Team

Quote Sheet: Atlanta United vs. MNUFC

MINNESOTA UNITED HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On how the match was lost…
“We dug ourselves a hole with the two goals we conceded early, but I thought the attitude of the guys was immense at times. We said to them at half time, ‘can we go and get the next goal?’ If we do, we feel there is something for us. And we did. As the game wore on, it was more desperation for them. We started to use the ball better, circulated the ball well. As you look back over the 90 minutes, we probably had four or five really good chances. Disappointing. Can’t fault the guys for their effort. A little bit too little too late.”

On conceding two goals early…
“As I said, we gave ourselves a huge hole to get ourselves out of. But I can’t fault the guys for the effort that they put in to try and get us back on level terms. We got the goal and I thought the initiative was with us. It was the first time we’ve come here and had as many chances as we had tonight. Even after they scored the goal, [Michael] Boxall has a free header from eight yards out, nine yards out and Mason [Toye] had a couple. You look at the second half and we had another three or four really good chances. Disappointed, but we move on.”

On adjustments made at halftime …
“Not a lot really. Just said, ‘can we not turn the ball over cheaply in the midfield?’ Two or three of their best chances in the first half were cheap giveaways by us. I was pleased with the attitude of the guys. I thought the shape we used helped us. We just didn’t have enough quality at times in the final third.”

On how much he was concerned with Atlanta coming at them from out wide …
“Well, we were but I didn’t want it to be a rear guard all evening. They are going to get out at some time, I wanted the two wide guys to play higher up the field and that’s what we did. I thought we didn’t do enough for the second goal, gave him too much time and he got us in the penalty area. [We] should’ve gone out and addressed it earlier but it is what it is.

On when he felt confident that tonight’s lineup would be the one that he would choose …
“Probably a few days ago, a few days ago, yeah.”

On what went into the decision to leave Darwin Quintero on the bench …
“Well, you just pick the team that you think (is going to win the game). As I said before, there’s nothing personal in that, you just pick the team that you feel looks sharp in training, players who I think would help us do what we wanted to do tonight and that was what I did. There’s nothing personal in the decision, I just picked a team that I thought would win us the game.”

On what he said to the guys after the game …
“I said exactly that. You can’t come into a place like this and go two-nil down. Their response after that was terrific. I think it shows you how far we’ve come in the last year or so. We’ve come here but we feel really disappointed that we haven’t taken something from the game.”

On what the big moment was for Atlanta ...
“A bit of both. We could’ve done better with the first one. The first one was a soft goal to concede and then the second one, we didn’t have people in the right spots, stuff that we work a lot on and then as I said, after that, the response was good.”

On what lesson he takes from tonight heading into the end of the season …
“Well, being away from home, we’ve got some huge games coming up. We can’t give ourselves that big of a mountain to climb against teams that are vying for playoffs. We have got three or four teams in and around us, above us. They’re going to be tough games but we can’t give ourselves that much work to do.”

On if he worries about coming down now from this run …
“Well, that’s our job now. We have to pick this up and we start again [with that] tomorrow. We’ve got some big games coming up.”

On how limited Osvaldo Alonso was in tonight’s final …
“You’ve seen. He hasn’t trained much for the last [week] but he felt okay and I thought as the game went on, he actually got better as the game wore on. We changed it at the end to try and get extra forwards on.”

On what the value is in the players clutching their medals …
“Everybody’s different. I don’t know where mine are, I’ll tell you that much.”

On if not playing double gameweeks will help towards the end of the season …
“It will, yeah. It will help one or two to get themselves – recharge the batteries a little bit. We’ve got a really tough game, we know that, in LAFC but then we’ve got a bit of time. Give some guys minutes against Pachuca and hopefully be ready for the next one which will be huge.”

On where he’s at emotionally …
“Disappointed. I honestly was disappointed in the start that we did but I’m sure when I look back at the game, I’ll realize that we’ve actually had chances. More importantly I think that we’re moving in the right direction and that’s all you can ask for as a coach and as a club, that we’ve come to a place – probably one of the most expensive assembled teams in MLS – and we’ve given it a right go.”

On if he said anything to Michael Boxall after he missed his last chance …
“No. We’ve all missed them. He’ll have to get on with it, that’s what it is. You don’t mean to miss them. You put yourself in there, you take your chance and it was a great opportunity for us. Had we gone in there with the 10 men, we might have made something more of it. He’ll be disappointed but hey, no.”

On what he thought Hassani Dotson would give the team …
“I thought he was excellent again. He’s growing by the week. He’s going to be a top player. We are really pleased with him. I thought the younger ones were terrific. I thought Chase [Gasper] was really good as well and Mason [Toye] had a couple of chances so the future is bright for that lot.”

MINNESOTA UNITED DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL

On their mindset after coming up short …
“The mindset is that we should still be playing. Obviously, Atlanta came out in the first half pretty strong. We had a few issues containing their front four or five. But then at half time when we spoke we knew that if we got one we would give ourselves a chance of bringing the trophy home. We responded very well. The boys played their hearts out the second half and I just hurt that we are not still out there. I feel like if that goes in, all of the momentum is on our side and it is a different story. Unfortunately we don’t live in a world of shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

On if he feels they had an advantage in the second half …
“Yeah, I think after the first half they made a few adjustments and we were able to read the runs that they were making a bit better. Obviously, Ike [Opara], Chase [Gasper] and Romain [Metanire] were able to mop-up a few loose balls and everything else was being hit through to Vito [Mannone], so, we had a lot more joy in that second half.”

On his last chance to score …
“As I said before, we should still be playing. Everyone worked their balls off to get us in that position and it just doesn’t go away. Obviously, we had a few other chances there and it just hurts to let the boys down. We will refocus and lock down our playoff spot now.”

MINNESOTA UNITED GOALKEEPER VITO MANNONE

On Atlanta’s first goal …
“It was just one of those moments. He crossed the ball and Chase [Gasper] put his foot, I think he got his studs on the ball and the ball started to spin on top of me. It is the only place it can spin towards the goal. I tried to keep it out, but I didn’t. After that we kind of tried to stay in the game and we suffered a little bit. We could have scored more, but the fact that we came in at 2-0 we said, ‘we have done it before.’ We did it in Houston. If we get the next goal, it is going to be game-on. That is what happened. I thought we did the maximum we could. We can’t dwell on our performance because we knew it was going to be a difficult game. In Atlanta, it is difficult. It is not an easy place to go. It is a quality team and the crowd behind them, it is difficult. It is not an easy final and I thought in the second half when we got the goal, we had many chances to score again. And with ten men, you never know what is going to happen. I think it was going to be a different game if we score, but we didn’t.”

On the traveling Minnesota United fans …
“It is fantastic. It’s a fantastic effort from the fans. We heard them and they were loud throughout the full game. It was great to come out for warm-ups and feel a piece of Minnesota was with us. I’m sure the guys at home follow the game, but the one’s who made the trip here was incredible. Hats-off to them.”

On the shaky start to the game …
“It is not easy. They have been there already, for sure they have more experience than us in a final. We have different players who have been in a final already, but also young boys that have never been and you need to adjust to the game. It’s a lucky moment as well. A guy crosses the ball and gets a deflection, it changes the game. But I think we had other chances after that. We tried to defend as much as possible and be in the game, but I don’t think there is a massive difference after 15 minutes. We were in the game, we had a plan and the goal changed the game. We had a bit more pressure on us to deliver. I think even in the first half we could have nicked a goal, if I’m honest. But it didn’t happen. We kept fighting as always, this season we did. We fought so hard in every game. I can’t complain with the character of the team and that is what we need to do from now until the end of the season because you like to win a final, of course, but we have to be proud I think. We have to be proud of what we have done. It is the first final for this club so it is a massive achievement. It is another achievement to get to the playoffs. We have eight ‘finals,’ we need to stand tall.”

On not coming down too much with big games to close the season …
“Same thing, routine. Recovery, recover well. We will certainly have a chat and regroup and go from there. As said, there’s a lot of positives from tonight. We can’t dwell on it. We nearly made it, we nearly leveled the game and who knows, they got ten men, we got 11, who knows if we get to extra-time, it’s a different game. It’s soccer, it’s futbol, it’s the way it is. It’s another ‘final’ on Sunday with against, probably, the best team in the league so there’s no time to be down.”

On how he saw the own goal …
“No, I think it’s spinning in anyway. I think the way it came as well, it dipped down from the top of the crossbar and it was spinning towards the goal. As I said, it was a lucky moment for them, little bit unlucky for us. We tried to stay in the game despite the few more chances and it could be a bigger score but the second half was certainly ours and they got scared, the fans got scared that we could level at any time. It’s about the bounce, a lucky thing. [Michael Boxall’s] last chance as well is heartbreaking but it is what it is.”

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