Atlanta United’s Manuel Castro confident goals will come

Manuel Castro (Atlanta United)
Manuel Castro (Atlanta United)

Atlanta United striker Manuel Castro wishes he scored in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but the fact that three times he was in position to do so gives him confidence.

Castro may get another chance Thursday when Atlanta United plays Cincinnati in the second game of the MLS tournament. It’s a crucial game because both teams were beaten in their first game. Just six points are left to accumulate in hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds.

“We have to correct some of our mistakes and focus on playing like we want,” Castro said. “We created chances. We have to be more decisive in in creating and finishing those chances.  We want to win this next game and then have everything to play for in this next match against a difficult opponent in Columbus.”

Castro said Monday that he has known since the second week of training that he was going to be striker. Typically a wide player at previous clubs Montevideo in Uruguay and Estudiantes in Argentina, Castro said striker is a not a position in which he feels uncomfortable.

Castro said he did well in training, scoring goals. When he would miss chances and feel anxious, he would talk to Josef Martinez, whose position he is playing. Martinez is out for the season because of a knee injury suffered in the opening game in February.

Castro said Martinez advised him to sometimes take another touch to gather himself. It’s something Martinez often does, by faking a shot, or simply pushing the ball to either side as defenders slide past or the goalie flaps at air.

Martinez, winner of the league MVP in 2018 holder of several records, is one of the more feared strikers in the league, so there is some pressure of expectation when playing the position.

“I think they will go in in the next match,” Castro said.

Castro was Martinez-like several times against the Red Bulls. He got past the centerbacks and came within a toe-poke of connecting with a cross from Brooks Lennon in the first half.

In the second half, he missed two chances within a span of few minutes. On the first, he said he faked a run to the back post before sprinting across the face of the defender where he met the cross but mishit the shot off his left ankle. It was a Martinez-like run without the result. But Martinez, it needs to be said, didn’t score every time he touched the ball. It just sometimes seemed like it.

“(Castro) was a presence up there for sure,” fullback George Bello said Monday. “He put himself in the right position. He’s a hard worker.”

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