4 key players back for Atlanta United


Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba returned to training with Atlanta United on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Eastern Conference final playoff game against the New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The three, along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, were with their respective national teams for the past 10-12 days. Guzan, who was with the U.S. in England and Belgium, returned to training Thursday. Martinez was with Venezuela, which played in Japan and Qatar. He returned Wednesday afternoon. Almiron and Villalba were with Paraguay, which played in South Africa. They returned Thursday, but did work with the training staff.

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said the only concern he had with the players missing so many training sessions ahead of the two-leg series was them getting readjusted to the time change.

“Not being tired because it’s a big difference,” he said.

To help prepare for the Red Bulls, Guzan said he had conversations with goalkeepers coach Aaron Hyde and teammates.  Guzan said he wasn’t worried that the time away affected his rhythm.

“Fortunately I’ve been able to be a part of the national team for a few years, so I’ve done it before,” he said. “As soon as you are back on the plane your concentration has to change and you are immediately focused on your club team. That’s no different in this past week.”

Almiron said he was exclusively focused on Paraguay while he was with Paraguay.

“It’s good to be back in Atlanta and training with my teammates,” he said.

Martino said that midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Jeff Larentowicz and Chris McCann returned to training this week, as did fullback Sal Zizzo. The only two players not available are striker Romario Williams (ankle) and fullback Mikey Ambrose (knee).

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