It’s Wednesday, and the team is mid-week into preparation for a return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.
“It was a bit upsetting, coming back,” George Campbell said. “But we know we have two home games coming up and that’s six points that we need to take, and we think we should take, so I think we’re focused on that.”
The team is looking ahead, however. Knowing that it's about to get a few guys back this week is promising for a squad that faced the cold, challenging conditions in Colorado with a thin midfield.
“We know the quality we have in the team,” Ronald Hernández said. “We know as a group, we’re a family. So we need to bounce back this weekend.”
Here are a few more insights from media availability on Wednesday.
The Argentine Boys Are Back
Atlanta United is slowly but surely getting a full squad back. In an interview on 92.9 The Game on Tuesday, club president Darren Eales said that the Santiago Sosa, Franco Ibarra and Thiago Almada are expected to return to the club this week. The three players have been in Argentina since Feb. 13 waiting on their visas.
There’s no word (yet) on when Ibarra will be available. Almada is expected to rejoin the team later this week (Eales’s hope is that Almada plays on Sunday). But Sosa was out on the pitch on Wednesday, getting a nice selfie in with our team videographer and sending a message to our Atlanta fans.
“It’s good to see them back,” Campbell said. “Our team’s been a bit thin recently, so I think we need everybody, and we still have some more players coming to train probably later this week, so it’s really good to see.”
The club is still waiting on an update on Osvaldo Alonso, the defensive midfielder who missed Saturday’s match against Colorado for precautionary reasons while he got some cardiology tests done.
The presence of the 13-year MLS veteran was sorely missed on the team’s first road test of the season. Since joining the club in December, Alonso has already proven to be a leader to younger players and was in the starting XI for most of the preseason scrimmages. He played a full 90 in the home opener against Sporting Kansas City.
Eales and head coach Gonzalo Pineda are cautiously optimistic about Alonso’s status.
Campbell’s Cooking In The Midfield
Filling in for Alonso on Saturday was Campbell, the 20-year-old Homegrown defender. Campbell stepped into the role and played 64 minutes, won 12 duels and completed 84 percent of his passes against the Rapids.
Center back is Campbell’s main position. He started alongside Miles Robinson in the 3-1 win against Sporting Kansas City on Feb. 27. Campbell has some experience at midfield, playing the position a few years ago in the academy.
“In terms of just knowing the position, I watch a lot of games,” Campbell said. “I talked to my teammates, like Amar and Rossetto, so I don’t think it was too much to really stress about. I felt pretty confident that I could do the job the team needed me to do.”
He didn’t get much time to prepare. Campbell said he was told by Pineda the day before the match. That meant he didn’t get much time to work with the team at the position, other than some light training and a walkthrough.
But Campbell attributed his teammates with helping him prepare to play the no. 6 position. Fellow midfielders Mattheus Rossetto and Amar Sejdić gave him tips on how to check his shoulder and told him what kind of passes to look for.
“More mentally, I would say, they just gave me confidence pointers rather than too much information,” Campbell said.
Robinson will be suspended for the next match due to a red card he received against Colorado Rapids, which opens up a spot for Campbell to start on the back line alongside, most likely, Alan Franco.
But if the need arises at any other point this season, Campbell feels confident that he could step and play as a defensive midfielder. In fact, he can easily assess what he did well against the Rapids playing in the midfield and what areas he needs to improve.
“I think maybe one thing I could’ve done better is moving off my other midfielders better, making more space for them, and that’s something you can always improve on in any position,” Campbell said.
After the shutout, Atlanta United is turning its attention to the next two games on the schedule, which are both at home. The club has gone unbeaten in its last eight home matches, a streak that goes back to last season. Now, with two consecutive matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United has a chance to earn six points.
Up first, a matchup against Charlotte FC, the expansion club playing its inaugural season.
The proximity between Atlanta and Charlotte makes it tempting to pit the two clubs against each other. However, Atlanta wants to see how things shake out on the pitch before deeming the matchup a rivalry.
“We’ll play this first one, then we’ll see,” Hernández said.
Atlanta and Charlotte will meet twice in the first two months of MLS play. Atlanta United hosts the first matchup this Sunday, March 13 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Not even a month later, Charlotte will host Atlanta at Bank of America Stadium on April 10.
Will Sunday’s matchup spark a regional rivalry? Only time will tell. For now, Atlanta United remains focused on playing good football.
“I think we know we need three points, and the demand of this club is to get three points in a home game,” Campbell said. “So, I think it’s no different than any other home game. New team or not, we need to win.”