Atlanta United FC vs FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium, Saturday, July 4, 2018 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)
Photo: Richard W. Rodriguez
Photo: Richard W. Rodriguez

Gressel: Atlanta United injuries related to schedule

Julian Gressel said the Atlanta United’s short offseason and compressed schedule have contributed to the numerous injuries its players have suffered this season.

“It’s proven that you have a higher injury risk when you play more games,” he said.

After winning the MLS Cup on Dec. 8 last season, Atlanta United reported for training to defend that title Jan. 14. It played its first game Feb. 21 and has played 26 more games in the 20 weeks since with two more games coming this week. It has traveled for training camp to California and loaded up to play games in Costa Rica, Mexico, Boston, Vancouver, Toronto, Salt Lake City and Seattle, to name just a few places.

Atlanta United on Tuesday announced that fullback Brek Shea will have season-ending knee surgery for an injury suffered in Sunday’s loss at Seattle. 

The butcher’s bill:

  • The team has been without fullback George Bello the entire league season because of an adductor injury suffered in the first Champions League that was re-aggravated while playing with Atlanta United 2. 
  • Fullback Franco Escobar didn’t make his first appearance until March 30 after suffering a shoulder injury on the first day of training camp. 
  • Midfielder Kevin Kratz has made one appearance because of a calf injury suffered during the preseason.
  • Midfielder Hector Villalba has been out since May 19 with a knee injury suffered at Red Bulls.
  • Midfielder Ezequiel Barco has made one appearance  (in the U.S. Open Cup) since May 5 because he went to the U20 World Cup with Argentina, returned and suffered a knee injury. 
  • Centerback Flo Pogba hasn’t played since suffering a hamstring injury July 7. 
  • Fullback Fullback Mikey Ambrose has been in and out with injuries and is out again.
  • Striker Brandon Vazquez didn’t make his first appearance until June 26 because of a knee injury.

“It feels just like a grind,” Gressel said. “Mentally, physically. Nature of the season. 

“It’s been tough.”

Atlanta United isn’t the first team to experience a glut of injuries in a compressed schedule that includes the Champions League. Gressel referenced Sporting KC, which for several games couldn’t field 18 players for games earlier this season, and Toronto, which failed to make the playoffs and defend its MLS Cup last year after it was decimated by injuries.

“We are going to have to push through,” Gressel said. “We knew there would be injuries along the way. Didn’t know they would be this significant. We have to be up for the challenge.”

Despite a list of injuries so lengthy the team doesn’t have a fullback healthy enough to start Wednesday, Gressel said, “I’m telling you right now, there’s not one player in this locker room that says, ‘I want to sit out.’ That’s not who we are as a team and not who I’ve gotten to know. 

“We want to be out there. we want to grind. We want to battle.”

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