Saturday's 2-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes marked a meaningful milestone for two Atlanta United players. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and center back Miles Robinson both started and played their first competitive match since sustaining season-ending injuries in the first few months of the 2022 season.
For Guzan, it was his first appearance since April 16, 2022 in a match against FC Cincinnati when he ruptured his Achilles tendon, the first major injury of his 18-year professional playing career. On Saturday, Guzan made three saves, including a big stop in the 18th minute that engendered the "Guzan" chant from the full crowd of supporters.
While he was out last season, Guzan spent his time staying involved in various activities with the club. Once he was cleared to travel, he joined the team on road trips. He participated in community events and even got a chance to call a game from the broadcast booth.
But for the ultra-competitive team captain, who also was voted the winner of Saturday's Golden Spike of Excellence, nothing compares to being back on the pitch.
"It felt great to be back out there," Guzan said. "It felt great to be with the guys. It felt great to play my part and do my job and help us get three points. Everyone was phenomenal tonight in terms of the work rate and just getting after it and not throwing in the towel."
Robinson's season-ending injury echoed Guzan's. He ruptured an Achilles tendon in his left leg on May 7, 2022 in Atlanta's 4-1 win over Chicago Fire. For Robinson, there was an additional blow since the injury knocked him out from a likely spot on the U.S. men's national team roster for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, a competition which he played a part to help the U.S. qualify.
It was a long way back for both players. Saturday night was a big moment they've both been looking forward to. Both men played a full 90 minutes to help Atlanta United walk away with three points.
“It was amazing [to see them back]," defender Andrew Gutman said. "Sometimes at halftime you just kind of need a kick in the butt and Brad is that guy to give it to you, in a positive way. It’s not ‘I’m trying to knock you in any way, but bring that little energy, that little bite’. Miles with the left winger, Miles made him look slow. To have Miles back there is amazing for us.”
"The saves that Brad made in the first half were amazing," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "And obviously Miles dealing with the pace of [Cade] Cowell and [Jeremy] Ebobisse and dealing with bigger spaces with all of that was impressive. So very happy not just to have them back but to have them back at that standard was pretty good to see."