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Spring was in full bloom this week at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground as the team prepared for the match on Saturday May 7 against Chicago Fire FC. Following their activation training in the gym, the players filed out to the pitch to start training. The players started training off with a couple of passing drills, focusing on quick passes in tight spaces. Following the passing drills, the team moved on to rondos, which is where the fun started. With laughs, screams and friendly competition, players were heard very clearly, even though they were on the far side of the pitch.   

On Tuesday, the team reviewed video footage from the 2-1 loss against CF Montréal and focused training on the preparation for the upcoming match this weekend. The match at Stade Saputo saw Franco Ibarra’s return to the starting XI and Rocco Río Novo’s first trip with the team. After Tuesday’s training, both players spoke to media about the upcoming match and their personal preparation.  

The 5-Stripes Don’t Stop 

Two players made their return to the training pitch this week: Dom Dwyer and Santiago Sosa. Dwyer joined the team for the regular training drills while Sosa had some one-on-one drills on the side. Neither player made an appearance in the match against CF Montréal, but were back in training on Tuesday. It was perfect timing for Sosa who celebrated his birthday that same day. As tradition goes, Sosa got his faced smushed into what looked like a delicious cake.

Training this week also saw more tactical drills including 8v8 and later four groups of 4v4. In those break out groups, Brooks Lennon gave it his all on the training pitch, sending crosses and showing off his defending skills with a great save on a potential goal. Two remarkable goals came from Marcelino Moreno and Tyler Wolff. Moreno showed off his footwork, driving the ball down the pitch and scoring. Wolff received a pass and with great force shot it to the back of the net.  

The ’Stache is Back 

Goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo arrived at the club last week and got reacquainted with teammates and Atlanta United as a whole. During this week’s training, Ríos Novo got some good saves in as his teammates kept sending in shots, stretching out and stopping a goal with the tip of his glove.  

“Yeah, very happy to be back at this beautiful club,” Ríos Novo said on Tuesday. “I just want to give my best; I want to contribute what I can. This is a big important club who should always be aspiring to achieve big things. So, I want to contribute as best I can.” 

Contributing to this club is nothing new for Ríos Novo. He previously played with Atlanta United 2 and also played in 2019’s U.S. Open Cup match against Liga Deportiva Alajuelense. 

“I’m the first to know I’m not the biggest goalkeeper like some other goalkeepers,” he said. “But I feel very confident in my abilities and my qualities, and I feel comfortable in goal and I’m always going to contribute to the best of my abilities.” 

The Argentine goalkeeper is getting some help and advice from his fellow goalkeepers on the pitch. On Tuesday, Ríos Novo told media on Tuesday that being on the pitch with Bobby Shuttleworth will help him grow as a goalkeeper and even received advice from Brad Guzan

“I have a good relationship with Brad,” Ríos Novo said. “He’s a great goalkeeper, he’s had a great career trajectory and been at big clubs and he’s played really well. I’ve always learned a lot from him, not only last year but also this year being back. He’s someone who I’m always trying to watch and try to copy and learn things from. He’s given me a lot of advice as well.”  

Strength in the midfield 

Franco Ibarra made his return to the starting XI last Saturday against CF Montréal. Ibarra, who missed a couple of games early in the season due to injury, is happy to be back on the pitch and starting.  

“Physically I feel good,” Ibarra said on Tuesday. “I played 80-something minutes and it was a physical game and I needed that. Being injured as you guys know, it’s very tough for a player to watch your teammates training all the time and to not be out there with them. But I think that each injury makes you a little bit stronger.” 

Ibarra finds himself in a midfield full of talent, which includes Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdić, Thiago Almada, Marcelino Moreno, Emerson Hyndman and Matheus Rossetto. Each match has been a different combination of these players in the midfield, and Ibarra is ready to help any way he can. In the last match, Rossetto and Ibarra found good rhythm in the midfield and earned praise from head coach Gonzalo Pineda.  

“I think we were well positioned in the midfield,” Ibarra shared. “I think we were very compact. Myself and Rossetto, our job was to try and contain Mihailovic and he wasn’t really involved in the game, so I think we did that well.”

As the team continues to train this week, they turn their focus on Chicago Fire FC. Between scouting the rival and reviewing film and tactics, the team is fully focused on preparing for the next opponent.  

“Obviously, after the game there’s frustration because we feel like we were playing well for the majority of games, but not being able to finalize those opportunities on goal,” Ibarra said. “But we talked about it today. Also in the video sessions, we watched the video and now we have to turn the page. We have to start focusing on the next game and preparing our best for that game because we want to get three points.” 

Atlanta will face Chicago Fire FC, Saturday May 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, get your tickets now!

Training Photos: Week of May 2
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