Post-Match Quotes | ATL vs NYC

  • Match: Atlanta United vs New York City FC
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
  • Date: November 11, 2018
  • Final Score: ATL 3-1  (Recap | Highlights)

Atlanta United Head Coach Gerardo Martino

On the keys to tonight’s victory:

“I think in the first half especially we saw the best side of the team because we were good with the ball, we spent more time in the opponents side of the field. We managed the first half well, and I think the half was exclusively of Atlanta. We were able to get a couple goals advantage and they get a fortunate play to score right before half. In the second half it was different. They had more of the ball and we were only able to get out on the counter attack. But I don’t think we ever lost our defensive order.”

On the team’s performance in the second half, especially early when NYCFC was on front foot:

“I think that was our worst stretch of the night. We were still impacted from them getting a goal and we didn’t expect it. We were the most unstable during that period but we still didn’t suffer that much from the chances they created.”

On the team’s response since the match in Toronto: 

“I think if you are just comparing it to the Toronto game, the team has responded very well. Above all, in the intensity that we have to play in the playoffs. It’s true that Toronto was the last game but I think it’s a little unfair to just compare the team to how we looked in Toronto, because that wasn’t like the team we were over the course of the season.”

On the decision to start Miles Robinson tonight, and how he performed on this big stage:

“The decision was because Jeff had a muscle issue and wasn’t able to play. Miles was one of our best players tonight. He defended well, which was his main job tonight. He did a few things that we practiced throughout the week. He did those very well, and I would maybe go as far to say that he was one of our three best players tonight.”

On what he thought about the “El Tata” Tifo before the match:

“I’m very thankful for all the affection that the fans have showed me over these two years. It makes me very happy. I’ve been very involved with everything Atlanta United – with the players, the fans. It’s a beautiful acknowledgement that the Atlanta fans have shown me.”

On what he will focus on in the next days looking ahead to Conference Finals:

“The first thing is to make sure that all our guys that are going on international duty come back healthy. We have five players that are going away, so this week will be about making sure that they come back okay and that the guys that are staying are well rested. The second week, we will be preparing for our opponent.”

On the play of Eric Remedi, both offensively and defensively:

“He’s a holding midfielder, and he is very accustomed to the role he is playing in the last two games. Over the course of the season he has been playing mostly with Jeff Larentowicz, but he is in a position now where he is flanked by two different midfielders. He is also very gifted technically, and you saw that on the assist he played to Josef Martinez.”

On the team having experience in cup competitions prior to coming to Atlanta:

“That experience is always very important in these games, because when you get to the playoffs, a lot of these games are about the mentality of the team. The players need to have that experience. I think apart from the individual experience, it’s important that Atlanta United as a group is gaining experience competing in these types of environments.”

Atlanta United FC defender Michael Parkhurst

On the key to tonight’s victory:

“Another solid performance from the whole team. I mean, defensively, it was another very good performance. Miles (Robinson) stepped in and played a fantastic game. We stayed organized. We conceited some possession, but we didn’t really let them get behind us too much. We knew that’d we create chances at home. We scored two set pieces, and then, we finished it off with Josef (Martinez). We’re very happy.”

On Josef Martinez’s performance compared to the last few games:

“None of us were really concerned about it. Strikers go through those type of moments. Most strikers go through that more often than Josef does. I guess that comes with when you set the all-time scoring record that you’re expected to score every game. That’s the pressure on Josef. It’s fantastic that he came out here and had a performance to remember. It wasn’t just the two goals. He fought for 90 minutes. He tracked back with the defense. He won balls in the air. He was very, very good for us.”

On what has changed for the team over the last couple of weeks:

“We’ve just changed the mentality a little bit. We were too soft in that game against Toronto. We were too naïve. We let them get the upper hand early on in the game and couldn’t get back from it. Right away from New York, we set the tone that physically we were going to be in the game, that we weren’t going to back down and that we were going to win the fight. I thought that we did over both games. In the end, our soccer won out a little bit. They’re a very good team and very difficult to play against, so we’re very happy with the result.”

On how they approach various external criticisms:

“We don’t approach it. It’s nothing that we talk outside of when we get questioned about it right here. It doesn’t affect us at all. We understand the playoffs are physical. Particularly on their field where you’ve got 22 guys scrunched in on a baseball field, it’s very physical, and so, we expected that in Game 1. Out here, we know that the pressure that Miguel (Almirón), Josef (Martinez), Tito (Villalba) – these guys that up top that are so quick – they put tremendous pressure on the backline and on defensive midfielders. These guys that put tremendous pressure on the backline. They get kicked. It’s happened all year. That’s just a credit to their pace and the pressure they put on guys.”

On what it means to win the first playoff series in franchise history:

“It’s big. It’s very important. The club has a mentality that we’re not just a playoff team. We’re a team that qualifies for the playoffs, put ourselves in a good position and took advantage of it. It’s one thing to get a bye and to avoid the knockout round and have the home-field advantage, but it’s another thing to go out there and take advantage of it, and we did that over both games. It’s tremendous to know that the team is capable of doing that against a very good opponent. So, whoever we play next round, we’re excited. We’re looking forward to it.”

On what he is looking forward to in the next round:

“Just what playoff soccer is all about, the intensity you have to have. We’re not afraid to change up the style if we have to. We didn’t build out of the back much against New York in either game compared to what we normally do in the regular season, and that’s OK. You have to adapt. If the playoff game calls for us to be a little bit safer out of the back and winning second balls and playing in their half of the field when we can, then that’s what we’re going to do if that’s going to help us win games.”

On Eric Remedi’s performance against Maximiliano Moralez:

“He’s fantastic. He put in a ton of work. He covered a lot of ground tonight. Max (Moralez) is one of the best tens in the game and shutting him down. Shutting him down is a big key to success against New York City, and Eric was all over the place. A really good performance. Miles (Robinson) in the first half had to step up and cover Maxi a lot as well and he was brilliant when he did that. We conceited possession to him when he was around midfield, but anytime he was between lines we made sure he wasn’t able to turn and find view. ”

On surpassing team 1 million tickets sold and distributed and what that means for Atlanta United:

“It’s amazing. You know you run out of superlatives to talk about the crowd. They were so loud tonight. It’s just a big boost. It’s awesome to play in front of. Some guys might take it for granted, but most of us don’t. We understand what a privilege, what an honor it is to play in front of this crowd. Not everyone has that opportunity. I’m just glad we put on a good performance to match their energy tonight.”

On playing for Tata:

“Tata is the face of the team and the leader of the team. We definitely want to win a trophy for him. He’s been great for us over these two years. We put in a lot of work not only this year, but last year leading up to these games. We’re still getting better. I think that we can still play a little bit better. I think Tata continues to push us. It’s just an extra motivating factor. I think that we all want to win. We all want to be champions. That would be icing on the cake for him for sure.”

On how important it was to start correctly:

“We talked that the first goal was super important tonight. We didn’t want to go into this game nursing a 1-0 lead. We wanted to go out there and play a little bit safe but get after them when we could and put a little bit of pressure on their backline. The guys up top did a great job. Miguel (Almiron) scored a fantastic goal there. The penalty, as well. Guys put the effort in, the whole game. Franco (Escobar) draws that penalty out of nothing. He’s got nobody in the box, and he runs. It’s a big, big play for us because we talked that first goal was so, so important. It opens up the game for us. It allows to play in behind them with more success and they have to push the game, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan

On the importance of winning tonight’s game:

“Obviously, it was very important in terms of what we’re trying to do here as a club, in terms of how good we know we can be when we’re playing our best. We said earlier that nothing is promised or automatically given to you, you have to earn everything, and that includes scrappy, hard-fought battles in terms of home and away legs, and you’ve got to find ways to do it, and we did that this series.”

On what it means to win the first playoff series in franchise history:

“It’s important, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to win the MLS Cup, and this is one step along that way. It’s good. It feels good and everyone has a good feeling and spirit in the locker room, but at the same time, we’ve got to make sure we get down to work and get ready for the next series.”

On the difference in the team’s last play over the last couple of weeks:

“I think the difference, and for sure the difference, is our ability to fight, and scrap, and battle. In Toronto, we never showed up. We thought it was going to be given to us, and it surely wasn’t. In this league, you can’t expect that in terms of the opposition rolling over and allowing you to play how you want to play. So, if the game calls to battle, and fight, and get after it, then we showed that we can do that. I think somebody mentioned to me that this is the most fouls in a home and away leg, but this is playoff soccer. It is what it is.”

On where the ‘battle, scrap, and fight’ message came from:

“Us. As players, it wasn’t good enough in Toronto. It wasn’t good enough when we played the (New York) Red Bulls away. We needed to prove to ourselves, and ultimately, prove to everyone on the outside, that in the tough games and the games that mean something in terms of playing against the top teams, that we can show up, and not only play good football, but that we can battle.”

On Miles Robinsons’ biggest jump in terms of his play this year:

“I thought (Miles Robinson) was excellent today. Plain and simple. To have someone like that get kind of thrown into the deep end, in terms of not really playing a lot of games or a lot of minutes leading up into tonight, to have the performance that he put in tonight, he deserves all the credit in the world. I thought he was calm on the ball. I thought he put out fires when things got a little bit dangerous. He closed guys down; he tackled; he won balls in the air; he won second balls; I don’t think he put a foot wrong tonight.”

On sending Tata out with a trophy:

“I wouldn’t even say it like that. That’s not our focus. Our focus is that everyone in this locker room is here to fight, compete, help each other, help this club, and help this team, so I think that’s more talk on the outside. The talk on the inside is we’re in this together, we’re a family, we want to battle and fight, and ultimately, we want to win the MLS Cup. At the end of the season, we know (Tata) will leave, but at the same time, I’m sure there will be players that leave and players that come. That’s the world of sports.”

Atlanta United FC midfielder Julian Gressel 

On if the game at Toronto was a wake-up call: 

“We were not robbed, but we did not show up in terms of playing for a trophy. Coming into the playoffs, we wanted to be a totally different team. We showed that we were not pleased with it at all in the locker room. We had to show a different face the last two games. I think we did.” 

On what that ‘face’ is: 

“A little more gritty and hardworking, it all starts with those fundamentals and obviously the quality that comes through that. It is a lot of intensity and hard work against the ball with the ball. It is a lot of things like that. That is what we try to focus on to have that on the field. You can play a bad pass and have bad moments, but that is what we wanted to show and then quality comes through that as well.  

On Brad (Guzan) not being satisfied where the team is:

“It is good. He is a veteran guy. He knows what it takes. We are happy we made it to the conference finals. We will analyze how we played. Whoever our next opponent is we will try to match up well and get ready for them. It is all about surviving and advancing.”

On preferring to play next week or on the 29th:

“It is tough because a bunch of guys are going to international teams. I would like to play. That is how the scheduling works, and we will take it as it is. We knew that before.”  

On coming out strong: 

“It was similar to New York. We wanted to come out and be intense. We were not going to allow anything, especially on our home field. We wanted it to be intense in the 50/50 balls. We want to win those (and) make it scrappy and be gritty. I think we did that today like we did in New York in the first half especially.” 

On the impact of Jeff Larentowicz’s absence: 

“It did not really impact me. Miles (Robinson) did a tremendous job replacing him. He played an excellent game. My positioning was the same.” 

Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almirón

On what it means to win the first playoff series in franchise history:

“This is very important for us, but we have to keep our feet on the ground because we know we haven’t won anything yet. So, we’re going to enjoy this and then just keep working hard for what’s coming.”

On whether he knew his free kick was in:

“No, I was talking with Josef (Martinez) right before, and the first idea was to do a 1-2, but then, I had confidence in myself, and luckily, it went in.”

On his free kick:

“I’ve scored one free kick before when I was younger with the academy at Cerro Porteño, but this one was a miracle.”

On him being a target for fouls in the playoffs:

“As a player, you have to get used to that. That’s part of the game, but I think the referees should be able to manage it, but all you can do as a player is adjust to it.”

On his excitement after winning the game:

“Games like this, as a player, you don’t need any extra motivation. These are the games you want to play in. You want to play in front of full stadiums in games like this. So, these are games that happen once in a lifetime, and I just try to enjoy myself on the field.”

On what team they may face in the next round:

“At this stage, we’re not here to pick our opponents. Both teams are very good teams, so we know we’ll prepare as well as we can for whoever we face.”

On play from Leandro González Pirez:

“Leandro (González Pirez) has been playing well for a long time. He’s really important for us and what we do, but he’s not the only one. A lot of guys have stepped up, and I want to highlight Miles (Robinson) for tonight’s performance. I say it was like a debut for him because he hasn’t been playing in a while, and it was a big match, and he stepped in and did really well.”

On his future and his focus on the playoffs:

“I think the press is the one who talks more about that. My head is fully on Atlanta.”

On Eric Remedi:

“Eric (Remedi) contributes a lot to the team, not just on the field, but off the field as well. He’s a great person, a great guy to have in the locker room, but, it’s not just Eric. I think all of our teammates are doing a great job, and it makes things easier for myself and Josef (Martinez). Thanks to our teammates we’re getting these scoring chances.”

On which opponent he wants to see in the next round:

“As I said before, at this stage, we can’t pick our opponent. They’re both two really good teams, and that’s why they’re still in the semifinals. So, we’ll prepare for whoever we play.”

Atlanta United defender Greg Garza

On how it feels to make the Eastern Conference Finals:

“It means a lot. We’re in the finals of the Eastern Conference after being in the league for two years, I don't think you could ask for much more. The next two games will be the most important games this club has ever taken part of. I’m very happy to be a part of this.”

On the playoff atmosphere:

“These fans have been the same these past two years, and we owe everything to them. No matter what situation – even last year with Columbus it didn't end the way we wanted it to – but they were still there cheering their tails off. We definitely owe it to them. We’re very happy and fortunate to have such a fanbase like we do.”

On the physical nature of playoff soccer:

“It’s completely different. You’re playing the six best teams from each conference, so very intense games. It’s a different tournament. You kind of turn the page on what everything was from the regular season, and I’m sure you can probably say the same for every single sport. It’s a different tournament. It’s a different league in itself, and we have to be prepared for every step that we take.”

Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel

On how the defense handled both David Villa and Maximiliano Moralez:

“We know we have to be very intense and very aggressive against them because they are so dangerous. They are always running to space, and we have to be ready to cut those spaces, and maybe we did a good job, and that’s why we won the game.”

On Eric Remedi’s performance:

“He’s a playmaker. He’s a great player. He has great technique. He’s important for us because he’s playing well in the middle and he showed up this game.”

On how impressive his last two performances have been:

“We try to do it every game, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to play with a lot of concentration and aggressiveness because if you lose, you’re going home. I think the team did a good job in these two games, and we were just winners.”

Atlanta United midfielder Miles Robinson

On his preparation this week and knowing that he would be playing tonight:

“I knew early on this week that I was going to get the start. Obviously, I was very happy, and I knew if I just played like Jeff (Larentowicz) played the match before, we would come out with a good result. That’s how it happened tonight, so I’m very happy.”

On watching the first leg from the sidelines and if it helped in his preparation:

“It was very beneficial to see how they play at least for one match earlier. I thought I played pretty well tonight, and I thought the team had a great game overall.”

On how getting minutes with ATL UTD 2 helped him keep his match fitness:

“Yeah, it was very helpful especially where you can get some game minutes and stay sharp both physically and mentally. It helped me stay ready for moments like this one tonight.”

On what it means to be part of the team that earned club’s first playoff series win:

“It’s definitely awesome. All these guys in here are very deserving. We work hard day in and day out, and it’s a great feeling to get this first playoff series win for sure.”

On how long the team plans on enjoying this win before focusing on the next round:

“We always have fast turnarounds around here so we will be back this week training hard, and I’m excited for that.”

On if it mattered who the team faces next:

“No, I don’t think so. In here, everyone is just focused in on us. It’s up to us how far we can go in these playoffs.”

On weathering the storm in the early parts of the second half:

“When you have a good team like NYCFC looking for a goal, we knew we would be defending for some periods in the match. We did that very well. We were organized and played very well today. It’s a little bit mental and physical for sure. We handled it both very well tonight.”

New York City FC head coach Domènec Torrent

On Atlanta punishing mistakes: 

“The semifinal or the final is about that. If you make a mistake, you pay with points or, right now Atlanta is in the final and it is not New York City. I think we played much better the second half. When we had the control, they score the third goal and the game is over. The first half is about our mistakes. You concede two goals from mistakes. It’s not impossible, but it is very difficult to win the important game like tonight in the semifinals if you concede two goals.”

On what Atlanta did to keep David Villa in check: 

“I don’t want to talk about David [Villa], about Maxi [Moralez], about Jesus [Medina]. It is not the moment. When we make a mistake, everybody makes a mistake. Sometimes it is this player, sometimes it is another player. It is not the right time to talk about that. We have to ask what happened because it is three years in a row that we finished in the semifinals. We have to think about that because this isn’t the first year. The first few years we are able to arrive in the semifinals, and after that we are not able to get to the final.”

On why he chose the 18-man roster: 

“The players who played today were our top scorers. It is not Jo [Inge Berget]. It is Ismael [Tajouri-Shradi], it is Jesus [Medina], it is David [Villa] and it is Maxi [Moralez]. That is the reason why we played with these players. If you want to ask me about Jo, okay ask me about Jo. He scored four goals.”

On if anything less the Cup Final was a disappointment: 

“The problem was the first half. We made a penalty, maybe it was his fault, but I accept. The second goal we concede. You know what happened. After that, it is our mistake. It is not easy to play when you make two mistakes and they score. The first goal the penalty, the second goal is a free kick. When we played much better, we were able to score and we are there. After that, in the second half in my opinion, we played a little bit better than the first half. We had the control, but it is not enough. When you arrive in the semifinals, it is about the goals and you have to score the goals. We knew we needed to score. We were not able to score more goals. After that, the third goal is because everyone is focusing to score a goal and it is two against two. It is another mistake because one player broke the line. Soccer is about mistakes. When you arrive in the semifinals and the final, it is about the team that doesn’t concede goals and doesn’t make mistakes will have the opportunity to make the final.”

New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson

On what Atlanta United did well: 

“It is obviously disappointing. I think you have to give credit to Atlanta. Over the two legs, they won both legs. Regardless of what transpired over the two games, I think it was necessary to come out as victors, and we didn’t. This game was going to be won where, no matter if a goal was scored or conceded early, we were still in it. We had a chance, we just had to win. At 2-0, difficult, 2-1 doable, 3-1 game over. It’s disappointing and it is not a position where you want to walk away saying, ‘this is the second year in a row, and we’ll look forward to next year.’ It is really still digesting this moment and, at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough over two legs to get the job done.”

On if the series against Atlanta is considered an underperformance: 

“One hundred percent. I think it is the most frustrating thing to have such a talented group to come up empty handed in two games. Not just one, but two games. It is inexcusable for us as a team to not go out and get at least one result and advance. We are good enough to advance. We are good enough to be playing for the Eastern Conference Finals and then the Cup Final. It is definitely an underperformance. It is tough. A lot of questions have to get answered now because of the outcome of the last two games. Like I said, we will digest it. It is tough because it just happened, but we will go back and look through it to see what happened exactly.”

On the team’s attitude at halftime: 

“I think if you don’t have a positive attitude coming out where everything is on the line, you are playing the wrong sport. You are professionals, especially our team. A group with character, we never quit. We came out in the second half and played better than we did in the first half. We weren’t able to score another goal and then conceded obviously late on with [Josef] Martinez. It doesn’t matter how well you play in a half when the score line ends up in the other team’s favor.”

On David Villa’s impact on the club: 

“David is David. He has been tremendous for this club, there is no doubt about that. You understand in this sport, especially when you don’t achieve what you set out to, that change is inevitable. It is part of the business. Obviously, David has given us everything that he has. It has been tremendous for me to play with him over two seasons. Going forward I don’t really know what is going to happen.”

On if the end of the season felt like a steady decline: 

“There is always a belief in the group and there is always a confidence that we are going to go out and perform no matter what the match is. I think, for us, the two Philly games, not to look back on anything specific, but the two Philly games showed that we were capable of going out and playing well against an opponent. We just didn’t succeed against Atlanta in two legs and that is the name of the game. You have to win important games. Whether it is home, whether it is away, when everything is on the line you have to find a way.”