Atlanta United

Gonzalo Pineda praises Atlanta United's 'heart' in comeback draw with CF Montreal

Chris Smith
Pineda credited his side's 'heart' to come back from 3-1 down.
Pineda credited his side's 'heart' to come back from 3-1 down. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United's 3-3 draw with CF Montreal in Major League Soccer on Saturday showed every single face of the home side; good, bad, and ugly.

After taking an early lead, the Five Stripes found themselves 3-1 down at half-time thanks to some calamitous defending and dreadful decision-making. A red card for Dom Dwyer just three minutes after he entered the field hardly helped matters.

But Atlanta kept to the task and were able to summon some magic with two late goals to level the game - the first a rocket from Thiago Almada to open his account for the club, the second a Brooks Lennon free-kick in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.

Head coach Gonzalo Pineda was likely a tempest on the inside but speaking at his post-match press conference, he was at least able to praise the 'heart' his side showed to draw level against such adversity.

"It says a lot about the heart of the team and for me, that is very important," said Pineda. "I just told them that sometimes when we are not sharp, we're not good in possession, we are not finding the spaces, the minimum requirement is for us to put everything into every fifty-fifty ball to win duels, to be willing to press, to be willing to do double duty at times.

"You saw (Santiago) Sosa while (Josef) Martinez is sprinting out to defend almost on the flank. Then Brooks (Lennon) and (Ozzie) Alonso pushing higher to reach balls. I think we saw the willingness from everyone, so that is what we are trying to do but obviously, we planned for a very different game. We plan for a game where we were controlling the ball, especially after the first goal.

"We need to be able to control the game, to be controlling the ball, to have possession, to be more creative and continue the attacks. But today, we showed that side of the team that I am very happy [with] because that part is super important for what we want to achieve."

Scorer of the equalizing goal, Lennon, also praised the team's 'heart' at turning the tide late on with a man down.

"[I'm] happy it went in and happy to come back down from 3-1, to be able to have the fight with 10 men," he said. "To be able to come back and tie the game shows what kind of heart this group has and that’s going to be a very important result for us going forward.”

Lennon added: "We’re not happy with ties, especially here in the Benz. But with all the circumstances, being we were down 3-1, to be able to come back and tie is really good for us."

The equalizer will obviously steal the headlines, but the standout goal of the match was undoubtedly Thiago Almada's first-ever strike for Atlanta United to halve the deficit in the 85th minute.

Under immense pressure, the Argentine kept his composure to round a couple of defenders before dispatching a powerful and precisely accurate shot into the far corner off the post. It was a strike worthy of the most expensive player in MLS history and one he was happy to score to kick-start the comeback.

"A lot of happiness to score the first goal at the club, even if I couldn’t celebrate it much because we were losing," said Almada. "But I felt very happy and the support of the fans gave us a push to go and tie the game.”

Atlanta United now have a two-week break to prepare for their next match away at DC United on April 2.