Gonzalo Pineda: ‘We played one of our best games so far, we just couldn’t finish’

Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley (right) dribbles the ball during the match against Cincinnati FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, United States on Saturday April 16, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

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Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley (right) dribbles the ball during the match against Cincinnati FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, United States on Saturday April 16, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda spoke with reporters following the team’s 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, a game in which goaltender Brad Guzan left with an Achilles injury.

Here is some of what Pineda said:

On his thoughts on the match: “I think we played a good game in the attack. The way we built out from the back, most of the times we were able to unbalance the opponent. We did that many times. I think the expected goals statistic in a reflection of what happened on the field. But we didn’t score the goals, that’s what matters. That’s why we didn’t win. But I’m proud of the effort and how my players understood the tactics. We created a lot of chances and tried to push for a win until the end.”

On how to fix the attack, not scoring a goal in back-to-back matches: “First of all, I think it’s a matter of probabilities. We created today 3.35 expected goals to 0.9, I think most of the time we are going to win. If we continue to consistently create more and better chances like we did today, most of the time we will score goals. We missed a PK, we missed some other good chances inside the six, I don’t think that will happen very often. I believe in the quality we have in the final third. Players coming back from injury give you more options, you saw today Luiz (Araujo) and Emerson (Hyndman) were very good. The way we created chances in our primary assists zones was very high, and obviously players with the quality of Luiz they will impact the score line. I won’t judge as much today Luiz’s performance since he’s only been back in training for one week. I just want him to be back and continues to train and improve, that’s natural.”

On adjustments in the second half: “It wasn’t anything tactical, I thought our tactics were OK. We were unbalancing them very well in midfield, creating a lot of chances from the flanks, a few from the center. We just talked about patience and trying to have more composure in the final third. We created the better chances in the second half, but again we didn’t score and that’s the story of the game.”

On Caleb Wiley’s first start: “He was great tonight. He impacted the game exactly as I designed. He did everything I asked him to do. I think he was good in the final third, his crosses and also having a hand in creating the penalty kick. I think he’s someone with a very bright future. At the end of the game, I just wanted someone with some fresher legs and try something different, but Caleb was terrific.”

On being happy with the chances Atlanta created: “Yes, it can be better, but today there were almost four clear chances inside the six. So, I’m happy with that but it’s something we have to continue to progress. Many times, you saw Brooks Lennon or Caleb Wiley crossing in the first half, and they didn’t connect with someone. I need that to be a connection. I need them to find someone in the box, either with a cut back or a cross to the far post. We need to connect those crosses. A lot of that is composure and quality on the ball, understand who’s available, how many numbers you have inside the box and see the runs. There are a lot of things, and one thing we haven’t had is a lot of time to work with all the different parts. Ronaldo Cisneros just arrived a couple weeks ago, Thiago Almada is now integrated fully, Luiz Araujo is now back. Now we are trying to put everything together. Honestly though, if Brad’s injury didn’t happen, I would have been very happy with the performance of the team tonight. My mood would be completely different, because I believe, today, we played one of our best games in the season so far, we just couldn’t finish.”

On how the coach can help the team with the attack: “I believe that this is a natural process and it happens in soccer physically in a lot of games, in this league, in other leagues, and in Europe. A team dominates; sometimes you don’t score the goal, it happens. Sometimes you concede a goal in a transition and the game complicates itself. We have seen it several times. It is nothing scary. What do I have to do? First thing, I have to assure myself that the team continues to generate chances. That we will always generate above two to three expected goals, which is a statistic that I really like, and it will allow us to gain more volume for opportunities to get ahead. Evidently, we need to continue working on finishing, we have to include a special emphasis on the side but what takes us to the end is the form. We cannot think so much about the end if the form is not strong. If so, it gets unbalanced. We have to make sure that we maintain it and obviously improve on a couple chances in the final third.”