Atlanta United close to full strength for Miami

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

With the exception of Ozzie Alonso, Atlanta United will have a full complement of players available for Saturday’s MLS match against Miami, featuring Lionel Messi, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, manager Gonzalo Pineda said Thursday.

Several players who missed Tuesday’s training session because they were with their national teams returned and resumed training either Wednesday or Thursday. That group included attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, centerbacks Miles Robinson and Luis Abram and wingers Saba Lobjanidze and Derrick Etienne. Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis already had returned and trained Tuesday.

Giakoumakis, Almada, Robinson, Abram and Lobjanidze likely will start Saturday.

Atlanta United (11-8-9) is in sixth place in the East. It has six games remaining. Its goal is to finish in at least fourth place. It trails Philadelphia by four points for that spot. The Union have two fewer matches.

Miami (8-14-4) is in 14th and is six points behind D.C. United for the ninth and final playoff spot. Miami has eight games remaining, including two in hand on D.C. United.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be open to full capacity Saturday. More than 70,000 tickets are expected to be sold or distributed. Kickoff will be at 5:09 p.m. MLS Commissioner Don Garber is scheduled to attend the match.

Miami hasn’t yet said if Messi will be available. Miami manager Gerardo Martino said Wednesday that Messi will be evaluated over the next few days.

Pineda said Atlanta United is preparing as if Messi will start Saturday.

“Why I admire him is because he’s always, most of the time, he’s available,” Pineda said. “He just loves to play. So I would assume that he’s going to play.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 5 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA