Gonzalo Pineda has explained the tactical shift that allowed Atlanta United to come from behind and snatch a 2-1 win away at FC Cincinnati on Decision Day.
The Five Stripes already had their place in the MLS post-season in the bag barring a truly remarkable turn of events, but knew a win in Ohio, coupled with an NYCFC loss to the Philadelphia Union, would be enough to see them host their first round Playoff match.
But Atlanta fell 1-0 behind to a Zico Bailey strike in the 21st minute, Throughout the first half, the visitors generated just 0.32xG, attempting five shots with only one on target.
Pineda brought in Jake Mulraney to replace Anton Walkes at half-time, switching Atlanta to a four-at-the-back system. It was this tactical tweak that facilitated the second-half comeback via goals from Miles Robinson and Josef Martinez, according to Pineda.
“A little bit the tactics, the back five wasn’t shifting as we wanted," he told reporters. "Defensively, we were struggling the first few minutes, and [Haris] Medunjanin coming on the outside caused a little bit of problems and that’s how they started to have dominance in the attacking half.
"But yes, I felt that the energy, the urgency, to play forward, play fast, play simple, wasn’t quite there in the first half. Credit to the players, they adjusted, they did a great job turning things around, playing better football and creating chances and then a few very good goals.”
Pineda's switch worked a treat. Atlanta United went on to generate 1.99xG after the break, attempting 13 shots and scoring twice - Martinez's goal was particularly spectacular.
"We overloaded the opposition and created many chances, and we scored two goals that put us in a good position, so that’s what changed: the tactics and the mentality," Pineda added.
Attention now turns to the MLS Cup Playoffs. NYCFC's 1-1 draw with the Union means Atlanta will have to travel to Yankee Stadium in the first round. Of course, the Five Stripes could have been in a much better position were it not for the sheer number of errors they've made late in games - something they won't get away with against Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos.
Josef Martinez has urged his teammates to cut out the errors or suffer the consequences in the post-season.
“I think if we would have had better results and not lost so many points during the year, the start was tough and then we had many games where we lost points at the end of games, I think then with the circumstances we wouldn’t have had to suffer but, well, that’s what happened," the striker said.
"We’re happy but we’re worried about the errors that were made, not just against Red Bulls but also against Toronto. That for us, soccer-wise wasn’t bad but personally a little worrying and today the first half.”
Atlanta's trip to NYCFC is slated to take place between November 20th and 23rd.