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Atlanta United’s Almiron returns to training

Miguel Almiron has been out with a hamstring injury.
Miguel Almiron has been out with a hamstring injury.

Atlanta United could have its first-choice 11 for Sunday’s playoff game with the return of Miguel Almiron. The influential midfielder returned to training with Atlanta United’s first team on Tuesday as it prepares for its MLS playoff game on Sunday. However, he didn’t train with them on Wednesday. It’s not uncommon for the team to give players returning from injuries a day off after a full training session the previous day. He is listed as day-to-day by the team.

Almiron sustained a strained hamstring three weeks ago that forced him to miss a win against Chicago at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and last week’s 4-1 loss at Toronto in which the the Five Stripes lost out on the Supporters’ Shield, top seed in the East and setting a single-season points record in MLS.

Almiron, arguably the best player in MLS, has 12 goals and 14 assists this season as an attacking midfielder.

“He’s a threat on any time he’s on,” teammate Darlington Nagbe said.

Atlanta United’s opponent on Sunday has yet to be determined. It will be either NYCFC, D.C. United or Columbus. NYCFC will host Philadelphia tonight at Yankee Stadium. D.C. United will host Columbus on Thursday.

Should NYCFC win, Atlanta United will play there on Sunday and host the second leg on Nov. 11.

Atlanta United’s offense hasn’t looked as sharp without Almiron. Manager Gerardo Martino used two combinations of players in the past two games in an attempt to give his team its best chance to win.

The first group, which included Andrew Carleton, Ezequiel Barco and Julian Gressel , scored one goal against Chicago. The second goal in the 2-1 win was an own-goal. The second group included Barco, Gressel and Hector Villalba, who came on as a sub. Josef Martinez scored the game’s only goal after Darlington Nagbe was tripped in the penalty box. Gressel scored a goal that was disallowed because of an offside.

Carleton didn’t train on Tuesday and Wednesday because of a contact injury sustained last week. He is also listed as day to day

In addition to Almiron’s return to training, the team received a boost in the loss to Toronto with the return from injury of Villalba and fullback Greg Garza. Garza came off the bench against Toronto for his first minutes since sustaining a shoulder injury on May 20 that required surgery. He started the season as the first-choice left fullback.

Adding depth to training are strikers Patrick Okonkwo and Gordon Wild, who have re-joined the team after wrapping up their loan seasons with the Charleston Battry in the USL. Okonkwo is  a Homegrown player. Wild was selected in the Draft this year.