Atlanta United has now strung together three wins in a row as they climb to third in the Eastern Conference, but the latest victory arrived in an uncharacteristic manner compared to the signature Five Stripes style. Down a man and suffering through injuries, Atlanta was forced to put 10 men behind the ball and defend for the majority of the 90 minutes. However unusual the play may have been, Atlanta did their job, and they did it well.
“It’s a game that we’re leaving here with three points and that’s the important thing,” said head coach Tata Martino. “It’s not a game that we’re going to remember for how well we played, but it’s a game that we’re going to remember for getting three points.”
In addition to battling in below-freezing conditions, two first half yellows for Leandro González Pirez resulted in a 38th minute red card for the visitors. And while ATL UTD found themselves in a less-than ideal situation early on, their resilience shined through, and the gaffer was proud.
“Playing down a man is difficult in any league,” said Martino, “but I think in this league it’s particularly difficult. I think we were organized defensively and that’s what allowed us to get the result.”
Given the circumstances, the team had to pivot from their now-trademark possession-oriented style, but the Five Stripes entered the second half with a new strategy in mind and executed it to perfection.
“Everybody was just trying to do our part, and keep everything in front of us,” said captain Michael Parkhurst. “We dealt with crosses as best we could and really limited their chances. It was just a great effort by everybody. We knew at halftime we were going to have to dig in and defend a lot and that’s what we did.”
“It was just wave after wave of attack and defend, but we left everything out there,” added Chris McCann, who put in a Man of the Match performance. “We headed, we tackled. Everybody did their part. It’s a massive three points. It’s great for team spirit to get wins like that, and it brings everyone together in the changing room. You can see how much it meant to the guys at the final whistle.”
And apparent it was, as Atlanta players embraced each other with faces of relief, knowing they would soon be out of the arctic weather with three points and a clean sheet safely in their pockets. But the smiles didn’t just stem from victory, it was also about how they earned it.
“I think it was a sense of determination, togetherness, fight and spirit,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “This is a big step forward for us. When people think of Atlanta United they think of pretty football and tonight we showed another side. We showed that we could compete and that we could battle.”
After a statement win in Minnesota, Atlanta United will return to the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium next weekend as the club hosts expansion side LAFC. Tickets to the match are still available. Make sure you’re there for the first-ever meeting between the two clubs by securing your seat here.