Atlanta United's Frank de Boer on Leg 2 turnaround: "We executed fantastic"

Atlanta United FC vs. Herediano - Game Highlights

Highlights: Watch the best moments of Atlanta United FC 4-0 victory over Club Sport Herediano #SCCL2019 #ATLvCSH

Posted by Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League on Thursday, February 28, 2019

KENNESAW, Ga. — What a difference a week makes. It didn’t take long for Atlanta United to turn around a 3-1 deficit against CS Herediano in their Round of 16 Concacaf Champions League series second leg Thursday night.

In fact, it took just 47 seconds for the Five Stripes to apply the pressure through Josef Martinez’s first goal of the 2019 campaign. Then Atlanta doubled their lead within 10 minutes, a complete reversal from what happened in the opening minutes in the first leg in Heredia, and they went on to rout the Costa Rican side 4-0.

“I think the early goal that we conceded [in Costa Rica], we had the wrong reaction…we played in the emotion,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said after the win at Fifth Third Bank Stadium just outside Atlanta. “We looked back at the images and maybe some small details we changed the way we wanted to play today. We executed fantastic.”

While it shouldn’t have surprised many to see Atlanta United get their act together in the attack with some of the most potent forwards in the competition, perhaps it’s more surprising that the team looked so solid defensively after a porous performance in Costa Rica.

“When we play [with] emotion, we're just running in all kinds of positions. When we lose the ball, the pitch is then so wide and you punish yourself,” De Boer said. “Today it was much, much better and you see we almost didn't concede any chances against us. That's fantastic.”

Despite Josef Martinez’s brace on the night, it was 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco who was awarded the Man of the Match award in the stadium and also singled out for praise by his manager after the match.

“I have to give a big compliment to him because you see how many meters he's covering ... I think he missed the chance with his left foot, but he was sprinting back after he was just sprinting 30 or 40 yards,” De Boer said of the young Argentine. “Of course he has to make goals in the future, but it all starts with this kind of mentality, with this kind of energy. I'm convinced when he gets stronger and more experienced in the situation he's in, that he's going to make goals and assists.”

Atlanta’s turnaround Thursday night was all the more impressive considering Atlanta’s need to be the aggressors in the match. It’s a situation that often leaves teams overexposed and vulnerable, but De Boer’s team was solid in its shape for the entirety of the 90 minutes.

“Of course we had a little bit of a different approach because we were two goals down. So we had to force them to make errors and press higher up the field when we can,” said De Boer. “We said already before the game, you can win or draw and maybe 2-1 isn't enough, but let’s look in the mirror when we are coming off the field and say 'okay, we did everything we could.'”