Montreal Impact’s Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, right, challenges Atlanta United’s Mark Bloom during second-half MLS soccer game action in Montreal, Saturday, April 15, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Q&A: Atlanta United’s Mark Bloom

Mark Bloom grew up in Cobb County, playing soccer in youth leagues before going on to star at Lassiter High and then Berry College in Rome.

He broke into MLS with Toronto in 2013, making 40 starts in three seasons.

The 29-year-old was acquired by MLS expansion team Atlanta United in a trade and got his first start in last week’s 2-1 loss at Montreal.

Bloom, a right fullback, held his own in slowing Ignacio Piatti, who is considered one of the league’s better players.

He spent a few minutes on Wednesday answering a few questions about his background in soccer and his goals for this season heading into Saturday’s late game at Real Salt Lake.

Q: What is your first soccer memory?

A: I was playing. I think I was about 4 years old. I don’t know if I remember it per se, but I’ve seen the pictures and I do remember our first drill ever was dribbling around the entire field and trying to keep the ball as close to the line as possible. It was the hardest thing. My dad was the coach. My brother was on the team.

Those are fond memories. Most of my memories growing up, because I played up a year, are of my brother. That’s really a big part of it for me.

Q: What was your first team?

A: It was called Express. The Express.

Q: When did you start to figure out that you had an acumen for the game?

A: Through the whole process of playing up a year with my brother alongside the older guys. I didn’t really realize what was happening or what I was doing until I dropped back down to kids my age and I started doing really, really well. I didn’t realize I was playing against bigger, faster, stronger kids.

Being a smaller player, especially when I was young, developing that technical ability and on the tactical side of it …

That’s when I realized that I really enjoyed the sport and that I wanted to further my career.

At that point I was only thinking I would go and play in college. It wasn’t until I got to college – obviously professional is the ultimate goal – it wasn’t until I got to college that I really saw it as reality.

Q: Who was your favorite player growing up?

A: I always loved watching Ronaldo, Brazilian Ronaldo, he was so good, so fun. That whole Brazilian team. Kaka is one of my favorites. I know he’s not too old. I just loved watching him play for A.C. Milan.

Q: Was that the team you followed growing up, A.C. Milan?

A: Yes. Milan and Manchester United because Manchester United was the one that was always on TV.

Q: When did you find out that you were going to start against Montreal?

A: I heard some rumors the night before that maybe (Tyrone Mears) was struggling a little bit. I didn’t officially find out until about 2 1/2 hours before the game. I didn’t have much time to think about it. You just kind of get thrown in and have to be prepared.

Q: Was it difficult to get psyched up?

A: No, it’s not hard to get psyched up for your first start for 90 minutes. It’s all about being prepared, and that’s kind of how it goes. Some trips you can not play a minute and some trips you have to get ready.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the season? You’ve gotten your first start and held your own against one of the league’s better players.

A: Yeah. Just to try and build on that performance. That obviously doesn’t mean that I get to start and play every minute of every game, but I guess the goal is whenever I’m called upon, whenever I get a chance to play, to continually prove myself and prove myself competent in any circumstance, any situation, so when the time does arrive for me to be the main guy, I’ll be ready.

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