Atlanta United

Gonzalo Pineda praises Atlanta United for "statement" away win at Toronto

Chris Smith
Atlanta United won away at Toronto for the first time on Saturday.
Atlanta United won away at Toronto for the first time on Saturday. / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzalo Pineda believes Atlanta United's win away at Toronto on Saturday was a "statement" of his side's playoff credentials.

Goals from Luiz Araujo and Marcelo Moreno at the end of either half were enough to deliver just a third away win of the season for the Five Stripes - and their first-ever in Toronto.

However, it was anything but straightforward, with TFC enjoying some sustained periods of pressure. Ezequiel Barco was sent off late in the match alongside Toronto defender Auro Jr as the two appeared to push their heads together during a confrontation.

But Atlanta were able to get the job done, with Moreno's 97th-minute strike sealing all three points. After the match, Pineda said the win was a good indicator of his team's desire to make the playoffs and a reward for the hard work being put into making Atlanta tougher on the road.

“It’s a massive victory," Pineda told reporters. "The timing of this victory, the place – it’s the first time Atlanta has won in Toronto – and the timing. We had six games left, and winning this one away was a very good statement from the team saying 'hey, we really want to be in the playoffs'.

"I need this trend for the next three games at home. I needed this confidence, this mood in the locker room after the game. It was a massive victory.

"I feel that the team understood how to play away. Dictating the tempo and managing key moments of the game in the second half. Maybe we can finish the game with a couple of goals earlier, but I felt overall, the team understood when to play in certain moments and I’m happy with that.”

His goal aside, Moreno was instrumental for Atlanta on Saturday night. The Argentine attempted seven shots with four hitting the target, created two chances, was successful with four of his six dribbles and was fouled nine times - often just when his side needed relief from Toronto pressure.

Pineda was full of praise after the match, revealing Moreno had overcome some fatigue to produce his "very best" on Saturday.

“It was all about the load management with Marcelino," he said. "I felt that he looked a little bit tired, and today he showed at his very best. He was aggressive on the dribble; he was successful with his duels. Winning many of those duels in the attack and finding those gaps. But I could say the same about Barco or (Luiz) Araujo or any of the midfielders. It was a complete and good victory tonight.

"Obviously, Marcelino was massive tonight, but the togetherness, the fighting for each other, the winning duels both offensively and defensively by the whole team was fantastic. I was enjoying watching from the sideline a team that was competing for every ball, and that’s what makes us proud as coaches.”

With other results falling favourably, Atlanta United have now jumped to fifth in the Eastern Conference, though they're just two points ahead of NYCFC just below the playoff line.

Pineda's side face New York City at home on Wednesday in the first of three consecutive games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.