It hasn’t been the best week for Atlanta United, but at least after Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake things could potentially get slightly better.
Within the past seven days the team lost to Montreal 2-1 on a goal in the final seconds. The team also saw Leandro Gonzalez Pirez receive a questionable red card late in the first half, which reduced the MLS expansion team to 10 men for the second half.
On Tuesday, it was announced that the team won’t get to play in the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium until September, a delay of six months from the original timeline.
But things are starting to improve. Pirez’s red card was rescinded by the league Wednesday, and any negative feelings may be wiped out if the team can earn three points — bringing its total to a respectable five from a possible 12 during the four-game road stretch — at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We have been doing good so far, but it’s time to win away,” midfielder Kevin Kratz said.
Manager Gerardo Martino thought his team was playing its best in the three-game stretch at Montreal until the red card changed everything.
“We aren’t worried about that. We haven’t won yet on this road trip,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “We knew it was a tough road trip, and we’ve faced some tough circumstances. We’ve had the right mentality. We had a good game plan going into Montreal. The game changes with that call. Still unlucky not to get out of there with that point.
“We expect to win again in Salt Lake. Going out there with the mindset to take three points. That would be a good end to this road trip.”
It won’t be easy. Real Salt Lake is 2-0 since Mike Petke began roaming the sidelines as the team’s second coach this season. But Atlanta United will have back not only Pirez and fullback Tyrone Mears, who missed last week’s game with an injury, but also midfielder Yamil Asad, who sat out the game at Montreal because of another questionable red card received in the previous 2-2 draw at Toronto.
Though most of the players on the team said they’ve never experienced this many consecutive road games, they won’t complain because it wasn’t a surprise.
“We’ve done it three weeks consecutively now,” forward Kenwyne Jones said. “Another week, another day, another dollar.”
SCOUTING REAL SALT LAKE
Coach: Mike Petke.
Previous game: 2-1 win over Colorado.
Three players to watch:
Kyle Beckerman: It will be interesting to see how the ageless defensive midfielder deals with Miguel Almiron’s speed. The Paraguayan ran circles around Michael Bradley, another slow defensive midfielder, earlier this season.
Albert Rusnak: The midfielder leads the team with three assists and has added a goal. It has taken him a few games to get used to MLS as evidenced by most of his production coming in the past few games.
Yura Movsisyan: The Armenian international leads the team with four goals in his second stint in Utah. He’s big (6-1) and has enough speed to get into space in the defense.