Storm clouds darkened the sky early Thursday morning, making it look like someone turned off the lights on the pitch at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. It wasn’t a good sign for the Atlanta United training session scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. and sure enough, right when practice was expected to start, lightning struck in the area.
The weather kept the team from hitting the pitch, and players were forced to spend their energy elsewhere. They seemingly grew restless being contained indoors. Reports came in of a very noisy locker room, loud enough that staff members inside the facility could hear the team (it should come as no surprise that Brad Guzan’s voice could be heard above them all).
Eventually, the morning was called. With more rain and lightning, the team remained indoors for the training session. However, the prep work continued for the match on Sunday against L.A. Galaxy. Players worked out in the gym at the facility, then went over tactics with the coaches.
Here are a few more insights and observations from the Training Ground:
Andrew Gutman Returns To Training
It was an encouraging sight to see defender Andrew Gutman return to training. The team welcomed him back earlier this week with the trademark tunnel out on the pitch.
The defender has been making his way from a quadriceps injury he sustained in May. On May 23, the club announced that he was expected to miss 8-12 weeks. His last appearance for Atlanta United was in the MLS matchup against Nashville SC on May 21. Prior to the injury, Gutman started all 12 of Atlanta United’s matches in MLS play.
In his stead, two youngsters have gotten significant playing time for Atlanta United. 23-year-old Aiden McFadden and 17-year-old Caleb Wiley have started the last six matches together for the 5-Stripes. The players have gotten valuable experience in this stretch, and now Gutman’s return could bring even more depth to Atlanta United’s backline.
Juanjo Purata Adapting To Atlanta
Another piece of that backline has been the addition of Juanjo Purata, the center back from Mexico on loan from Tigres. Purata was available to speak to the media for the first time since scoring against Orlando City SC. His first career goal arrived at just the right moment, equalizing an intense match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during Heineken Rivalry Week.
For the goal, Purata was also named to the MLS Team of the Week. It’s the first time he’s received league honors and the second time in as many weeks that a player from Atlanta United has been recognized by MLS.
After the match against Orlando City SC, head coach Gonzalo Pineda remarked at how quickly Purata has adjusted to MLS play. Since joining the club during the secondary transfer window, Purata has made appearances in all three MLS matches he’s been available for. He’s been in the starting XI for both matches against Real Salt Lake and Orlando City SC.
Purata himself attributes the quick transition on the good fit he’s found in Atlanta and says he’s been acclimating well to the club.
“I like the style of play of the team, and I think the style suits me,” he said. “So, on the field, it’s going well. And off the field, it’s going well also, just trying to get to know my teammates. So, I’d say the adaptation is going well.”
The Team Is Back… And Striving For Consistency
With a home 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake followed by a come-from-behind draw against Orlando City, Atlanta United capped off a three-match homestand on a positive note with four points earned. After the Orlando City match, Pineda said “the team is back,” indicating the fight and passion the team showed for each other on the pitch.
Now, Atlanta United has a chance to take their passion on the road. The club endures one of its longest road trips of the season to meet L.A. Galaxy on Sunday (and one of its latest with a 9:30 p.m. ET kickoff). Then, the club closes out the month hoping to steal points from a Chicago Fire FC side they beat 4-1 earlier in the season.
With only six home matches remaining, the team knows the importance of this away stretch as it pushes to climb above the playoff line. And two team performances could act as a springboard to creating consistency the second half of 2022.
“It shows that we’re improving, but I think we have to consistently show that we’re back,” defender George Campbell said. “That starts last game, it starts next game, and it has to be every game that we’re putting in that kind of effort.”
- After the road trip, Atlanta United returns home for a big match on August 6 against Pineda’s former team, Seattle Sounders. It’s a full-venue match, and it should be a fun one at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so don’t miss a moment of the action and secure your seat today!