Tuesday night’s loss to Minnesota United was a frustrating one for the Atlanta United squad, who showed resilience to fight back into the game despite being down a man for much of the second half. But manager Tata Martino was quick to point out the positives after the match when asked if this was the toughest loss yet.
“Not for the effort because I thought that was there,” Martino said through a translator. “In the second half we weren’t able to play as well as we did in the first because of the expulsion of the goalkeeper, so that changed the game. But like I said, the effort was there and we knew that getting into that second place was important and I liked how the guys fought for that.”
Tuesday marked Atlanta United’s eighth match in 24 days. While the grind of a grueling month was evident in the rotation of the squad on Tuesday, the players refused to make any excuses.
“I don’t think that’s the reason why we lost the game,” midfielder Julian Gressel said. “I think we left it all out there. Certainly, you can see in the locker room today we’re all pretty tired at the end, which is normal. It’s just a little bad luck. We’ve had some luck before in this stadium and now it kind of turned on us a little – which happens.”
“It’s been a long few weeks but a successful few weeks,” team captain Michael Parkhurst added. “We come out of it with just one loss. Obviously, we are disappointed about tonight. We gave it a heck of a fight to come back — down a man, down a goal. We’re disappointed that we couldn’t hold on for the last five or six minutes.”
The result comes with important context: it was Atlanta United’s first loss in nine matches, a stretch that saw the club climb the table and clinch a spot in the playoffs. It was a month of major challenge, and a test that the Five Stripes largely passed. Now it’s time to regroup and focus on hitting their stride in time for playoffs.
“First off, I think we’ve got to rest,” Gressel said. “We have enough time now to recover and then obviously get our minds and our bodies ready for the last two games and then the playoffs.”
After a well-deserved weekend off, the players are as focused as ever on maintaining their high standards to finish strong through the regular season. If they do that, that second seed and first-round playoff bye is still well in the picture.
“Our goal is to win two games and take six points,” Parkhurst said. “I still think that if we take six points we have a very good chance of getting the second seed (in the playoffs). It’s there for us and even if it’s not, finishing in the top four is very important. We want a home game if we have to play the play-in game. At the minimum, we want to finish top four.”
After a well-deserved weekend off, Atlanta United will return to action on the road as they face the New York Red Bulls on October 15th. They’ll make their Mercedes-Benz Stadium return in the final regular-season match against Toronto FC the following weekend on October 22nd. Tickets are still available as the team looks to break the regular-season attendance record again. Make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.