Post-Match Quotes | ATL vs CHI

  • Match: Atlanta United vs. Chicago Fire
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
  • Date: October 21, 2018
  • Final Score: ATL 2-1 CHI  (Recap | Highlights)

Atlanta United Head Coach Gerardo Martino

On today’s victory and what it means to accomplish the first goal on the way to a Supporters’ Shield:

“There will always be goals to accomplish until the final. At least we’re going to try it. And the fact that the team is in CONCACAF Champions League in only the second season is a big accomplishment for the team, and doing so along with setting the league record for wins and tying the points record of Toronto last year is also big for us. We know there are still goals to accomplish, but it’s very important what we have done up to this point.”

On starting Ezequiel Barco and Andrew Carleton tonight, and if it was a risk given their youth:

“No, it’s true that they’re young, but they have to play because they are good players and they’ve have shown to the coaching staff – in Barco’s case this season and in Carleton’s case for almost two seasons – that they are capable. I thought the young guys did a good job in the first half. I think in the second half, we didn’t play as well aside from some small moments at the end of the game. At this stage of my career, I’m not satisfied with just getting the win, if we haven’t had a good performance. But I can’t not value the performance from the first half and also considering the absences we had.

On what the team did well today and what it needs to improve on ahead of Toronto next week:

“We need to play better than what we did in the second half. Lately, we have been playing teams that have been disqualified from the playoffs. They still have given us difficult games though. We know we need to compete for 90 minutes. You can’t play mostly a good game, and then have lapses where you lose control of the game. We have to make sure we are focused for 90 minutes in Toronto. Against them, we know it’s going to be difficult, and we have to do our job for the full game.”

On How Darlington (Nagbe) and Julian (Gressel) did in the midfield replacing Miguel (Almirón):

“I think neither one of those guys are straight substitutes for Tito because they play different positions, but the idea was to have a triangle in midfield that was very good with their feet and focused on recovering the ball defensively, but also with a commitment to getting into the attack, and I think Julian (Gressel) did a good job throughout the game, (Darlington Nagbe) had good moments and poor moments, but you have to consider that neither one of those guys is the exact same player that Miguel (Almirón) is so they have different qualities than what he brings to the team.”

On what Lagos Kunga has shown in training:

“I have to be honest with you guys. The first thing you have to analyze are the absences that we had within the team. If the full team was healthy and we had Tito (Villalba), Miguel (Almiròn), Brandon (Vazquez), Romario (Williams), than he would not have been in the team, but he’s been playing all year with the second team and for that reason, we needed him today.”

On if Brandon (Vazquez) and Ramario (Williams) are hurt:

“Right foot injury for Brandon and Romario had some discomfort on Thursday. That’s it.”

On Jeff Larentowicz not starting and the decision behind that:

“Because I think for the characteristics of this game and for the qualities of the guys who we were going to start in midfield, we didn’t need to have both Jeff and (Eric) Remedi on the field at the same time like we did in the second half. We needed one of the two to balance the team. Because (Darlington Nagbe) and Julian (Gressel), they also provide us with some balance in midfield, and I thought that in the second half we did go to Jeff but we have four intermediate players in (Andrew) Carleton, Julian (Gressel), (Darlington) Nagbe and (Ezequiel) Barco who are capable of playing both ways and helping out defensively, so I thought we only needed one defensive midfielder today.”

Atlanta United FC defender Michael Parkhurst

On qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League tournament and playing for the Supporters’ Shield: 

“Yeah, it was a goal of ours coming into the season, so it’s always nice to achieve goals. That’s step one, well, step two, probably. We wanted to avoid a first round game; we did that. We wanted to qualify for (CONCACAF) Champions’ League; we did that. We want to win the Supporters’ Shield; that’s next. That’s the next goal, and we’ve got to go up to Toronto and handle our business.”

On his expectations for the CONCACAF Champions’ League: 

“Who knows? It’s tough to know. We don’t know who is going to be part of the team right now, but to qualify is one thing. The pressure is on now, (Major League Soccer) needs to go out there and do well, and we think that we can go out there and represent (Major League Soccer) well, and that will be the goal, but there is a lot of things to achieve before then.”

On his assessment of the midfield play:

“Yeah, I thought guys did well. Obviously, we had to make a few changes from the previous few games, and guys stepped in and did really well. I thought that Eric (Remedi), Darlington (Nagbe), and Julian (Gressel) in the middle really combined well, especially offensively. They found some good spots and got forward when we needed to. Eric (Remedi) did a lot of work defensively. Jeff (Larentowicz) came in there and really helped out the team in that aspect, but a really good performance from a lot of guys today. It was a big win against a Chicago (Fire) team that played very well.”

On when he found out the New York Red Bulls’ score:

“When I was shaking the referee’s hand, after I did that, I looked up and I saw it was on the scoreboard.”

On his reaction to finding out the score of the New York Red Bulls’ match:


On not clinching the Supporters’ Shield in front of the home fans:

“Yeah, it would have been sweet, but it will be just as… Well, maybe, not just as sweet, but it will be very, very sweet if we can handle our business up in Toronto and win it there. Of course, perfect scenario, you win it in front of your home fans, but if we can win our first trophy, period, next week, that would be amazing.”

On tying the Major League Soccer record for most points in a season:

“Sure. We look back at Toronto FC, and what they did last year, and I thought it was so impressive. They just never fell into that (Major League Soccer) lull at all, and we’ve come back the next year and done the same thing, and kudos to the (New York) Red Bulls for staying right there with us and doing the exact same thing almost. So, it’s been impressive, and we want to keep it going.”

On having to finish off the regular season against Toronto FC:

“Yeah, I guess a little bit. You know, we don’t really care if it was Toronto (FC), or anybody else, that we play next week. The goal isn’t to set the points record. We can set the points record with one more point, but that’s not the goal. We want to go up there and win the Supporters’ Shield. It’s going to be difficult. Every game is challenging. You saw Chicago (Fire) out there tonight. Out of the playoffs, but a very good performance from them. They gave us some difficulties out there today, and I’m sure Toronto FC will do the same next week, so we’re going to have to play well.”

On his confidence going into the final match of the year:

“Absolutely, I think any team in the league would. You put yourself in a position to control your own destiny, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve got quite an opportunity in front of us next week. We stress that you don’t get these opportunities too often in soccer, or sports in general, to go out there and win not only one trophy, but multiple trophies in a season, so we want to take advantage of that now. We want to live in the present. We’re not complacent at all. We don’t underestimate any team, and so, we’re going to go up there to Toronto full of confidence and looking to get a (win).”

On his reaction to the team sheet and starting lineup:

“We found out probably on Thursday, during training, who the (starting) eleven would be, but I think everyone in the team has got full confidence in each other. It doesn’t matter who’s in the (starting) eleven, or who’s in the (matchday) eighteen, we understand that we’re only as good as our weakest link, and that guys have stepped up throughout the season in big games and big moments. Andy (Andrew Carleton) to come in here today and start in a big game, did well. (Ezequiel) Barco hasn’t started in a while; Franco (Escobar) as well, so really important minutes those guys put in today, and a good shift. You know, that’s the reason we’re in first place. It takes a big team to do what we’re doing right now, and we’ve been priding ourselves on that.”

On Franco Escobar scoring the first goal left-footed:

“You would have got good odds for that. I thought he had a very strong performance today, Franco (Escobar). They overloaded his side a lot in the first half, and he was busy. He was very good defensively, one-on-one, and obviously took the goal very well. He gave us a big lift. We had talked about how getting the early goal was so important against (the Chicago Fire) here tonight, so really proud of his performance today.”

On Josef Martinez’s assist on the first goal:

“I’m sure he’s disappointed he didn’t get the goal, but he’s a team player, and the win is the most important thing. He’s doing a lot of other things to help this team win right now.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan

On hitting season goals today and how that affects next week: 

“It was huge. We said before this game, “Whatever it takes.” Today was the final. We had to win. You assume Red Bulls are going to win, and you need to put yourself in a position to win the trophy. We took care of business on our side, but unfortunately, they took care of business on their side as well. So, it goes to the final game of the season. When you win trophies, it is never easy. This is another case of being to roll up our sleeves and go on the road to a tough place like Toronto and get a win.”  

On if they knew that at the beginning of the season that they would just need to win the last game to claim the Supporters’ Shield: 

“Yeah, probably it puts you in a position to win a trophy. We knew from the beginning (that) we have a special team. We have a good group of guys, talented guys. When these opportunities come along you have got to take advantage of them because they do not come along often.” 

On locking up the Champions League today: 

“It is huge. We want to put this club on an international map against international competition. Being in Champions League allows us to do that. It was another goal on our list of things we wanted to accomplish. We have achieved that tonight. We go into the last game of the season wanting to win the Supporters’ Shield.” 

On the pressure of must-win games: 

“You got to do the little things. In the first half, I do not think we did it well enough at times. If you are going to be a top team, you’ve got to be critical. You look at our performance in the first half, and it probably was not our best. Luckily, we ended up coming ahead at halftime. We have got to be better in certain moments, not just defending. When we had the ball we were carelessly giving the ball away. Bad passes, bad touches, it was not our sharpest performance.” 

On applying what they learned from the Red Bulls game to Toronto: 

“They are two different teams. We need to make sure we regroup after today. We need to make sure we have healthy legs and healthy bodies. It is another week of hard work that goes into preparation for Toronto. We will look at them and look to where we think we can exploit them and get after them a little bit (and) make sure on the defensive side on things we are solid and limit their chances. We use this week to regroup and go back to work. It is business as usual.” 

On missing two very important players: 

"I thought fair play to Andy (Carleton). Right to come in, it is not easy to step into those shoes he is looking to fill. After a few minutes he was able to find his feet a little bit. We are never going to replace those guys in terms of what they bring to our team. We need to make sure that we all step up as a group and fill those voids in terms of what Tito (Villalba) and Miguel (Almiron) bring to the team.” 

On sharing the game with his daughter after the game: 

“Those are special moments. Luckily for us, we get to do this for a living. You share those moments with your family and kids. I was just making sure she did not cry to be honest. She was not afraid of 70,000 going crazy. She is probably too young to understand what is happening, but those are cool moments.” 

On hitting another attendance record: 

“You never take it for granted. We are very lucky to do what we do in front of a crowd like this. We are very lucky to have the atmosphere and fan support that we have here in Atlanta.”

Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar

On scoring his first goal:

“Very happy. We were able to complete a goal that we had, which first was to win the game and also to qualify the team in CONCACAF Champions League for next year, which is an important goal. We have been working hard for nine or 10 months now, and this was a step in that direction, so I’m very happy.”

On if he has ever scored with his left foot:

“No. It is the first time. I don’t think it will happen again, but the important thing is that it helped served the team and helped us win.”

On if he thinks his goal was a good goal:

“I hit it as hard as I can, but no, I think it was luck.”

On how his experience with Atlanta United has been during his first season:

“I think the experience that I am living has exceeded expectations. When I came here, I knew the team was going to fight and I thought we were going to compete, but really, it has been a surprise. The fans, the club, everyone involved with the team. Luckily, we are having a good season. We have been able to give an immense joy to the people, and that is important.”

On if playing against Chicago was difficult:

“Obviously, it was very difficult, especially with everything that was at stake. First, we knew that we had to win while the other team was playing at the same time. All we could do on our part was to win the game. It was tough. At that point, you start to get some nerves knowing everything that is on the line. But we did our part in a game where we are missing two pretty big absences with Miguel (Almirón) and Tito (Villalba), but this team is made where every guy is ready to step up. We were able to fill in for them and put in a good effort.”

On what he knew about CONCACAF Champions League before coming to MLS:

“I knew a little bit about it, because I know people who have played in Montreal and Mexico, so they told me a little bit about it.”

On playing different formations:

“Since playing here, I have adapted to playing both formations, whether it is three or four at the back. I think I am more of a center back, but honestly, I feel comfortable playing either that position or on the right as a fullback. I am really grateful that the coaching staff and all of the players give me the confidence to play both positions.”

Atlanta United midfielder Andrew Carleton

On clinching today:

“It’s a really good feeling. It was one of our goals we set out at the beginning of the season was to qualify for the champions league coming up and that’s everything. We’re really excited about it and thankful to have the opportunity to keep playing.”

On seeing that the Red Bulls won their match:

“That we have got to take care of business next week. Regardless, if they won or tied or whatever, we’d still go in with the same mentality trying to win the game next week.”

On the overall race that they’ve been in:

“The Red Bulls are a really good team, and it is two good teams going back and forth. We’re pushing each other week in and week out, and I think that’s good competition.”

On what he thought of his performance today:

“I thought I played pretty well. I created a few chances. I wished that I had a goal or so, but I thought I did pretty well. There were times when I flowed in and out of the game, but I got them the ball, and I did pretty well for making some stuff happen.”

On how he thought the team played:

“I thought we did good. There were a few players out there – including myself – that hadn’t started a game in a while. I think coming in, Franco (Escobar) did well, Ezequiel (Barco) did well, and I think we combined together pretty well. We got the win, and I think that was the most important thing.”

On the fact there were four guys under the age of 21 and what that says about the future going into next season:

“I think it shows that we’re a really young team from top to bottom. We have some injuries and have guys that can come in and fill in and do their job. There’s no one like (Miguel) Almirón or Tito (Villalba) on the team, but everybody has their role and their responsibilities, and I think we came in and did that well.”

On whether there is any extra motivation for the game against Toronto last season:

“Yeah, I think we do. It will be interesting to see how it goes. We’re always looking forward to it. I think they’re looking forward to the challenge as well, so I think it’s going to be a good game.”

On when he noticed New York Red Bulls had won:

“Actually, I was on the bench in the 91st minute, having to look up at the screen, and it said Red Bulls one, Philadelphia (Union), zero. I guess that’s just kind of how I knew. I didn’t know if the end was over or not, but I assumed it was coming down to the end since it started at the same time.”

On how disappointing it was to not be able to wrap that part up:

“Yeah, it would have been pretty cool to be able to win it at home, but it makes us want to win the MLS cup at home even more so we’ll see how that goes.”

On what type of communication he has with George Bello:

“Yeah, I mean me and George are boys. We grew up together and played on the same team, same club team growing up, so we talk every day. We’re best friends on the team, so we talk about everything back and forth all day.”

Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel

On the race for the Supporters’ Shield coming down to wire:

“We expected it you know. If Philadelphia had done us a favor, we would have been thankful, but we didn’t really expect it here. We wanted to take care of business today, and we did. We got three points, and now, we have a final next week.”

On what next week’s matchup presents with a New York Red Bulls match played at same time:

“Everything is still in our hands. It’s similar to today. If we lost today, we expected Red Bulls to win. If we lose next week, we have to expect that the Red Bulls will overtake us, so we will approach it like a final. We want to go there and win the game. They (Toronto FC) probably don’t want us to win the Supporters’ Shield on their home field, so it’s going to be a tough match. We will be ready though.”

On how the team performed without Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba today:

“It was different, I think. We have some different characteristics of players out there on the pitch. We ultimately found a way to score two goals and that’s all that matters. We will learn a lot from this game, and we will see how those guys will recover for next week. If they are out again, then I’m sure we will be better because of today’s match.”

On the attendance records and what that means to the team:

“It’s all for the fans you know. These records are a tribute to them. It’s always something special to be on the field with these fans behind you. Hopefully, our next record will be the highest attendance for an MLS Cup Final.”

On having clarity ahead of the final regular season match in terms of winning the Supporters’ Shield with a victory:

“It’s something special. Every time you are in a final, it’s special. I’ve said it throughout this week, you aren’t in a position too often in your career where you have a chance to win it all at the end of season. This is our first chance to get some hardware for the club. It’s my first chance to win hardware as a professional, so it’s going to be a nice week to prepare and a good match to play. Like I’ve said, we now have a clear objective for the final regular season match.”

On his positioning in today’s match:

“I kind of stepped in to play Miguel’s role a little bit more, but I think me and (Darlington) Nagbe shared that role today. You can’t really replace him too much, but it was more in the midfield. I knew throughout the week where I would be playing, so I had some time to prepare. Obviously, we had some different personnel out there that I haven’t played too much with, so it took us a little bit to get going. We scored those two early goals and created chances, so it wasn’t too bad of an adjustment today.”

Chicago Fire forward Diego Campos

On how he felt starting tonight and playing his first minutes in a while: 

“It is disappointing (that) we could not get the result. We came here to win. We did our best (and) scored a very good goal. It feels good to be back with the boys. It feels good to put the jersey back on. It is good to get some minutes.”

On trusting his body: 

“I think the team does a great job on recovery and rehab. I feel pretty good.”

On what he hopes to accomplish in his last game: 

“We want to win that last game. The game is home in front of our people. We want to win.”

Chicago Fire forward Michael De Leeuw

On thoughts about the team’s response in the second half: 

“We did not create big opportunities, but there were opportunities to create big chances. I think we did not create the big ones. We were there. We were close. I think it is sad. I do not think we had to lose this game. It is harsh.” 

On injured players returning tonight: 

“It is good to see them back. It is good to see the guys back. The season is almost over, but it is good to see everyone healthy.”

On the opportunity for the remainder of the season: 

“We are playing our last home game. We just want to give the fans something. It is probably the last game this team is together. We want to give the fans one last show, if you want to call it that.”

Chicago Fire midfielder Matt Polster

On his return from injury:

“Obviously, it felt pretty good to get back out there and finally get some game minutes. You know, it’s obviously been a rough year for me, obviously for the team too. But to finally get back from injury and be with these guys and to have a run for two more games means a lot to me, to just show myself and my team and the league that I’m fully healthy now. “

On whether he trusted his knee:

“Yeah, I think, the process. I trusted the process a lot more the second time around. For me, going into the game prior, there was a practice. There was a sequence where the staff thought I did a lot of stress on my MCL, and they said I did it without hesitation, so after that I felt really confident that I have to just trust it and go out there to play a normal game, not overthink it, overthink my injury, and just play how I always do.”

On what he looks to accomplish in the final game:

“Yeah, I think it’s just get more game minutes, obviously, I only got like 20 today. I thought, for the most part, I felt confident, you know, and I think, obviously, game sharpness and game fitness will come as the games come on. But for me, it’s to just get out there again, run around with the guys, and try to end on a high note, which is good to get a win for our fans, for our team, for ourselves to show that even though it’s been a rough year, we really want to end on a high note.”