What was said: Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Atlanta United takes the field to play Los Angeles FC Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Announced attendance was 67,503. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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Atlanta United takes the field to play Los Angeles FC Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Announced attendance was 67,503. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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

Interim head coach Rob Valentino:

On the importance of today’s win to keep momentum going into the next match:

“It’s extremely important that we win. That’s what it is. For the team’s momentum, for their confidence, to win a game where it was really tough, not pretty at times, that says a lot about our team in there. I’m proud of them. I’m proud they found a way to win, when it was difficult at times.”

On what LAFC did to limit some of the offensive attack today:

“In the first half, I thought we would have some good plays with small interchanges and short passes to break the lines and go. I thought we could have looked for a little bit longer pass to get in behind and we didn’t in the first half. Whether that was due to them or to us, I’m not sure. At times it didn’t look like we were in our character, didn’t look like the team that we’ve seen. At halftime we spoke about that. Then in the second half, they changed shape and made it difficult for us. We scored the goal early, and after that it was like we were at times holding on. I don’t know if it was what they did, or in the first half we didn’t put our stamp on the game. They are a great team. I think we left them in the game long enough, and they thought they could get something out of the game, because they have very dangerous players. So, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but a win is a win.”

On Josef Martinez’s performance and if this was the most “Josef” game since injury:

“I mean he scores and that’s important. I think we’ve obviously missed him in the last game. He was huge in other ways in that match. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get in behind even more, but he gave everything he could. He gets the goal, nearly gets another one. You can that the fans love him, I love him and you can see that he’s almost back to his normal self. We will keep pushing him and he will keep challenging to want more.”

On the goal and if that type of play was discussed during the week:

“It’s something we discuss a lot in general. If look forward and see a chance, you have to go. Take the risk and try to get in behind. We talked about that at halftime as well. I thought they were going to continue in their shape, but they didn’t. There were a few times where it was just Josef (Martinez) and one of their center backs. So, I told them that if you can get your head up, knock it in behind. That’s what this team is good at. I want to get us back to that a bit. Yeah, there was a little bit of luck on the Moreno pass on the goal, but he did the right thing and it ends up being a goal for Josef.”

On how he changed the mentality of the team:

“Thank you first off for saying that. It’s not me. It’s them. It’s their mentality, it’s not mine. I think as a staff we have tried to lead by example, show them that we care, show that we are going to help them and give them all the tools we can. We are going to try our best. Hopefully they see that. I’m not saying those things didn’t happen before, but I think relationships are important. If you have rules without relationships, you are going to have chaos. We don’t have rules because we have relationships that we can manage situations. They see how much we care and how much we are pushing and trying. But it’s them though. They are earning that reward. We can’t take credit as a staff. They are pushing each and every day. They are the ones out there. The players deserve all the credit. Every single one of them.”

On if he heard from Gonzalo Pineda after the match:

“I checked my phone real quick because I thought he would text. He said very good job and that he was proud of the boys. I can’t compliment that guy enough. I can’t imagine how hard it is to get this opportunity and not be here. But I’ve been in contact with him. For me he is part of this, we want to make sure that message is portrait. When he gets here we will welcome him with open arms and will continue our work.”

Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson

On the team’s first win streak since early in the season:

“I think the team’s in a good mental state right now. I think we’re working hard and we’re working for each other and our fans. As you can see, we’re doing pretty good so far.”

On the game plan to minimize Carlos Vela:

“We knew Vela was going to try to create in the game like he normally does. We had to make sure we stay tight to him, but there were a few times in the first half we gave him too much space and it hurt us. But I thought the team did good in terms of staying tight to him the whole game trying to frustrate him.

On what the team needs to improve on:

“Just defensively, we allowed maybe too many chances on set pieces that we got to improve on. But I think we’re really organized as a team. We just have to continue to just play together and just kind of get some more chemistry going forward. I think we’ve got a bright future.”

On his and Alan Franco’s growth in their partnership in the backline:

“Just playing two games together, I think we’ve grown. But if we’re going to be playing this back three, I think we need to continue to do reps to just get stronger. I thought they both played great. Alan played very well in that center position. I think he helped out a lot in balls in behind a few times today. It’s just about getting constant reps to gain chemistry.”

On how he has seen George Bello grow during his time with Atlanta United:

“I think these last three games since he came back from World Cup, he’s been playing great. He has had a lot of confidence going forward, but he’s been strong defensively. I thought he’s been playing great these last three games, especially today.”

On the mindset of Atlanta United:

“Whenever you can win a 1-0 game, that’s good. Sometimes, we can’t score five, four, three goals a game, but it’s just about setting strong defensively, and we did that tonight, so we’re definitely proud.”

On if he has had any one-on-one conversations with Gonzalo Pineda:

“No one-on-one convos yet, but we’ve definitely heard from him. He seems like a great guy, but it’s just about us continuing this momentum forward until he comes in and helps our team. I think we’re in a good spot right now, and obviously, it’s going to get much better. Over time, we’re going to continue to grow, hopefully, in an upward direction for these last few months of the season.”

On if he talked with Cristian Roldan about Gonzalo Pineda:

“I talked to Cristian a little about him. It was just about him as a person. He’s a great guy. Cristian was definitely a little disappointed that he’s leaving the staff because he’s such a good guy around the team, but we’re definitely excited to have him.”

Credit: MLS

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Josef Martinez scores Atlanta United's lone goal in 1-0 win over LAFC before 67,503 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez

On the conversation immediately after the goal between Ezequiel Barco and himself:

“That’s my guy. He’s like my son. We have a good relationship, so I’m happy. I tried to find, you know, my partner and I have a good relationship with him. I like him. I say, ‘Thank you,’ because we talk a lot about assists, my goal and stuff like that. And that’s why I told him thank you. I like to see him like that.”

On if the team feels like it did in 2018 or 2019:

“19, we can’t compare to that. But we look better. Today was a tough game. It’s an amazing team, we talked that before. In the second half, they completely go forward. This win is special because it’s a good team, good game, and the three points is most important.”

On the fan art and what gifts from fans mean to him:

“I don’t have a lot of words because I feel love for the people and I try to do my best. Sometimes I don’t know the people know that we might score. Every game I might not get a goal, so I try do the best. She gave it to me. When I see that for the first time, I was surprised. It made me feel something in my chest. But I say thank you for the people who made something special for me.”

On his first goal since October 2019 and his goal celebration:

“I have a lot of pressure because I need to score. I have four goals, but all four were away. Today, it’s more because I like to play against the good teams with an amazing crowd, amazing fans, so it’s a little bit special. I wanted to score so bad, but the most important are the three points. We go think about our next game. I just enjoy it. It’s really special. I love it so much.”

On going through changes on the field and in his life and what it means to score now; what he’s learned:

“It’s nice because I’ve had very good years and then after an injury like this, I learned to value my body, value every minute I was off the field, above all the tough moments, and I just thank God for the possibility to be on the field again because six months ago I didn’t want to play again. Returning to play is a special thing, then if I have the opportunity to score goals or help the team, that’s welcome. I think that’s what everyone wants I think that’s what we all want, and to move forward because during this last period we’ve had bad results and we hope to get that rhythm back and maybe not win every game but to play for the fans.”

On Rob Valentino’s comments that the players deserve the credit for the change and what has been the change from the players:

“In reality we haven’t done much, just enjoy ourselves. My relationship with Rob is over a long time, and the only thing we want to do is lift this club and people like Rob, now with coach Pineda, and all the people who have been at the club since the first day, we know what it represents for us. And to know that we’re in a moment that’s maybe not the best for us, because in soccer you can have good and bad moments, but the important thing for us is to keep working and keep fighting. We feel the club, what it means for people when we lose. Nobody likes to lose. We don’t like to lose. But soccer is like that, there are good and bad moments and we have to keep going. And enjoy it. He just says to enjoy it feel free and thank God for being able to play soccer. This is short and we just have to enjoy it and make us respectable at home because for many years that’s what we did. When people came to play here, they were shaking or knew they had to run double, but this win gives us more confidence.”

On having a partner like Barco and how it’s near impossible to replace a partner like Miguel Almirón but if Barco can be like that:

“I don’t like to make comparisons. Miguel is unique. (Julian) Gressel, after Miguel, is unique. I would like to have him again. And Barquito is special. He’s like my son. You have to love him. There are days he understands more than others but he’s improving. The other day he scored a golazo. I’m glad for him because we’ve shared a lot of moments, good and not so good, and I see a sensitive person. You have to know how to treat him, give him advice, talk to him; because when he’s in form he’s a difference-maker for us. We were joking with him in the locker room because he’s got two assists in a year and it’s like a record. I’m very happy for him because I love him and I have a good relationship with him and his family.”

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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 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

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 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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

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