The preseason trip in México is drawing to a close as Atlanta United held their final training session in Mexico City. Tuesday was their last day training at the Mexican National Team headquarters. They'll have a match day tomorrow (more on that below) and fly home on Thursday.
With a midweek match, Tuesday's session was light. From unloading players and equipment from the sprinter vans to the final few minutes of juggling and PK practice, it was a crisp two hours at the facility from start to finish. After that, coaches and some members of the staff stayed behind for the traditional staff soccer game, held on the same field where the players trained. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda's team took an early 4-0 lead. The green team, captained by assistant coaches Rob Valentino and Liam Curran fought back, however the comeback came up just short and Pineda's team won 4-3.
The start of Atlanta United's training began with rondos, then the team moved to a cascaritas game. Assistant coach Diego de la Torre, who celebrated his birthday earlier this week, jumped in and played for the blue team. Aiden McFadden and Alan Carleton were the two goalkeepers for either side. The highlight of the game was a goal from Luiz Araújo, who scored end-to-end. From his own goal line, he launched a shot that squeezed underneath goalkeeper McFadden's reach for a goal. The Brazilian celebrated his incredible long-shot goal with an epic slide on the grass toward his teammates.
On the other end, the goalkeepers played keepaway themselves in a very tight space with one person in the middle, diving and blocking to break up the passes. They then moved onto work on defending corners and crosses.
That's a wrap on training at the Mexican National Team headquarters. They were great hosts to us and we thank them for allowing us to spend some time and train at their facility.
Match preview: Cruz Azul vs. Atlanta United
Tomorrow is matchday! Atlanta United takes on Cruz Azul for the final of two preseason friendlies in México. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time (11 a.m. in Atlanta). The match is closed, so there will be no live stream or fans in attendance.
Here's what else you need to know about the matchup:
Who is Cruz Azul?
Cruz Azul, or Club de Fútbol Cruz Azul, is a professional football club based in Mexico City. The club competes in Liga MX, the top division of Mexican soccer. Liga MX includes Toluca FC, which Atlanta will host at Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this month for the second annual American Family Insurance Cup. Atlanta United drew Cruz Azul in their group for the inaugural Leagues Cup that includes MLS and Liga MX clubs, so the two sides will meet again later this season.
Cruz Azul was founded in Hidalgo before moving to Mexico City in 1971. The team is well-known for their blue color. In Spanish, "azul" means blue. One of the club's nicknames is "La Máquina Azul," which means The Blue Machine.
Atlanta United meets Cruz Azul while Liga MX is in-season. In the standings, Cruz Azul currently ranks 17th out of 18 clubs. The team has lost three of their last five matches.
Where is the match?
The friendly will be played at Cruz Azul's home stadium, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Estadio Azteca is a storied and famous venue in México. Not only is it the home stadium for Cruz Azul and Club America, it's also the official home for the Mexican National Team.
With a capacity of over 106,000, the stadium is the largest in México and Latin America. It's hosted several major sporting events including two FIFA World Cup Finals and NFL games, most recently between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers in November 2022.