There’s no getting around it or sugar-coating it: Wednesday night’s loss to FC Dallas –– a match they were winning up until the 86th minute –– was one that stung for the Five Stripes.
“These kinds of losses hurt,” Tata Martino said through a translator after the match. “They hurt the most when you don’t deserve to lose. When the opponents are better than you, it’s a different kind of feeling because you know that team outplayed you. You are able to accept that loss more even though it still hurts you. In our case, we did everything we could to win but ended up leaving empty handed.”
It was almost an incredible night for the red, black and gold. Dallas came into the match unbeaten at home in nearly a full calendar year, and after Dallas put away an unstoppable free kick to open the scoring, Atlanta United fought back to take the lead. But two very late goals from a second-half substitute meant it wasn’t to be for Atlanta United that night.
“We kind of make a couple moves where we don't necessarily have to go after the ball and can just wait a bit, but we made those decisions,” said midfielder Julian Gressel after the match. “The third goal was a set piece and they get three rebounds. It's frustrating and annoying.”
“Just a few unlucky bounces,” added defender Mikey Ambrose. “Bouncing around the box, people trying to clear it. The ball just squeaked through... A lack of concentration and a lack of discipline in the last five minutes.”
There were circumstances that made this a tough fixture: a tough road environment, the summer Texas heat. But the players and coaching staff aren’t making excuses, they’re looking internally at what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“[The heat] was a factor, but it was a factor for them, too,” Ambrose said. “Two teams were playing in the heat. We had the result 2-1 with five minutes left, and we just all, as a team, have to close it out. I think tactically we lost a little bit of concentration. We were tired and really hot, but we all have to be better on the back line. Keep the concentration for the full 90 minutes. All of us.”
“We just made errors and lost concentration of the match,” Martino said. “We need to talk about the two plays that lead to the goals.”
It was an unfortunate final result, but losses happen even when a team thinks they deserve more. The key now is to regroup and make sure this is a blip and not a trend moving forward.
“The lesson is that you can't give away a game like that,” Gressel said. “We fight back in a tough environment, then to give it away...that just can't happen. You do all this work in such a tough environment and such a tough climate, play a great 85 minutes...to give it away in those last five minutes is frustrating and, obviously, something we'll learn from and have to be better, ultimately.”
With lessons learned, the team now turns their attention forward to their next chance, an opportunity to bounce back in just a few days in another road match against the Philadelphia Union. They’ll then return to Atlanta to face the Seattle Sounders at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time later this month. Tickets are still available for that one, so make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.