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ATL UTD keeping focus after huge bounce-back win

There’s no doubt that last week’s loss put a little extra fire into a team that was eager to bounce back with a win in front of their home fans. So while the team expects to win every time they take the field, there was a moment to reflect following the final whistle.

“After a bad performance, especially after a loss, we have always come back and gotten a good result,” captain Michael Parkhurst said after the match. “Today was no different. We knew it was a big game. Three games left, and we control our own destiny.”

“It was a difficult test,” said Leandro González Pirez. “But we knew that we wanted to get our confidence back after last week, and so being able to get that win today, I think is important for us to retake that confidence as we head into the final two games of the season.” 

Despite the late goal that made the score line closer than the match played out, it was a relatively comfortable match for the Five Stripes, who overcame a physical Revolution side.

“I think we controlled the game for a full 90 minutes,” said Pirez said. “At the end, maybe, we didn’t have the ball as much as earlier in the game, just a little bit fatigue, but the result was really never in jeopardy. I think more than physically it's important for us to just arrive mentally strong in this last stretch of the season.”

The highlight of the game came early, with 16-year-old Academy graduate George Bello scoring his first career MLS goal in front of the Atlanta United supporters’ stand. You could see how much it meant to his teammates in the celebrations afterward, and they weren’t shy with their praise for him after the match.

“Extremely happy for him,” said Julian Gressel. “I don’t know if he’s already inside the locker room or not. He might still be crowd surfing out there, but he deserves it. There’s a lot more to come from him, and it’s just the beginning.”

The win was clouded slightly by the injury of Miguel Almirón, who was forced off the field at the half hour mark. While there’s no news yet on the severity of it, head coach Tata Martino said the team is ready to cope, no matter who leaves the lineup.

“The guys that are out there just have to play stronger as a team,” Martino said through a translator. “We know that if Miguel is out, the guys around him are going to have to step up. Maybe they aren’t as talented as he is, but they will have to do it with hard work and sacrifice.”

But Ezequiel Barco stepped up off the bench with a strong performance in a central role where Almirón usually plays. While it’s never easy to come in mid-match, he showed his skill and kept the ship steady to secure all three points.

“It was a very difficult moment because we all know Miguel [Almirón] is a very important player for this team and the team needs him, so I just tried to go in and do what the coaching staff asked of me,” Barco said through a translator. “I work hard all week, and then it’s just a decision of the coaching staff who plays and all I can do is work and go in and try to do my job. Today, my job was to come off the bench, so I just tried to go in and contribute to the team and help us get three points.”

In the end, the three points means Atlanta United sits one point clear at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings with just two matches left to play. And while their aspirations go well into the postseason, the focus remains strong on each passing match.

“We want to win, and we want to win the Supporters’ Shield,” Gressel said. “There’s no real thought of the playoffs yet.”

“If we take nine points, then we win our first trophy,” added Parkhurst. “Step one is now complete.”

That next step comes in two weeks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the team takes on the Chicago Fire. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’re there to cheer them on in the home stretch by reserving your tickets here.

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