Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson return for Atlanta United in victory

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan and teammates celebrate with fans after Atlanta United won 2-1 against San Jose during their MLS season opener Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan and teammates celebrate with fans after Atlanta United won 2-1 against San Jose during their MLS season opener Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Jason Getz /

Watching Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan and centerback Miles Robinson play in Saturday’s 2-1 win against San Jose at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it was like they never missed any time.

Both suffered ruptured Achilles last season that prematurely ended their seasons. Saturday’s season opener was their first meaningful action in nine months.

Robinson locked down anyone who came into his orbit, usually the speedy Cade Cowell. Guzan made three saves, with perhaps the most important being his halftime talk to his teammates after they fell behind 1-0 in the opening 15 minutes.

“It felt great to be back out there,” said Guzan, the team captain. “It felt great to be with the guys. It felt great to play my part, do my job and help us get three points. Everyone was phenomenal (Saturday night) in terms of the work rate and just getting after it and not throwing the towel in.”

Watching Guzan and Robinson’s return was one of a few things that manager Gonzalo Pineda said made him feel really good during the game.

The absences of both players last season contributed to the team failing to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s a long time since they played an MLS game, and I’m sure the whole journey of those two, it’s very special for them to be back,” Pineda said. “Kudos to the trainers and all the people in the medical staff. They did an amazing job with them, day after day suffering the ups and downs of those type of injuries, and they did great, so kudos to my medical staff. So happy, very happy for them to be back.”

Fullback Andrew Gutman said having both players sparked the team. He said Robinson made Cowell look slow. Guzan lifted the team after a frustrating first half in which it gave up a goal and missed a penalty kick.

“Sometimes at halftime you just kind of need a kick in the (pants), and Brad is that guy to give it to you, in a positive way,” Gutman said. “It’s not ‘I’m trying to knock you in any way, but bring that little energy, that little bite.’ ”

Paraphrasing, Guzan said he reminded his teammates that the other team is trying to win, too. It’s up to them what happens next.

“It’s how we react in situations, it’s how we help each other,” he said. “It’s how we fight for each other.”

While Guzan and Robinson aren’t new faces, they seemed like new faces because of their absences. Three more players, Derrick Etienne, Miguel Berry and Luis Abram, made their true debuts for the team in the second half.

Etienne and Berry came on in the 56th minute. Abram came on in the 80th minute. Etienne won the free kick that resulted in Thiago Almada’s game-winning goal.

Pineda said he likes the movements of Berry and Etienne, saying he thinks the left side of the formation, which includes Gutman, will be very dangerous once they start playing together more.

“I think the fans are going to see some quality out of him, and then Miguel coming in, he was only training with us for a week, so he doesn’t really know the system,” Gutman said. “But you just have to run sometimes, and he ran, he fought, he won balls for us.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

March 11 at Charlotte FC, noon, Fox

March 18 vs. Portland Timbers, 7:30 p.m.

March 25 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

April 1 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

April 8 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1

April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox

May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.

May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.

May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1

June 3 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.

June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox

July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.

July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 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