December 4, 2018 Marietta - Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron (foreground) and forward Josef Martinez warm up during their practice at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Strong group of South Americans in MLS Cup

Saturday’s MLS Cup between Atlanta United and Portland at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have a distinctively South American feel.

Atlanta United’s roster includes eight players, as well as manager Gerardo Martino, from countries in South America. Five, as well as Martino, are from Argentina. Two, including MVP candidate Josef Martinez are from Venezuela. One, Miguel Almiron, is from Paraguay.

Portland’s roster includes nine players, as well as manager Giovanni Savarese, from countries in South America. Four, including Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are from Argentina, three from Colombia, one from Paraguay and one from Peru. Savarese is from Venezuela. 

“I think it has to do with the quality of the Argentine players, or South American players, that there are a lot in this game,” said Atlanta United’s Hector Villalba, an Argentine. “It’s special.”

Savarese said Monday that MLS is becoming a league of priority for South Americans. Part of the attraction is the quality of the league, according to Atlanta United’s Franco Escobar, an Argentine.

“You are seeing more South Americans, especially young players coming into this league and making it a stronger league,” he said. “That’s going to continue to happen.”

“I think they’ve all taken the league seriously and are given their maximum effort,” he said. “They know it’s a difficult league with good teams and players. If you come here expecting it to be an easy league, then you are making a mistake, but I think all those guys, you’ve seen the effort they’ve put in, and that’s why there are so many Argentines in the final.”

Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco, an Argentine, said it’s almost like a South American final.

“We are excited and looking to enjoy the game,” he said.

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