No matter who you are –– fan, coach or player –– the reaction to Atlanta United’s stunning 4-3 comeback win over San Jose on Wednesday was hard to put into words.
“It had everything, that’s for sure,” said Michael Parkhurst. “I’ve played in some crazy games and that’s right up towards the top.”
After Chris Wondolowski put the ball in the net to seemingly make it 4-1, a video review called the play back for a handball in the box against San Jose, a turnaround that suddenly put the game within reach.
“We were protesting because it was a hand ball,” Miguel Almirón told reporters through a translator. “Thanks to God, there was justice on the play and it came back and turned into a goal.”
“It changes the game,” Parkhurst said. “4-1 to 3-2 right away. It gives us momentum. As soon as that goes in, we get the feeling we’re destined to get at least a point out of this game.”
But the comeback was more than just one referee decision. It took another goal just moments later, and a stunning stoppage-time winner, to clinch the biggest comeback in team history, turning around a two-goal deficit into a win for the first time ever.
“The mentality of the team was really strong,” Parkhurst said. “There was no quit. We just kept going. It wasn’t our night defensively. We had a lot of mistakes, gave up some goals, but we hung in there and three points is three points.”
“I think it shows the unity that we have within this group,” Almirón added. “It also shows what I’ve been saying lately: that the substitutes that come on are doing a really good job and that was important for us.”
The coverage surrounding the match from outside the team focused on the battle between the best record in the league versus the worst. But the team never bought into that; they said a late night game at the end of a long stretch of road matches is always a challenge, especially in a league full of surprises like MLS.
“It was a difficult game against a difficult opponent and a lot of teams play us like it’s a final,” Almirón said. “We played three days ago but we came out today and put in a great effort.”
While the team is happy for the results, they know there is plenty left to tighten up after the match. But at this point of the season, it’s about getting results and setting a new record for most road wins in an MLS season shows there are positive to be taken from the performance.
“Moments of lapses, mentally and physically. There’s things we need to shore up for sure, but six points from these two road games is massive and now we go home to try and finish it out nine for nine.”
There’s no time to rest for Atlanta United, who have another stiff test coming up this Saturday against an RSL team in the middle of a playoff fight of their own. With 70,000+ expected to be in attendance and the possibility of clinching a first-round playoff bye this weekend, it’s one you definitely don’t want to miss. Make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.