MINNEAPOLIS – They’re known for their attacking fireworks, but Atlanta United finally banked an “ugly” win over the weekend, ekeing out a 1-0 victory at Minnesota United on a frigid, windy night at TCF Bank Stadium.
Between the weather, their early goal, being far away from home and playing more than half the game down a man, the Five Stripes were forced to play a very different style of soccer than they’re used to.
“When people think of Atlanta football, they think of pretty football, tiki-taka football,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It wasn’t pretty by any means … a little bit of luck, a lot of fight, togetherness and spirit.”
Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino agreed with his ‘keeper.
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“It’s great if we are able to play well and win, but more important is, we get results,” said Martino, praising his squad’s structure and resilience. “Playing down a man is difficult in any league, but I think in this league it is particularly difficult.
“We were organized defensively, which let us get a result.”
Martino said he’s not worried about the play of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, whose second yellow card in the 38th minute forced Atlanta to play shorthanded for the rest of the match. ATLUTD shifted into a very defensive formation, often with all nine field players within 30 yards of their own penalty box for the remaining 52 minutes.
Gonzalez Pirez has committed only four fouls all season, but has already earned two yellow cards and one red, among the most in the league. When Martino was asked if his countryman needed to control himself better on the field, he shook his head.
“The first yellow card was a foul he had to make because the player was in on goal,” Martino said. “On the second one, I don’t think Leandro saw that the ball had gone out of bounds.”
Guzan felt that the victory was an important moment for the team.
“This is a big step forward for us,” he said. “Tonight we showed another side [of our play].”
For Martino, it was not about individual performances or placing blame on any one player, but the combined effort and positive result.
“It’s not a game we’re going to remember for how we played,” he admitted. “But it’s a game we’re going to remember for the effort we put in and getting three points.”