Atlanta United held its season-ending media session last week at the training ground in Marietta.
Over the next few days, I’ll post a few stories from interviews with Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra and players Michael Parkhurst, Brad Guzan, Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba, Julian Gressel and Miguel Almiron.
Here are excerpts from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who finished fourth in Defender of the Year voting:
Q: What stands out in the season?
A: I think we had a great season. The outlook, overall, was very positive. One of our goals was to make the playoffs. We were able to do that. Another of our goals was to reach the final. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to accomplish that.
But in our first year we implemented a style and stuck to it. With that said, there are a lot of positive things we can build on.
Q: Would you advise other Argentinians to come to MLS?
A: Yes. As we know, Argentina is a country where soccer is the primary sport. There are certain characteristics that all Argentine players have. But I think it would be good for the league for other Argentine players to come.
For me, personally, I’d be happy to have other Argentine players come to the league for culture, it’s easy to get along with those players. I would tell them for sure to come.
Q: When you get to MLS, I’m sure you had certain expectations or impressions of the league. Now that you’ve been through it, what surpassed those expectations and what didn’t?
A: It exceeded a lot of my expectations, to be honest. I expected it to be a competitive league. It was even more competitive than I had anticipated. I thought maybe that there just a few teams that were good enough to implement their style of play. Not at all. All the teams are competitive. The worst team can beat the best team on any given day. The league was even more competitive than I expected.
Another thing that exceeded my expectations for sure was the support of the fans. I thought coming to a country where soccer wasn’t the No. 1 sport, it would be different. It was exactly the opposite. We played in front of sell-out crowds all the time, especially at home. Even the fans on the road, you could tell that there was great support for the sport in this country.
And the league, how organized everything is, exceeded my expectations.
Q: You were on the shortlist for MLS Defender of the Year. There’s always something players can work on. Is there something specifically you think you can work on this offseason.
A: Overall, I’m happy with the season I put in. Finishing fourth, hopefully next season I’ll finish even higher.
It’s a joy for me to finish fourth, especially with all the great defenders that were in the league.
Speaking about improving, there are always things that players can improve on. One thing for me is maybe having less fouls and less yellow card suspensions next season. That’s something I’ll work on.