The Atlanta United locker room was fired up after a resilient road victory in Minnesota, and the same remarks of team praise were echoed this week after the 5-0 rout of LAFC at home. For a fourth-straight win and a second consecutive clean sheet, the Five Stripes were once again an impenetrable force.
“We were fighting in and around the box once they got closer, and that's what it’s all about,” said man of the match Julian Gressel. “We know we got to have heart back there and that's what we had today.”
“You look at the chances created by the opposition in both games. There weren’t many,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It comes down to our organization. It comes down to our willingness to cut passes out, block crosses (and) block shots.”
He was quick to commend his teammates for their incredible efforts adding, “It’s a testament of the work to the guys in front of me. Their ability to step in when needed (and) their ability to close down situations – crosses, shots, second balls, tackles, all that stuff – that goes a little bit unnoticed especially when we have the attacking players that we do have, but the backline was fantastic.”
But Guzan isn’t the only one impressed with his squad’s cohesive performances. Head coach Tata Martino also praised his players, conveying that having a year under their belt together is a massive enhancement from last season.
“It could be that we have more depth, but we’ve also been playing together now for over a year so it’s a combination,” said Martino. “We have younger guys that have been developing and training with us for a year, but we have players like (Andrew) Carleton, (Brandon) Vazquez, (Mikey) Ambrose, Miles (Robinson), who can step in, and Julian (Gressel) has transformed into a first-team player.”
In addition to Robinson, Ambrose and Gressel putting in a solid 90 minutes on Saturday, another young face who showed promise was forward Romario Williams. Subbing on in the second half and scoring his first MLS goal to cap off the 5-0 victory, the Jamaican international proved impactful and despite this being his first year in Atlanta, immediately credited his teammates for their vote of confidence.
“The guys give me the confidence to just be myself and play my game,” said Williams. “Coming into a team that did extremely well last year and getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every guy in the locker room. There are a lot of new faces this year – also myself included. It was just a testament of us coming together. This is only the fifth game and we are just getting better each and every week.”
With the victory over LAFC, Atlanta United remains unbeaten at home. And while the team has meshed well, there’s no question the home-field advantage has helped. Gressel tributes much of their home dominance to the atmosphere created by the Atlanta faithful in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s just our home turf…The other team gets a little intimidated here and there because of the fans. I think they're doing a tremendous job like always. Like I said, we're really comfortable on that field out there, and we feel good.”
Hot on a win streak, the players are poised, but the Five Stripes know there’s no room for complacency.
“Our confidence level is good,” added Miguel Almirón. “We know that we can’t stop working. We’ve got another difficult game coming up.”
A tough test it will be as Atlanta hosts Supporters’ Shield leaders NYCFC on Sunday April 15th at 6:00 p.m. EST. A faceoff between the top two teams in MLS will surely be one you won’t want to miss. Make sure you secure your seat here.