With a match coming up this weekend, Atlanta United is revving up its midweek preparation. On Wednesday, the team held two training sessions at the Mexican National Team headquarters. It's what's expected to be the only 'double day' of the 10-day trip.
The morning session got started earlier than it did on Tuesday. The group made it onto the pitch at around 9 a.m. local time. The team with through some early conditioning, mixing in running with stretching. Guys paired up and raced each other from one side of the field to the other, which really stretched their legs. (Fitness coach Jack Kimber jumped in and nearly kept up with the speedy Luiz Araújo.)
The team moved on to rondos then full field play with practice on playing the ball out of the back. In one of the most fluid plays of the day, midfielder Thiago Almada created a takeaway in the midfield. The ball went through Franco Ibarra, Matheus Rossetto, Caleb Wiley until it eventually found the feet of Araújo. The forward cut the ball nicely to evade the defender then finished the shot for a goal.
While the field players worked on that, the goalkeepers went through drills with coach Liam Curran. They took turns taking shots on one another -- yes, even goalkeepers can get some shots off -- and working on accuracy passing into a small net.
The team returned to the hotel for lunch and a quick break before heading back out to the facility for the afternoon session. After taking a circuitous route and hitting a traffic jam, the group got started on the pitch for round two a little later than expected -- around 4:30 p.m. local time. With the sun dropping into the mountains in the distance, players worked on making long passes and good movements.
At one part, offensive players and defensive players split up on different sides of the field. Assistant coaches Diego de la Torre and Eugenio Villazón worked with the defensive players on positioning. And on the other side head coach Gonzalo Pineda and assistant coach Rob Valentino worked with the offensive players on finishing. Several of the 2s players got invaluable instruction during this part from Pineda on how to make better runs on a cross.
Finally, the team ended training jogging a few laps around the pitch. Pineda encouraged the group to do it together and invited staff members on the sideline to jump in and do a little conditioning of their own. Equipment, administrative and digital staff were all part of the herd in the final moments of the day.
It was a long day for sure but a good one. Next, Atlanta United hits the pitch again for training on Thursday morning. Then, we'll be just two days from match day. The first of Atlanta United's two preseason friendlies in México is on Saturday against Atlante F.C.