It was a hot, bright, muggy day at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground on Thursday. Atlanta United was out on the pitch at 9 a.m. sharp, preparing for the upcoming match against Austin FC on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
July 7 also marked the first day of the summer transfer window (it lasts until August 4). For today’s training notebook, we round up some of the main talking points and latest news heading into the team’s next match. Players to look out for, players who are moving on and players who have their eyes set on getting better:
The first transaction announced on Thursday was that Atlanta United loaned Tyler Wolff to SK Beveren, a second division side in Belgium. The Homegrown midfielder will be with the European club through the 2022-23 league season.
“He’s very excited about the opportunity,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “Europe is Europe… Belgium is a very good country for development purposes. So I think it’s going to be very good for Tyler.”
Wolff signed a Homegrown deal with Atlanta United in July 2020. This season, he made four starts in his five MLS appearances and recorded an assist in the 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City that kicked off Atlanta’s 2022 campaign.
The announcement comes on the heels of Wolff’s callup to the U.S. U-20 men’s national team. He helped the U.S. qualify for the 2024 Olympic Summer Games in Paris and win the Concacaf U-20 championship.
Later in the afternoon, Bobby Shuttleworth announced his retirement from professional soccer. The veteran goalkeeper joined Atlanta United this past offseason as a free agent acquisition.
Many expected him to serve as the backup for captain Brad Guzan, but when Guzan went down with a season-ending injury, Shuttleworth stepped in. For Atlanta United, Shuttleworth started six matches and made 10 saves.
Shuttleworth retires after playing 14 seasons in MLS. Before coming to Atlanta, he had stints at New England Revolution, Minnesota United FC and Chicago Fire FC. He finishes his career ranked 13th all-time among MLS goalkeepers in regular season games played (232).
Congratulations on a great career, Bobby!
The two players, who both previously played in Mexico, arrived to Atlanta in mid-June. They’ve been involved in team activities as well, training with the group and even traveling with the team to the away matches in the New York area last week.
“I think those five days [in New York] helped me get me on the same page as my teammates,” said Purata. “I think that the teammates I had already talked to, we get along even better. And those who I hadn’t gotten the chance to get to know I began to get to know them. So those days help. As for the team, they play really well. Thankfully, we were able to get a point on the road and I’m anxious to get on the pitch and be able to help.”
The center back has also made an impression on his head coach. When asked what he liked about Purata, Pineda provided insight on the center back’s strengths and how he can add depth to the backline.
“He really likes to communicate,” Pineda said. “So he’s very vocal… he’s tactically very disciplined, he really likes to be in the right spots… he’s also very solid with the aerial duels and he knows how to cover the back, so I think he’s a very good defender.”
The other side of that coin is Gudiño, who joined the squad at the same time as Purata.
Gudiño plays goalkeeper, an area of need after injuries to Guzan, Dylan Castanheira and the retirement of Shuttleworth. The Mexican international has quickly gotten in the mix. In the parts of practice open to the media, Gudiño is often seen challenging Atlanta’s attacking players such as Josef Martínez, Luiz Araújo and Thiago Almada to get one past him from the penalty spot. (And at 6-foot-5, Gudiño is fairly easy to spot on the training ground.)
The team is coming off three straight away matches, a tough part of the schedule. Out of nine possible points, Atlanta United secured one, but for Pineda there were different takeaways from each of the last three matches.
Against Toronto, he learned how teams prepare to play Atlanta United. With the Red Bulls, he felt the team was in control but made two very specific mistakes that cost Atlanta. And in the most recent match, the 2-2 draw with New York City FC, Pineda saw a good back-and-forth and a resilient Atlanta United side that fought back to equalize after trailing twice.
Overall, Pineda was happy with what his team showed during the road trip. He believes it’s something they can build on as they move into the second half of the season.
“But I mean, football is like this,” Pineda said. “Now, we have to turn it around and try to come for these three points against Austin. That’s always in our heads.”
- It’s a full-venue match for Atlanta United on Saturday, July 9 when they face red-hot Austin FC for the first-ever meeting between the two sides. Be sure to secure your ticket and be part of the rowdy and proud at Mercedes-Benz Stadium!