Saturday marked the much-anticipated debuts of four of Atlanta United’s new signings, with Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe, Sal Zizzo and José Hernández all donning the Five Stripes for the first time. And despite their limited time together and a rain-soaked pitch, there were promising signs of things to come.
“As a team, sometimes we did well and at times a bit sloppy,” Nagbe told reporters Tuesday. "It just had to do with the conditions, the field conditions. Overall, a good first game and we’ll build on it.”
“Still getting used to the style of play a little bit, it’s a little more aggressive than I’m used to,” Zizzo added. But I’ve only been here a week and played a pretty good amount of minutes, so it felt good to get my legs going and get used to a lot of the guys.”
Nagbe was heavily involved in the midfield – smacking a shot off the post and adding a second-half assist – while Zizzo proved his versatility by playing both as a right back and a center back in a three-man back line.
“[The three-man back line] is something we have to fine-tune a little bit so we don’t get outnumbered in the back, like on the goal we gave up. If we can figure that piece out, I think it’ll be a good formation for us if we decide to play it. But communication was good. I think the style we play is a fun and exciting style. I’m looking forward to it and I think I’ll fit in well in that style.”
“I think I’m still figuring it out as I go,” Nagbe said. “Hopefully I did a good job, but we’ll go over the game soon and Tata will let us know what he wants to see from us. Sharpness is just the biggest thing to improve, and that will come.“
With 90 minutes finally under the team’s belt, it’s time for a trip to Charleston for the next leg of their preseason journey. And it’s clear all of Atlanta United’s additions are eager to build upon their first result and help take this team to the next level.
“This is one of the most exciting teams in the league when it comes to an attacking style of soccer," said Zizzo. "If you look at this facility, it’s only my second day training here in Atlanta and I’m still in awe of everything. It’s amazing, I couldn’t have been blessed to come to a better team. So, really excited to continue my career playing here and excited to do it.”
Atlanta United face the Columbus Crew, Minnesota United and the Charleston Battery in their next preseason trip. They’ll then make their return to competitive play on the road against the Houston Dynamo in their MLS season opener, before making their home debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against DC United on March 11th. Tickets to that match are still available, grab yours here.