Atlanta United Opens Preseason Play With Scrimmage Against Georgia Storm January 25, 2022

Atlanta United kicked off the first of its five preseason friendlies on Tuesday with a match against the Georgia Storm. The scrimmage consisted of two 30-minute halves. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda split the Atlanta side into two groups, each group playing one half. 

The first group featured key returners such as defenders Alan Franco and George Campbell, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, striker Luiz Araújo, and midfielder Matheus Rossetto.  

Young players were added to the mix. Midfielder Tyler Wolff made some plays, including clearing the ball in the run of play that led to Araújo slipping the ball to striker Jackson Conway for a goal. Atlanta’s first round SuperDraft pick, Erik Centeno, also played with the first group, showing some foot skills while adapting to the pace of play. 

“These are the games where you can act like a chicken with your head cut off just running around,” Conway said. “That’s how you get that match fitness and that’s really important, creating that chemistry with your teammates.” 

The group that played the second half included returners like midfielder Franco Ibarra and defender Mikey Ambrose. Newly acquired goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was in goal. Plenty of young players were also out there, like SuperDraft pick Tola Showunmi, Atlanta United 2 player Robbie Mertz and Academy prospect Noah Cobb.  

Pineda said the team worked on three main things this week at training that he wanted to see play out in the scrimmage. First, pressing high and applying pressure. Then, on the defensive side, working on the back four and building that defensive lower block on the field. And finally, working on the field of play.  

“Not very specific, but very generic concepts and principles have been the main thing, and I think it was decent,” Pineda said. 

The match was closed to the public, which meant it was easy to hear. Unsurprisingly, Guzan’s voice was probably the loudest. He focused mostly on encouraging his teammates to keep possession and directing new players, guys like Aiden McFadden, who started the scrimmage at right fullback. 

The emphasis on communication continued when Shuttleworth took over goalkeeping duties in the second half. Shuttleworth was almost just as loud as Guzan, taking on a leadership role and directing younger guys like Cobb and Mertz on positioning.  

“On the soccer side, we’re trying to build those behaviors and build a style of play that we want,” Pineda said. 

Atlanta United was missing several first team members who are currently on international duty. That includes defenders Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson, and Caleb Wiley (United States), midfielder Ronald Hernández and striker Josef Martínez (Venezuela), and striker Machop Chol (South Sudan).  

Defender George Bello returned to Atlanta from January camp with the U.S. men’s national team, but was given a few days off and didn’t play on Tuesday. Striker Jake Mulraney is still absent, working on his green card process. Midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Santiago Sosa did not play in the scrimmage but continued rehabbing on their own. Midfielder Ezequiel Barco and striker Erik López were given permission to report to preseason later and were not at the Training Ground. 

Marcelino Moreno also did not participate in the scrimmage on Tuesday after getting stepped on during practice on Monday. The midfielder is day-to-day.  

Atlanta United continues its preseason friendlies on Sunday when it travels to Athens to play at the Turner Sports Complex at the University of Georgia. Fans will be able to stream the match on atlutd.com/live.

Atlanta United kicks off the 2022 season on Feb. 27 against Sporting Kansas City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Click here to view tickets.