Premier League

Gonzalo Pineda defends team selection in Atlanta United’s 2-0 defeat to Toronto FC

Gonzalo Pineda Reyes

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda was forced into making several changes to his starting lineup against Toronto FC and was “proud” of the team’s effort despite the result

It must be daunting when MLS bosses see the international break creeping on their calendars, especially right after the start of the season. It gets even more daunting when you lose your two best players, which is exactly what happened for Pineda and plenty of other coaches across the league.

As Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis were with their respective Argentina and Greece national teams, Pineda had no other choice than to make six changes to his starting lineup at BMO Field that recorded just three shots on target.

“Basically, that’s what we had available,” Pineda said of his lineup. “Also we had faith in all the players who came in. Even now, I’m proud of the effort they put in. Even at 2-0 down, they kept fighting and created a couple of half chances.

Gonzalo Pineda Reyes

Disappointing defeat / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

“They continued to sprint in behind, make some crosses. We fought until the end. Again, I believe in them regardless of the result. We need to continue working and be better.”

A few players were thrown into the XI making their first ever start for the club. The likes of Jamal Thiare and Nick Firmino earned their first starts for Atlanta from Pineda’s perspective while MLS legend Dax McCarty also featured for the jump for the first time at his new club.

“In terms of choices, Noah [Cobb] deserved the start. He was good in preseason. Dax [McCarty] deserved his spot, Ronald [Hernandez] the same. Tyler [Wolff] has been doing amazing in training sessions. It was a good opportunity for him. Jamal [Thiare] has also been good in training. We had a good starting XI, no complaints there,” said Pineda.

Despite the miserable playing conditions and players unavailable Saturday night, Pineda refused to make excuses for the result and fully believed that his players were prepared for the game.

“You can always find those types of excuses after the game. You can say that we maybe were lacking a little bit of quality, but for me those are excuses. We were prepared to do a good game. In some moments we did an ok job, in certain moments we were a little bit that change of pace and that intensity in the final third,” he said.

“A couple things that were maybe missing, but congrats to Toronto. They deserved the victory. The conditions, the weather of course it was difficult to move the ball at times….

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