Atlanta United’s Emerson Hyndman pleased with progress after injury

Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman (20) looks to pass against the Seattle Sounders during the first half  Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

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Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman (20) looks to pass against the Seattle Sounders during the first half Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Emerson Hyndman was sitting in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, watching his Atlanta United teammates take the field for a game against Philadelphia on June 20.

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Hyndman had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in a non-contact injury during training almost two weeks earlier. His season was over after seven games, with one goal and one assist.

He didn’t expect to feel anything watching his teammates.

And then the national anthem played. In a Pavlovic response, Hyndman’s feet started moving as if he were on the field getting ready to start.

“It all hit me because I realized I was going to maybe not be able to play for a very long time,” he said Friday.

Hyndman’s rehab is going well. The midfielder began running a month ago and is doing some work with the ball.

“I think it’s one thing at a time, you know, for me,” he said. “It’s just getting back on the field and feeling fully comfortable again. Obviously, the time to compete for places will come. But for me, it’s just getting back on the field.”

Getting through the rehab process involved Hyndman staying around people and working on what he could improve. So, he said he spent time in the gym adding muscle in places that he thinks will make him better. He looked bigger in the shoulders and neck Friday.

“I learned a lot about just the everyday stuff,” he said. “The stuff that you don’t think about. A lot of times you come in and you train you go home, you know, you don’t really think twice about not having football in your life when you’re a footballer.”

This was Hyndman’s first serious injury.

Hyndman said Josef Martinez, who suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the 2020 season, offered what advice he could. The sum: It’s not going to heal overnight. Do the work. Do it right.

So, that’s what Hyndman has done. Because he has experienced no setbacks, the rehab has gone well. He said the next step will be joining the team and adjusting to the speed of play.

He said he’s excited to play under Gonzalo Pineda. He thinks the midfielders have more freedom within his tactics and strategies.

“It’s exciting; I see a place in there,” he said. “And, you know, it’s just all about the hardware to get there.”

Hyndman will be an interesting fit. He is a player who has been quietly productive, with four goals and six assists in 42 appearances despite playing a variety of positions in the midfield under four different managers.

Pineda likes Hyndman’s technical ability and how smooth he is with his first touch and first pass, which is something the manager puts a lot of focus on. Pineda said he doesn’t yet know if Hyndman is more of an attacking midfielder or a central midfielder.

“Maybe he doesn’t have that pace, really to break lines through dribbling, but he has a lot of dynamic movements, plays and moves,” Pineda said. “So obviously, you can always use players like that. So now we have to be patient and see how he comes back from his long-term injury. That probably is coming this preseason, maybe after, we don’t know. But we have to be patient and see where he’s at, and we will see if we can utilize him in a good way for the team.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

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