De Boer confident in ATL UTD's ability to overturn first leg deficit

Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer is not one for making excuses. After a disappointing 3-1 loss in Costa Rica to kick off his Concacaf Champion’s League campaign, he was quick to acknowledge the quality his opponents had brought to the game.

“We knew it would be very difficult,” he said, “we had a lot of respect for the team and analyzed them very deeply. We know they’re very strong at home. I congratulate Herediano because they played a fantastic game. The intensity, how they play, overall they deserved to win.”

It wasn’t the start the coach or players were hoping for, with a shaky start and a giveaway at the back putting the team in a one-goal hole in the first ten minutes. But Coach De  Boer said it wasn’t that play but what happened after they need to work on most.

“The first goal, you can say it shouldn’t happen but it happens,” he said after the match. “That’s football, sometimes people make mistakes, I have no problem with that. I have more problems with us afterwards not having the right response. We got too emotional, we wanted to get our goal as soon as possible, but it makes the pitch so open for them –– and that’s when they’re very good.”

Much has been made of the differences in the MLS season and those of their Concacaf competitors, and how and MLS team just wrapping up preseason could be at a disadvantage against a team in midseason shape. But De Boer said he and his team are focused on what they can control.

“Of course it’s an advantage to teams who are in midseason form, but it’s like that and we have to accept that and be prepared. We knew this already coming into the season so I don’t want to make that an excuse… I think we have to look to ourselves and see we were too emotional trying to get our first goal. This is a very good experience for this team.”

But the most important thing is knowing that there are still 90 minutes left to play in the tie. A 2-0 win in front of the 17’s next week would still send them through to the next round.

“This is our first game and we have to improve. We’re going to try to improve every day, so this is just the first step and are going to make a lot of steps forward. I’m confident in that, and hopefully by next Thursday we have time to get our revenge and show everyone that we’ve learned from this experience and are better for it.”

“3-1 is a good result for Herediano, but I have confidence also that we can score two goals at home,” de Boer continued. “It’s more difficult now, but we know we can play back at our stadium, and if we play well we can still move on to the next round.”

The return leg kicks off at 8 p.m. EST this Thursday, February 28th in Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw University. Tickets are sold out, but you can watch a stream at Yahoo! Sports or listen live at 92.9 The Game or the Atlanta United App.