It was a quiet day in Mexico City...
Not so fast, my friend.
Thursday turned out to be quite eventful for Atlanta United. From a new player signing to reconnecting with our journalist friends back home in Atlanta, the third (full) day in Mexico turned out to be a busy day for the club.
Here's a rundown of the day:
The team continued their training with a session in the morning at the Mexican National Team headquarters. There were no hiccups on the route, and the team arrived promptly at the training grounds around 9 a.m. local time.
After a brief activation in the weight room, the team hit the pitch. But first, a little celebration. The team formed a tunnel to celebrate two members of the staff, head athletic trainer Mario Cruz's birthday and mental strength and skills coach Ben Freakley's first preseason with the club. The guys got some loving pats as they ran through the tunnel.
Then, the team turned to training. They spread out and worked on passing and turning, receiving a ball then turning to make a long pass to another teammate. All the while, the fitness coaches put them through stretches to keep their muscles from getting sore.
After rondos, the team moved on to work on high pressure and playing out of the back. The pressing team worked to apply heavy pressure, then the team with the ball worked to get out of it. The sides went back and forth and simulated real game play. In one of the best plays of the day, Brooks Lennon tracked down a high cross on the right flank then sent it nearby to Thiago Almada. The midfielder then put some air under the ball on a cross with his right foot. The pass eluded a streaking Machop Chol, but landed right at the feet of Caleb Wiley on the far post. Closely defended, the Homegrown skillfully knocked the ball in with one touch for a goal.
The team concluded practice with some work on corner kicks and set pieces. Then, a few players stayed behind to take some extra shots on goal, stretch and juggle.
Etienne went first, answering questions about his integration to a new squad. The confident midfielder is enjoying being a member of Atlanta United so far and is looking forward to getting fully fit for the MLS home opener on February 25.
“What got me excited about joining [Atlanta United] was just the fact that I felt that I could bring something to the team that was needed,” he said.
Following Etienne, his head coach took questions from the media. He responded about the team's 3-3 draw to Chattanooga FC last Saturday. Then, he spoke a little bit about how the trip in Mexico is going so far and the standard he's working to set that can last the rest of the year:
“Culture, I always say, is something that has to be alive. It’s always evolving. Culture for me is behaviors. It’s equal to action. It's not just words, it’s not just buzz words that we use. And values, we speak about values as if it’s something that is up there in a cloud. No. It’s something real and something we have to live everyday... That doesn’t mean we’re going to have success on the field necessarily. That’s different, that’s independent. But if we win, we want to win with this culture that is different and that is something special. That’s where we are."
Pineda was busy making the media rounds on Thursday. Not only did he meet with Atlanta reporters, he also visited the ESPN studios and appeared on SportsCenter in Mexico.
Atlanta United had two major pieces of news drop today as well. First, the club announced that they signed defender Luis Abram, a defender. Abram is the first Peruvian to join the club. He also played with Thiago Almada at Vélez Sarsfield.
Later, the club announced that it has sent midfielder Edwin Mosquera on loan to Defensa y Justicia of the Argentine Primera División for the 2023 season. After joining the club late in last season's summer transfer window, Mosquera made 12 appearances and one start.
Finally, the team wrapped with a nice, quiet dinner at the hotel. Just kidding! This is a lively and eventful day after all...
The group went through a team-building exercise: an epic Rock, Paper, Scissors competition. Juanjo Purata was the eventual champion, beating out teammate Amar Sejdić in what was a vivacious finale. Then, the team went out for dinner to a cantina nearby. Together, players and staff ate steak and tacos while being serenaded by mariachi bands and entertained by magicians.
Next, Atlanta United hits the pitch again for training on Friday morning. A day after that, it's the first of Atlanta United's two preseason friendlies in México. We'll have a preview of Atlanta's opponent, Atlante F.C., and information on how to watch, so stay tuned.
Phew. That was quite a day. Buenas noches. ✌