick on it. Given the type of game it was, I felt it was a bridge too far for us at that point.”

Midfielder Hany Mukhtar

On scoring the first goal

“It was a pretty similar goal to my goal against [FC] Montréal. I needed to get a good touch and come in front of my opponent and then just hit the target from there. I’m happy to help the team.”

On if the road draw felt like a win

“We all know it’s a very tough place to be, but we were under a lot of pressure, and I think we got out of the game. We won a point instead of losing two points. We’re still unbeaten, so it’s a great run.”

Defender Walker Zimmerman

On the goal’s received today considering the defense’s success this season

“We definitely take a lot of pride in that and goals against we talk about a lot. If you’re going to get score on, you want it to be an absolute world-class goal, and that’s just not the reality from either goal tonight and I know we’re not going to be happy with the types of goals we allowed. It definitely is frustrating but I’m super proud of the group for showing some great fight and getting a point out of here.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE