Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (right) celebrates his goal with Pity Martinez, who had the assist, for a 1-0 lead over FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United should be physically fine for first game back

Atlanta United won’t get an opportunity to play an exhibition before it opens the MLS tournament in July, which makes that important game a challenge, team Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said on Friday.

To consider playing an exhibition game in Orlando ahead of the tournament would mean relocating to Florida two weeks before the first game so that MLS protocols regarding COVID-19 are followed. Because most of the players will already be gone to play at least three games, the team elected to not travel early.

So, the next few weeks will be treated like the team’s second preseason and the first game, whether it’s against Cincinnati, Red Bulls or Columbus. 

“It’s a strange time already,” Bocanegra said. “Everyone’s been by themselves for so long and now we will be away.”

Bocanegra said Atlanta United’s squad is big enough that they can scrimmage against each other.

An advantage for Atlanta United is what was among the first MLS teams to resume individual training in early May, small group training and group training. 

Because it started team training on Monday and because they now know the teams that are in their group, Atlanta United can work on different systems and tactics. Bocanegra described that as a big advantage.

The team’s sports science department has used the past few weeks to better prepare the players for that first game, expected to be July 12. Atlanta United’s players have said they had hoped to get at least four weeks of training before play resumed.

“Now we know our start date we can work backward,” he said. “Physically, we should be fine.” 

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