ATL UTD show mental strength in huge bounceback win

Atlanta United players admitted that Wednesday night’s last-minute loss against FC Dallas stung in the locker room. It was the kind of loss that can deflate a team, and with another tough road match just days later –– against a team who didn’t play midweek –– it would take serious mental strength to get back in the win column. But that’s just what they got on Saturday, with a convincing 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union.

“I was worried,” Martino admitted through a translator after the match. “First, because of the amount of effort that the guys put forth in the game against Dallas so I didn’t know if we had enough energy to finish the game tonight. And I was also worried about how the guys would respond from a game that we probably should have won but we ended up losing. But I think the team had a good attitude tonight and everything I have to say about the mentality was positive.”

It's that mentality that Martino focused on after the match, and it was a sentiment echoed by team captain Michael Parkhurst. As a veteran of the league, the rock-solid defender knows exactly how challenging it can be to win on the road, especially after a loss. But he also knows how important it is to their end-of-season goals.

“[It was] a big bounce back game for us,” he said. “We have talked about how we do not want to lose consecutive games in a row this season. We have been able to avoid that and that is a big reason why we are at the top of the table.”

The Five Stripes controlled the match on both ends of the pitch, securing a valuable clean sheet on one end and creating chance after chance on the other. For a defender like Parkhurst, he is focusing on keeping goals out, and he says if the team can do that consistently, the sky is the limit.

“We are always talking about how we are going to score goals,” he said. “We know that. It doesn’t matter home or away, we are going to create chances and we are going to score goals. If we can stay solid at the back, we are going to give ourselves a real good chance to win.”

Any time a defense gets a clean sheet is important –– the team is committed to being as solid defensively as they are threatening offensively. But Parkhurst admitted this defensive performance was a little more valuable than the rest after the disappointing midweek result.

“Coming off that meltdown in Dallas where we have a good game defensively except for the last ten minutes, it was very disappointing. But to come out here and post a shutout and stay focused for ninety minutes was a massive accomplishment for the entire team.”

After their third match in three days, the squad gets a chance to regroup before their next test against the Seattle Sounders next weekend. That match kicks off at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and with 70,000+ fans expected in attendance, it’ll be one you won’t want to miss. Limited tickets are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.