Florentin Pogba and Justin Meram played well in their first starts for Atlanta United, according to manager Frank de Boer.
“I think Pogba played a fantastic game today,” de Boer said. “Very good in building out of the back, and defense-wise, he was very good.
“Meram started a little bit difficult but came in much better. It was also nice to see. Nice that they are ready to play when we need them.”
Among the reasons the players earned their first starts is that Atlanta United was playing the fifth game in a stretch of eight games in 28 days. The team will play at the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
Pogba was signed in the offseason to provide depth at centerback. The 28-year-old played a few minutes in the Champions League, but had yet to play in a league game.
He put in a full shift against Vancouver in place of Miles Robinson, who had played every minute of every game this season until Wednesday.
Pogba easily handled whomever Vancouver sent at him. His athletic ability was evident in cutting out passes or winning aerial battles.
“I was waiting for this opportunity to get this first chance to start for the team,” he said. “I’m happy for how I played and how the team played to get the win. That’s what was important.”
Pogba said he remained confident whether he was playing and understood his minutes were limited because the team was playing well.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan said he also was impressed by Pogba’s ability to play out of the back, which is hard to replicate in training. Pogba completed more than 92 percent of his passes.
“He was very good tonight,” Guzan said.
Meram was acquired in a trade with Columbus last week. He started in place of Julian Gressel.
After a slow start in which he had trouble connecting passes, Meram grew into the game. He took three shots and completed 70 percent of his passes.
“I knew if my work rate was high, I’d get into the game that way,” he said.
Meram said the chemistry will develop as he continues to train, watch film and talk with his teammates about their tendencies and movements. He was subbed for Gressel after 63 minutes.
“Sooner or later, I’ll get the hang of it and have better performances to come,” Meram said.
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