On decision to set up the team shape coming into the game
“We wanted to press them from the start. Harrison Afful is a guy that pushes up and we had problems getting pressure on him. Pedro Santos was playing almost like a second striker. They had four guys up front, and we couldn’t manage to press them. Either Ezequiel Barco or Emerson Hyndman had to step out, and then another midfielder was free. Maybe that was a wrong choice from us. We analyzed them and that’s the first time they played that type of system. Right now, we aren’t capable to change and adapt like that during the game. I said some things during the hydration break that Fernando Meza needs to play like a defensive midfielder and Barco like a winger. It wasn’t exactly how we wanted it. So, I changed two guys at halftime. They couldn’t build up anymore and I think we pressured them very well. That’s why I think we created enough chances in the second half.”
On changing tactics during the game and how to fix this going forward
“It’s difficult. Maybe when we have a guy like Jeff Larentowicz on the pitch, yeah he’s a guy that can put guys in the right spot. Right now we are not able to do that. I’m shouting from the side, but it’s still difficult. I talked about it during the water break and it was a little bit better, but in the locker room at halftime is when I could really put it on the board what I expected. In the second half, there almost weren’t any problems anymore. But again, I have compliments to Columbus to how they approached us in the first half. We have to have an answer for it next time. It’s painful now, but it’s a lesson for me and for our players.”
On what is in store for this team now following the tournament
“Well first the guys will have a couple of days off. That’s normal since we’ve been in the bubble for a long time. Then we will start ramping again to be ready with what’s going to happen. We don’t know the plan of MLS right now, but we can still practice a lot of what we want. Playing different systems and what we expect from them. We have enough time. I think we need the time to really train what we want to see and get confidence for when it starts up again.”
On his response to fans questioning his status as manager
“Well you know everybody is disappointed. I’m the first one who is disappointed. I only can say that I will always give my best and I’m going to continue that until the end. I know that I can change this situation we have right now into a winning situation. We showed that last season when we started quite rusty. I’m convinced that with the players we have, we can really change this. If you see the second half, that’s what I want to see and we will continue in that.
On if he believes this team has improved over last season
“Well I think we started quite well of course the first two games. Now we are disappointed. Everybody was happy with the results in the first two games. Six points from two games. We were of course disappointed with the injury of one of our best players. The last couple of seasons Josef Martinez has a major impact. He averages nearly 30 goals a season, so that’s of course disappointing to lose him. I think we have to improve, that’s clear. We are going to do that. We have to do that together. When we get back to Marietta, we will try to get everybody back on their feet again and get some confidence. We have enough quality in the team.”
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan
On how to turn things around before the next match
“There’s no magic answer. We have to get back on the training pitch. We have to work harder. At the same time, we need to have some real conversations. Some real conversations, because this is not something that just happened. Three games, six halves of football and we showed up for the last half. The second half was better today. Not nearly good enough for what Atlanta United stands for and the club that we’ve all known this club to be. We have to get back to work. It’s not even close to being good enough.
On what does the work consist of in the future
“You talk about identity. In these three games and can even go back to the Club America game, that’s not who we are as a club. That’s not what we are about as a team. There’s got to be change. There’s got to be some sort of change on the field. There’s got to be communication, conversations but then there has to be a response to that. It can’t just be talk talk talk, and then we get on the field and do the same thing we’ve been doing. This didn’t just happen in one game. This has happened for four games. It’s not good enough. Not good enough as individuals or as a group. There needs to be change. There needs to be the conversations that take place. There has to be a different product shown on the field.”
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan sends Atlanta United on the attack during MLS tournament matchup against Columbus Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Credit: Atlanta United
Credit: Atlanta United
On the mood in the locker room following a third consecutive defeat
“Disappointment. Frustration. After the first game we talked about what playing for this club means. When you step on the with an Atlanta United crest on your shirt, you are not just representing this club, your representing the city of Atlanta and all of our fans. We set the bar so high the last couple of years. So to go through what we are going through right now, you can talk about experienced players. There’s also inexperienced players on the field. It’s the role of the experienced ones to help the younger guys along. It’s the role of the younger guys to pick up information quickly and learn on the job so to speak. We have to get better. There is a huge level of frustration and disappointment. This isn’t what Atlanta United is about. It’s not a good feeling in the locker room.
On if the status of the manager is any distraction to fixing the current issues on pitch
“Regardless of coach, manager, players. In this business, players come and go. Managers come and go. It’s the job of us as players that are here to go out and perform and perform at a certain level. That’s not a question for us as players. That’s obviously for other people. Our job is to take that information on board and try and go and execute what’s been relayed to us as players. I don’t think that question is particularly for us as players. We have to take the information we are receiving and get wins.
On starting games slow and finishing stronger in second halves
“They are top of the table and winning the game 1-0. We don’t have anything to lose. We are throwing everything forward and of course they weren’t great in the second half. Our previous five halves of football were not good enough whatsoever. Now you play 45 minutes of decent attacking football. That doesn’t make it all of a sudden great. That just raises it from where it was and the bar was low. It was better, but that’s nowhere near where we want to be as a team and as a club. We can talk about it being a better second half. We had two or three decent chances where their goalkeeper made some good saves. Other than that we didn’t cause them loads of problems. We didn’t get behind them. It wasn’t like we were unbelievable and the Atlanta United of old.”
Defender Brooks Lennon
On how taxing it was playing 90 minutes in three matches given the living and playing environments
“Physically it was tough. It’s hot and humid out here in Orlando but we can’t use that as an excuse. It was definitely rough in the three games but I dealt with it fine. I had no issues with any muscles or anything like that. I came in fully prepared and fully fit for this tournament and unfortunately we’re going home.”
On if questions about Frank de Boer’s job will be a distraction
“I agree 100 percent with what Brad said. We have to hold ourselves accountable. We can’t blame other people. We have to hold ourselves accountable as players for what we put out on the pitch and obviously in these three games it wasn’t good enough. We have to go back to the drawing board and those decisions aren’t decisions for us players so we just need to keep moving forward.”