Sunday "heart to heart" meeting guides Atlanta United in snapping winless skid

Atlanta United - team celebration - gathered together

Rather than wallowing in their sorrows after last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat against Inter Miami, Atlanta United players and coaches gathered for a Sunday meeting to review their mistakes.

Interim head coach Stephen Glass disclosed as much Wednesday night after their 1-0 win over FC Dallas, a result that snapped the Five Stripes’ uncharacteristic six-game winless streak. What followed were honest, critical conversations that allowed Atlanta to stop spiraling downwards.

“There were several switch-off moments within it from a lot of different individuals,” Glass said after the match. “Sometimes you can get away with it and it doesn't impact the goal, it doesn't result in a goal. When a lot of different things happen and then someone puts it in the goal, people see the impact of what they feel like might be minor mistakes."

Those moments of self-reflection paid off, as Atlanta posted their third shutout of 2020 in 13 tries. Their woes aren’t solved with one 90-minute performance, but veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz felt as though it was a step in the right direction.

Highlights: Atlanta United 1, FC Dallas 0

Larentowicz, as he approaches 400 career starts in MLS, scored on a penalty kick in the 55th minute. It was one highlight during a solid, effective performance after players cleared the air.

“The message in that meeting was not one of finger pointing, it was a league like this, the margins are really fine,” Larentowicz said of their Sunday meeting. “The difference between teams are not usually very big. When you go winless in six or five or whatever it was, it can feel like the gap is pretty large. 

“But when you watch the mistakes back, you see, man, this goal came from a 50-50 at midfield that we lost and then things just dominoed from there. Or one person makes a decision at the wrong time and we get opened up. If we can kind of rectify that, it doesn't create a goal. So it's really just recognition that those differences between winning and losing are fine and you have to kind of look at the mistakes so that you can change those.”

Atlanta were without both winger Jurgen Damm and Erick Torres (knee sprain, to miss most of the season), two summertime signings who were acquired to help ease the loss of Josef Martinez to a season-ending ACL injury. Atlanta then looked overseas again when signing midfielder Marcelino Moreno from Lanus to a Designated Player deal earlier this week, aiming to soften the blow of Pity Martinez's transfer to Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr FC for a reported $18 million fee

A return to basics and collective focus could be a stopgap formula for Atlanta. At least Brooks Lennon hopes so.

“I think it had a major impact on the performance from the guys tonight,” Lennon said. “We had a heart-to-heart meeting with the entire group, we watched film and we just talked about what was going wrong in the season and the things that we thought were going well. I thought tonight it definitely translated to the guys' performance. It's just great to see the reaction, a positive reaction from that meeting."