ATL vs CHI | Post-Match Quotes

  • Match: Atlanta United vs Chicago Fire
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
  • Date: June 20th, 2018
  • Final Score: ATL 0-1 CHI (Recap | Highlights)


Atlanta United head coach Gerardo Martino

On whether bad luck or bad chemistry kept the team from scoring:

“No, I think that’s football. I think we created enough chances to, at minimum, have tied the game, I think we deserved that. In the first half, we went from better to worse. I thought we started off well and then about the middle of the first half Chicago seemed to take a little more control of the game. In the second half, they created some chances, the goal being one of them, but we responded with a few chances of our own. I thought we had enough that we could’ve tied the game or even gone ahead at that point, but just weren’t able to.”

On if he was surprised by Chicago playing at full strength:

“No, it doesn’t surprise me. We analyzed the game and we thought that might happen. We know that they’re in a difficult place in the league and that they might want to give everything they have in Open Cup. At the end of the day, I don’t think that’s why we lost the game. I don’t think you could really say the result was a factor of that, of the difference in the two teams. It was an even game even with the lineup that we played.”

On putting the loss behind them against Portland on Sunday:

“They are two different competitions, so whatever happened tonight started and ended tonight. We know we have to get back to playing in the league. What happens on Sunday, hopefully, is just a continuation of how we played against Columbus.”

On the team’s urgency in the final third:

“I think we made a change to bring on Julian (Gressel) and Ezequiel (Barco) towards the end of the game, but at that point Chicago was already playing very defensively. They made a change to bring off (Nemanja) Nikolic and put on (Tony) Tchani and have (Bastian) Schweinsteiger play a little higher up the field, but at that point in the game, it was difficult for us to create because there was so little space. I think you’re seeing it in the World Cup also, when teams sit back and defend there’s not a lot of space, so players have to make quicker decisions to try and find that space and to create some chances.”      

On the play of Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu tonight, making his first start with the first team:

“I think he played a good game. I think he was solid in midfield. He was good at managing and controlling the ball for us, and I think he along with Oliver Shannon are the only two options we have that can sub into defensive midfield for Jeff (Larentowicz) and I think Miles (Robinson) also had a great performance. Those are the positives we can take away from tonight despite the result. We had positive individual performances, like Wheeler-Omiunu and Miles. They gives us confidence in their abilities to play.”

On if tonight’s result will impact the reserve players being selected for future first team matches:

“I think the only thing we lost tonight is the opportunity to see those guys play more and see what they can do. Now, being knocked out of this competition, we lose the opportunity to see what they could have done in at least one more game against Louisville FC. Players who have been playing in these (U.S. Open Cup) games, I think we would have seen Brandon (Vazquez), Miles, Wheeler-Omiunu, (Andrew) Carleton, Romario (Williams), Sal (Zizzo) play again in this competition. But we understand in league play, it’s a little more difficult for those guys to get on the field. You have a player on our team like Tito Villalba, who tonight I thought was the best player on the field, but for us, right now, he is coming off the bench, so it’s difficult for those guys to get playing time.”

Atlanta United defender Leandro González Pirez

On the team’s chemistry going into the game and especially in the final third of the pitch:

“In the first half we were missing a little bit of intensity especially in the attacking third. Maybe we had some misunderstandings at times, but I think in the second half, we (were) more adjusted and used to playing together. In general terms, I think we played a good game.”

On the strength of Chicago Fire’s starting lineup:

“The truth is we expected them to have a couple of changes, but they came in with the full squad. That’s perfect. It doesn’t matter to us. We probably had four or five changes from the lineup we usually have, but I thought we played a good game. I thought the guys that stepped in for us came in and played really well. I thought the game was even. I thought we fought hard. In the end, we end up losing 1-0, but I thought we fought hard all night.”

On if his team underestimated Chicago coming into tonight’s match:

“No, I don’t think we underestimated anybody. We played in this competition last year. We did the same thing. We knew what to expect. It’s true we had a few changes in our lineup. The roster is full of 30 guys, so we know everyone can play and step in. About half the team was different tonight, but as I said, I thought we played well. I thought the guys fought really hard. We know we also wanted to give some guys rest because we have another important game on Sunday, and it’s important to keep taking care of the points in the league. We just have to get ready for that game.”

On if the team is missing anything in the final third of the pitch:

“I think tonight we had a little bit of bad luck. I think, in the final third, we lacked clarity at the time to finish our chances. I think we did create some chances. In the first half, Brandon (Vazquez) had a couple chances and we had a few one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper, so we just got a little bit unlucky. I thought the game was pretty even. We had some chances to win the game, but in the end, we end up losing. We have to think about our next game on Sunday, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

On what happened on Chicago’s goal:

“I don’t remember exactly how the play started, but I think it started with us in the attacking half of the field. We lost the ball, and we gave up a counter attack. (Aleksandar Katai) played the ball, and Mikey (Ambrose) goes out to cover him, and I go out to help out. He comes inside, and we couldn’t get him out of the box. Then, he opens the ball out wide, and he gets in behind Sal (Zizzo), and he passed it into the center. I tried to get there to cut out the pass, but I couldn’t get there in time.”

On the winner of this tournament getting a CONCACAF Champions League Spot:

“We knew we had that opportunity. I think we took it seriously. That’s why we played the way we did and with the guys that we did. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it happen. We thought we had an opportunity to go far in this tournament, and that’s what we tried to do. As I said, now we just have to think about this game on Sunday, focus on the league, and the opportunity we have in the league.”

Atlanta United midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu

On his first career start with the first team:

“It felt good. I’m certainly grateful to have the opportunity. Yeah, it felt good.”

On when he found out that he would start tonight’s match:

“Same process as always for games. You don’t know the exact starting 11 until before the game, but you practice a few days leading up to the game with people (that) you think will start. Coach tries to put people in position that he thinks they will play in the game, so I had an idea, but it wasn’t confirmed until before the game.”

On why the team had a ‘difficult time generating a goal tonight’:

“That’s a tough question. I think we created a lot of chances, so I thought – in that part of the game – we created some good chances. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t fall our way tonight, but the chances were definitely there.”

On if Chicago put out a lineup the team expected:

“Yeah, definitely. I think all teams in this league go out to win every game, so whatever lineup they put out there, they are coming to win. Whether it’s guys that play a lot or don’t play a lot, everybody wants a chance in this league, so we expected their best. That’s certainly what they brought.”

Atlanta United forward Hector “Tito” Villalba

On playing a full 90 minutes again:

“I’m happy. Happy to play 90 minutes. It’s been probably more than two months since I played 90 minutes. I’m happy to get back, but I’m sad about tonight’s result.”

On providing offense for the team:

“Yeah, I want to provide what I always do to the team. My speed, the ability to play the final pass, score goals, play in guys like Josef (Martinez) or Romario (Williams) or whoever else is in the box. I just want to combine with all the guys in the attack.”

On if Chicago did anything to make things difficult in the final third:

“I think they had more will than us at times. They were faster to the ball. They put out an experienced team, and I think that showed. They had some big, strong, physical players, and we had some young guys out there and they let that strength be known.”

On what he hopes will happen with a return to the first team:

“Hopefully, a lot of goals. That’s what we want to do. We want to give our home fans that joy.”

Atlanta United defender Mikey Ambrose

On the team’s level of intensity coming into the match:

“We tried to approach it like every other game. The coaches prepared us well. We had a lot of new guys in the lineup, and I thought everybody came in with the right mindset and gave their best effort.”

On the team’s mindset going into the game:

“When they scored we started to be more aggressive. I thought the effort was there all night, but we definitely were more aggressive once they scored their goal.”

On the team’s inability to finish in the final third of the pitch:

“I thought we created a few chances. There were a couple of crossed balls, a few good saves, and a few times the ball just wouldn’t go in the goal. They defended well tonight, but we just couldn’t score tonight.”

On how this match helps him as he begins to play more and more games:

“Playing more minutes helps me get more comfortable with the guys. Playing in front of these amazing fans helps, and it just builds confidence going forward.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann

On the team’s ‘lack of spark or lack of chemistry’ tonight:

“I would say that it was unfortunate that it took us getting scored on to kind-of really start pushing the game and getting into the attacking third. Once we did that, it was unfortunate that the ball didn’t bounce the right way to get it tied up and push it to extra time. It’s just unfortunate that it took us getting scored on to really wake up.”

On what he attributes the ‘slow start’:

“I’m not really sure.”

On where the team will turn their attention to next:

“The team will turn their attention to Sunday. We’re in a good position for the Supporters’ Shield. We dropped the ball, here. We missed a good opportunity here to stake our claim on this tournament and make a run, but we’re still in great shape in the league, and we’ll push forward on Sunday.”

On the valuable time that the younger players on the roster got in tonight’s match:

“I think that everyone who played tonight did good things and did some things that we would have liked to do better. Young guys did well. A lot of these guys have played in the Open Cup in the first round, so playing for this team is nothing new for any of us. Obviously, bigger crowd, bigger stage here, but guys did well. Just disappointed not to win the game.”


Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic

On the atmosphere:

“It’s amazing. We have seen on TV and we had the opportunity to see other opponents play here and it was always tough for them because of the crowd. But not only because of the crowd, but also for officiating. I think the pressure is high here, but I think today, in our case, we did a very good job. Very proud of the effort. We achieved something that many teams did here. Winning in this beautiful stadium, beautiful venue. That is why I think it is very important. For us, for our club, the tradition of fighting hard for the Open Cup means a lot getting this win today. We will continue building our team. I believe we are slowly getting to the point where we are having the confidence to play the way we played last year and it helps that all of the guys on the team are getting better. I am very happy. As a coach, obviously you want your team to get better and improve and that is what I am seeing now. I just want to encourage our guys to keep working hard and working with quality like they did. It is a process, it takes time and I think today I am especially happy because I saw that proudness in our game and individually players who are understanding the game tactically and are capable of executing.”

On the importance of winning the Open Cup:

“It is for everyone. For our club, for our ownership, for our fans, for our front office and everyone in our club, we like to say that we are family and everyone is putting effort to help the team. I think we are building the culture that is not only a soccer culture, but football culture, you know where I am coming from. We are trying to build something similar with obviously keeping the peculiarities of the culture of the American sport. We want to find the right merge and I think so far it is going good. But, it is very important for our club that we are progressing in this competition, which is very important, but we still know that it is a long way to go. We have to first prepare and recover for our next game in Seattle. Then we have another tough opponent at home in New York City FC. Every game for us is almost like a final. That is how we approached this game and previous games too. I think that is what helps up to keep building the performance and the form of the team. As time goes by, I think the team is getting more mature and getting to know each other better and that helps with all of the veterans that we have with their experience and their input, it is very nice to be the coach of this team today.”

On Nemanja Nikolic’s goal:

“If you go back last year and see how many goals we scored, out of 61 goals, I believe, how many goals were team-played. Again today, it was team-played. That is something I think that for the coaches, that is what you want to see. Not only playing on set pieces, on counter attacks, you want to see a team that is playing football. I think today we had some good moments during the 90 minutes where we played and dominated and controlled the game, also we had a tough opponent in front. Every time they took over the possession, it was hard for us to defend, but as I said, the guys gave a huge effort and a great job today. It is very important that we are now starting to see more of what we kind of used to be in the past.”

On building cohesion for MLS season during Open Cup:

“Every game is an opportunity to get better and to get the experience that the team needs playing together without taking out the importance of competing. For us, in our environment, it is very important. Learning and competing. Actually learning to compete. That is what we try to teach and try to instill. I think it is getting better. We still have a long way to go. It is an important win for us as a team, but also I think we have to remain humble and keep working towards improvement.”

On how this win helps propel Chicago back into the league schedule:

“This win gives you confidence in this competition, but it propels to any other competition, which for us is very important in MLS. In MLS regular season, we want to get to the playoffs. I think this helps us. I think the confidence is the most important thing, and the best thing to get the confidence is to win every time you have the opportunity. I think that is going to help us even to prepare for the next game, which is our most important game, Seattle. To recover better, it is not the same when you win and obviously the body heals and recovers much better when you have the burst of adrenaline in your system. I think that is what we achieved today, but we also remain humble. This locker room is very mature and knows that we have to keep working and move forward.”

On preparing for Louisville:

“We will do our jobs. We have to do our jobs as a coaching staff to prepare the game. We don’t look to our opponents as a different opponent to prepare. For us, it is going to be another MLS game, another World Cup game, call it how you want. For us, every game is a final. We believe in what we are doing and we believe that the most important thing is always giving your best. To give your best, you have to mentalize and prepare for every game the best you can. It is not always easy, and there are a lot of games now at this point of the season that we are playing so many games in a row. We also believe that it is a good opportunity for us to build momentum in Open Cup and in the league.”

Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic

On his goal:

“It was great action. We spoke before the game that we wanted to keep the ball and from that to create space and, of course, to finish the action. It was great action from the whole team, from the behind and after in the finishing from [Aleksander] Katai, Bastian [Schweinsteiger] and, of course, Luciano [Solignac]. Lucho made that final pass, and for me these kinds of goals like we scored, it was an amazing pass from him, so really important for us and we are in the next round. This is what you want, so we are happy.” 

On carrying momentum from the win:

“It was important competition for all of us, for our club, for us like players. We are in the next round. We beat two very difficult teams like Columbus and now Atlanta. Of course, we want to build good momentum from this and now we go to play against Seattle. Again away, again difficult opponent, turf, so it will be really difficult for us. We want to build from this and we want to play this style because we show we are really mature and we can beat every opponent here if we are disciplined offensively and defensively also.”

On gaining confidence by scoring goals:

“In confidence, I don’t have a problem. Of course, the goals are coming. Maybe not in the numbers like last year, but I scored in all competitions nine goals in 16 games, so I think it is not bad. Everybody needs to make his role in the team, his job. Of course, my job is to score goals and this is what I want to do. But also, defensively I also have some things to do to help the team. Of course, looking forward to the games in the championship and to score also goals there. But the most important, as always, is that the team wins and we are in a better mood than we were in the beginning of the season and we want to grab this opportunity.”