It took a few months in Atlanta before Florentin Pogba got his first start in the red, black and gold. But the man his teammates call “Flo” was patient –– and he was certainly ready.
“I was waiting for my first game,” he said through a translator after the match. “When the team is winning it’s difficult to change the team. We have to wait. Soccer is like that. When it’s your turn, you have to do well to give the coach and yourself confidence.”
He certainly gave his coach confidence in a performance that was one of the best on the pitch. He and his defensive partners were a wall in front of Brad Guzan’s goal, keeping the Vancouver attack at arms length the entire match.
“I think Pogba played a fantastic game today, he didn’t make a mistake,” De Boer said after the match. “He was also very good in the buildup and defensively he was very good. It wasn’t easy, but you can see his experience and it was fantastic.”
“[His performance] was very good,” added Brad Guzan. “His ability to use his athleticism to track down balls over the top, win balls in the air. Even playing out of the back, something that’s obviously kind of new to our system, our ideas of wanting to play out of the back. It’s not always easy for guys to step in, so I thought he was very good tonight.”
Slotting into a starting lineup without much recent match experience can be a challenge for any player. But Pogba believes in himself, and is up for any challenge.
“I already know what I can do with my qualities,” he said. “I was waiting for this game, and it went well. Now the coach can count on me and I’ll be ready to play again if I get called to play.”
“I maintain the same confidence as always,” he added. “Whether I’m playing or not, it’s the same: work hard and wait for an opportunity. The team is playing well, we’ve won five straight games. We have to continue like that and stay focused because the games are coming quickly.”
It’s all part of a process for Florentin, who is starting to fully settle in to the city and his team. He says it’s exactly what he’d hoped it would be when he decided to take the challenge of coming to America.
“I’m very happy here, trying myself in a new league, new players. Everything has happened like I wanted. We have to keep working and continue to get wins, which is what we all want.”
Now he’s just focused on building on his solid first performance and helping his team continue this sensational run of form during an incredible, congested stretch of fixtures.
“Thankfully it went well,” he said. “I’m very happy for the team, for me. Now I’m waiting for the next games that are coming fast. We have to stay concentrated, get some rest and wait for the game Sunday.”
The team is back on the road this weekend, traveling to New York to face the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. They’ll then head to Real Salt Lake for another Western Conference matchup before returning to Atlanta to face Minnesota United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure to get yours here.