Last weekend, emotions boiled over for Atlanta United after a 3-0 loss to Austin FC, particularly with star striker Josef Martinez saying "life is gone" from the injury-plagued 2018 MLS Cup champions.

That call-out, as well as the team meeting manager Gonzalo Pineda led after their home setback in MLS Week 19, turned inspirational on Wednesday night in a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake. In the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Five Stripes tasted bitter defeat just four days earlier. A brace from on-loan striker Ronaldo Cisneros in the first 33 minutes set the tone and was enough to secure three points.

"I told them in the locker room: I didn't need heroes; I need warriors," Pineda declared in a post-match broadcast interview with Jillian Sakovits. "I needed everyone together."

After losing to Austin FC, Supporters' Shield leaders for the time being, Pineda called for more fight from his team. Against an RSL team that entered Week 20 sitting third in the Western Conference standings, they found exactly that.

"We were fighting at the end, everybody competing for aerial duels, again against a good team in there," Pineda said. "It's a testament to a team that wants to fight, a team that wants to compete, and a team that wants to win."

Curiously, Martinez didn't start this match. Instead, it was the 25-year-old Cisneros who got the nod at the No. 9 spot and delivered a brace to vault Atlanta within three points of the Eastern Conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line at the final whistle (10th place).

Cisneros was fairly matter-of-fact about the team's performance in his postgame interview, while other players commented on the significance of the win given the trajectory of the season – this result pushing them to a 6W-8L-5D record (23 points).

"We knew that this was going to be a must-win game for us," homegrown defender Caleb Wiley said after the match. "So we had to put our heads down, grind and get the win. [It was] very important for each and every one of us."

Fellow homegrown defender George Campbell also discussed the overall effort it took the Five Stripes to keep RSL at bay and not let mistakes pile up.

"That's the bare minimum and the standard for effort," said Campbell. "I think the effort was as best as it's ever been this year. We really defended with our hearts the last 10-15 minutes. Every ball in the box, we got clear."

As luck would have it, Atlanta's next six matches include four opponents currently in playoff position, and of the two that aren't, one is the Seattle Sounders. The gauntlet includes the next match on the calendar, Sunday vs. one of their keenest rivals in Orlando City SC (3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes), and includes a cross-country match at the LA Galaxy on July 24 and hosting their Red Bulls nemesis on Aug. 17.

But now they have a blueprint in place they can take into what might be the most challenging stretch of a uniquely challenging season.

"This win means a lot, especially after experiencing last Saturday’s match against Austin because not only did we lose, but we also didn’t play well which is what bothered us the most," Pineda said.

"So, this win means a lot to not only me, but the whole team. Throughout my years in soccer, I am used to these types of moments too. In my career, I have experienced great moments and bad ones too, so I am content with everything right now.”