Dion Pereira said he thought he played OK in his first start for Atlanta United in Friday’s 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake.
Periera started as the left midfielder in place of the injured Hector Villalba. Pereira switched with Julian Gressel on the right a few times in the game before he was subbed off after 78 minutes.
“I tried to get on the ball as much as possible,” Pereira said. “Obviously, it was a tough game, tough surface, I’m not used to that. But I think I did OK for my first match.”
Pereira showed his technical ability with a few tight turns with the ball to get away from Real Salt Lake players who tried to press him. He didn’t have any shots, but completed 77 percent of his passes, made one tackle and won two fouls in the 20-year-old’s fifth appearance this season.
“He did really well,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “It was a hard match and he had to cover a lot of work, but I think he did really well, and he can be proud of his performance.”
Pereira, who grew up in Premier League Watford’s academy and was signed by Atlanta United in the offseason, has been a spark off the bench in previous games. In last week’s loss at New York Red Bulls, he consistently beat his defender and got down the left wing.
Pereira said getting the ball and taking on defenders is what he tasked with doing at Real Salt Lake. He said the playing surface caused the ball to bounce a lot, which took some getting used to. He didn’t create any chance in Friday’s game, which he said is an area in which he needs to improve.
“Obviously, to get 80 minutes underneath me is obviously a good start,” he said. “I just need to create more chances to be fair.”
Pereira may get more opportunities to start, depending upon the severity of Villalba’s injury. Atlanta United also will have a few players leaving the team for a few weeks in June and July because of international tournaments. Those absences may also provide opportunities for minutes.
“I thought overall, he was solid,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said. “Like I said, it's a tough place to play and I thought that he did his job defensively. As a whole, the team didn't create too much tonight. So I don't think that he performed poorly. So overall, I think that he's got a bright future for us, and he'll play many more games.”
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