Can Andrew Gutman’s ‘perfect’ golazo provide the spark for Gonzalo Pineda’s Atlanta United?

You only need a spark to ignite a flame.

After months of injuries and inconsistency, Atlanta United may have just found the spark that lights up their season with Andrew Gutman’s last-minute golazo sealing a 2-1 win at home to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

Atlanta United is a club that’s been obsessed with ‘identity’ over the past few years, committing to possession soccer and making sure their team is set up in a very specific way. However, sitting on the outside of the MLS Cup Playoff race, the Five Stripes just needed a result in any way possible on Saturday, and that’s exactly what they got.

“I think it was perfect. It was [the] perfect end for the message that we have been telling the players the last week,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda told reporters. “Like, we talk a lot about our identity as a team. We as coaches always message to the team; create more chances to the opponent, dominating possessions and being up front, dynamic, making runs in behind, and creating a lot of chances from deeper areas so that we create more quality chances.

“At some point we said, ‘okay, I don’t care how, but today we need the three points. I don’t care if it is with dominating possession, great. If we score a goal at the last minute, let’s do it.’ Then Andrew gave us that. It was the perfect ending for my message before the game. So, it was just a perfect ending for a game that probably we could have played better, but due to the circumstances in all that, I thought it was a very good victory for the team.”

While the points may prove vital to Atlanta at the end and the manner of the victory made it feel that much sweeter – evidenced by the manic celebrations around Mercedes-Benz Stadium – it’d be unwise to rely on moments like this from unlikely sources as the regular-season draws to its conclusion.

“I didn’t even believe it when I scored it. I don’t have that skill set so don’t expect it again,” joked Gutman.

Even so, this arguably goes down as Atlanta United’s biggest win of the Pineda era so far. If it’s to really mean something and be remembered as a turning point for this club, it must serve as a reminder of what this team is capable of moving forward.

“I think it is just a confidence booster,” said Gutman. “Yeah, I scored the goal, but these guys played their hearts for 90 minutes. I came in for 10 minutes and helped the team, and we have been playing great football, but we have to start capitalizing on goals and chances, and I think we will be ok.”

The Five Stripes now sit 12th in the Eastern Conference, but just two points adrift of the Playoff spots with a game less played than most of their rivals. Up next is a trip to FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

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