Heading into the eighth matchday of the 2023 campaign, Atlanta United is now in a similar predicament it was in last April: finding a replacement in goal for Brad Guzan. The veteran goalkeeper sustained a torn MCL in last week’s draw against New York City FC and is expected to be out for an estimated 10-12 weeks.
While the circumstances feel familiar, the biggest difference between last season and now is the availability of goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. The 5-Stripes signed Westberg to a one-year contract on Dec. 23, 2022, and he’s now a candidate to replace Guzan in Saturday’s match against Toronto FC.
“He has a lot of experience,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said on Thursday. “He’s a solid replacement for Brad. You can see the leadership that Brad brings, but [Westberg] has some composure in his game that I think is going to help the team solve some problems. We’re confident in him.”
Westberg would also have an advantage in this game, as he played with Toronto for four seasons before coming to Atlanta. He said his knowledge of the team and BMO Field would only add to his comfortability.
“Toronto is probably the stadium I know the most in MLS, so the environment won’t be that new or that exceptional to me,” Westberg said. “They have a lot of quality players, a lot of clinical players in front, guys that can adapt tactically and have a ton of experience. But there are downsides to their qualities also that we can exploit.”
Westberg is not the only player on the team being asked to step into a bigger role this week. U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday that the men’s national team has called up Atlanta United Homegrown Caleb Wiley for the Allstate Continental Clásico between the U.S. and Mexico on April 19.
The announcement marks the first callup to the senior national team for the 18-year-old, and Pineda confirmed that it will not affect Wiley’s status for the club on Saturday. The Atlanta United head coach said this selection is a testament to Wiley’s hard work and could serve as motivation for players in the Academy, where Wiley’s journey with Atlanta began.
“Those kids are 12, 14, and they see the final product: a guy that is starting every game and is now with the national team at 18 years old,” Pineda said. “He’s the one that’s been grinding, has been fighting. He’s been competing. We’re very happy for him and this first of many call-ups with the national team.”
There was some good news this week as Atlanta United got a player back. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso returned to training on Thursday for the first time since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee on April 2, 2022. Alonso has been working out individually or running laps with fitness coaches lately as he ramps up his rehab, but on Thursday he was welcomed back to training by teammates, participated partially in the session and celebrated his triumph on Twitter.
“It was a good day for everyone,” Pineda said. “He will start to progress and ramp up to being fully available. That may take time, but it’s good to have him back with the team for the first time in a long time.”
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