After a tough weekend, Atlanta United needed to bounce back quickly against Real Salt Lake.
The Five Stripes suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss at home to Austin FC on Saturday, pushing them further down the MLS Cup Playoff race and leaving players and coaches alike under immense pressure.
What’s more, star striker and club icon Josef Martinez made his feelings about the club’s current situation very clear with some passionate post-match comments.
But bounce back they did as Atlanta United picked up a much-needed 2-1 win at home to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. A brace from Mexican forward Ronaldo Cisneros put the Five Stripes 2-1 up inside 33 minutes and although the visitors pulled one back in the 37th minute, ATL were able to hold out for a priceless victory.
Given what his team has been through over the past few days, Gonzalo Pineda was understandably pleased.
“This win means a lot, especially after experiencing last Saturday’s match against Austin,” Pineda told reporters, adding: “Not only did we lose but we also didn’t play well which is what bothered us the most. So, this win means a lot to not only me but the whole team.”
Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of Wednesday night’s win was the fact Atlanta United were able to ride out some serious pressure.
RSL attempted 28 crosses throughout the night, 19 of which came in the second half as the visitors tried everything to level the scores late on. But where Atlanta United have broken during the past, they stood firm this time.
A mammoth defensive effort saw Atlanta United make 43 clearances, 27 tackles, six interceptions, and two blocks, with every single player doing their bit.
“The comeback of the team, the response that I saw, it was pretty good. I think you all [saw] a
full team, everyone trying to do what they have to do to win,” Pineda said.
He elaborated: “The highlight for me of the day was Marcelino [Moreno] sprinting back almost top of the box in one transition, actually it was almost the last minute. He went on a run and saved us from a goal. I think that’s what speaks for itself, that the team’s response was a good one. Was saying, ‘hey guys, I know we’ve been receiving a lot of criticism and that, but what a response.’
“Today I saw that and that’s what makes me more proud of my players.”
Atlanta United conclude their three-game home stand against Orlando City this weekend, looking to close the three-point gap between themselves and the MLS Cup Playoff spots.