To say the Atlanta United players were frustrated after their loss to D.C. United Wednesday – their first defeat in seven league matches – would be an understatement. It was a performance that was all too familiar to their previous performance in the nation’s capital.
“Very good first 30 minutes,” head coach Tata Martino said through a translator after the game. “But after the goal, we were a team that had a lot of the ball but predictable and unable to generate chances on goal in proportion to the amount of time we had the ball.”
Many were quick to point out the team’s lack of game time coming off a two-week break. But the team was quick to dismiss rustiness as an excuse.
"I don’t think that was an issue,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “Once we got out there, you could see it early on, we were creating chances."
“The first 35 minutes we looked really good,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “Then D.C. came into the game a little bit, created a few chances and then, as they say, goals change games. They got three points, we don’t, and we’ll go again Saturday.”
That last point was one echoed among the players after the match: Atlanta has a shot at redemption in just three days, and they’re looking forward to it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not assessing what went wrong for the Five Stripes Wednesday night.
"We have to put in a 90-minute performance,” Larentowicz said. “We came into the locker room at half time saying that 30-35 minutes into the first half, we were very good, but we had 10 minutes of lapses and gave up some opportunities. We just need to put together a full performance, especially on the road."
Despite having games in hand on the competition, the players are not taking any losses lightly as they push for a playoff berth in the team’s inaugural season.
“Everyone looks at the points and not at games played, but today we’re outside of the playoffs,” Martino said. “We’re in a group that’s very even, and this is an opportunity that escaped us.”
"Every game affects playoffs,” Larentowicz said. “But now, we turn around and keep our minds right and win on Saturday."
The team will now travel to Philadelphia to face another Eastern Conference opponent, the Union, on Saturday. They’ll then get another break before making their debut in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 10th against FC Dallas. Tickets are sold out, but you can save your spot at the following match – on September 13th against the New England Revolution – by getting your tickets here.