Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino says Gonzalo Pineda was in touch after Sunday’s 1-0 win over LAFC.
Pineda signed a contract through the 2024 season to become Gabriel Heinze’s replacement last week. However, the former Mexican international will only take over from Valentino after Five Stripes’ home game against Toronto FC on Wednesday night due to a positive Covid-19 test.
Gonzalo Pineda has not been able to take the reins yet / Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, Valentino continues to lead Atlanta’s revival. Sunday’s victory, which came with a 46-minute strike by Josef Martinez, is the first time they have won back-to-back MLS matches this season. During Valentino, the Five Stripes have now taken seven points from four games.
In a conversation with journalists after the match, Valentino revealed that Pineda sent an SMS to congratulate him and the players on the result.
“I checked my phone really fast because I thought he could text,” Valentino said. “He said ‘very good job’ and that he was proud of the boys.
“I can not compliment that guy enough. I can not imagine how difficult it is to have this opportunity and not be here. But I have been in contact with him. For me he is with us, he is part of this “We want to make sure that the message is conveyed. When he comes here, we will welcome him with open arms and we will continue our work.”
After a tough first half where LAFC could easily have moved on, Atlanta quickly had to work after the break.
Five Stripes turned the defense into an attack with a Marcelino Moreno pass, before Ezequiel Barco ran free to give Martinez an easy finish just one minute after half-time.
Magin i Barco & @ JosefMartinez17? pic.twitter.com/JPWUTkdx5l
– Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) August 15, 2021
It was Martinez’s third goal in a row, two of which have now been assisted by Barco.
On their relationship, Martinez described Barco as “like a son”, and that their closeness is what lies behind their connection on the pitch.
“It’s my guy. He’s like my son, “Martinez told reporters. We have a good relationship, so I’m happy. I tried to find my partner and I have a good relationship with him. I like him.
“I say ‘thank you’ because we talk a lot about assists, my goal and stuff. And that’s why I said ‘thank you’ to him. I like to see him like that.”
Barco has been in great shape for Atlanta / Perry McIntyre / ISI Photos / Getty Images
Asked if he could create a partnership with Barco similar to the one he enjoyed with Miguel Almiron 2018, Martinez replied: “I do not like to make comparisons. Miguel is unique. (Julian) Gressel, after Miguel, is unique. I would like him again.
“And Barquito is special. He’s like my son. You have to love him. There are days he understands more than others but he improves. The other day he did a golazo. I’m happy for him because we’ve shared a lot of times, good. and not so good, and I see a sensitive person.You need to know how to treat him, give him advice, talk to him, because when he is in shape he is a differentiator for us.
“We joked with him in the locker room because he has two assists in a year and it’s like a record. I’m very happy for him because I love him and I have a good relationship with him and his family.”