Atlanta United’s comeback win over San Jose Tuesday made headlines as a goal-scoring explosion, but will also go down as goalkeeper Kyle Reynish’s first start in net for the red, black and gold. Fans didn’t learn until just before kickoff that the man he replaced, Alec Kann, would be out of the lineup with an injury. But what they may not know is Reynish himself didn’t get much more warning than they did.
“In the past 24 hours we were still not sure,” Reynish said after the game. “But as soon as I saw [Alec] get injured on Saturday, I was mentally ready. It is the life of a back-up goalie, you always have to be switched on.”
Kann has been a solid presence in the Atlanta goal – the only player to clock every minute for Atlanta United this season and ranking in the top half of the league in saves – and it can be tough to replace a player who’s settled into a groove with his teammates. But Reynish said any nerves he may have felt disappeared once the referee’s whistle kicked off the first half.
“We have such a great crowd and there are so many people here I think it is a little tough to not have a little bit of butterflies. But it is exciting to come out and play in front of such great fans in front of so many people. As soon as the ball kicks off and you get that first touch, you have done it so many times you kind of just fall into place.”
Reynish’s teammates were quick to point out after the match that despite his late inclusion into the lineup, they felt comfortable having a seasoned veteran holding things down behind them.
“He is an experienced guy,” Greg Garza told reporters after the game. “He probably has been in this league longer than I have been alive. He is definitely a good guy off the field and he took his chance. It is sad to see how well Kann has done this season to go out with an injury, but I think Kyle did a great job.”
Atlanta’s system of short passing out of the back adds a unique challenge that some goalkeepers aren’t used to. But Reynish says he feels comfortable with the ball at his feet, and the added risk is worth the advantage it gives them further up the field.
“It’s what works for us,” Reynish said. “We realize that if we create the spaces and we can break the press, our attacking guys are so dangerous that it is worth the risk.”
With Kann out up to eight weeks with injury and Brad Guzan on international duty with the U.S. in Gold Cup, all eyes now turn to Atlanta United’s next set of fixtures. But Reynish isn’t looking that far ahead.
“Honestly it is one game at a time,” Reynish said. “Once I found out for sure that I was playing [Tuesday], that was all my focus. But we have been working on this stuff. Me and Alec compete and in training we have a great competition with all of us together. I feel like we are always ready.”
After the international break, Atlanta will travel to face Orlando City for the first time ever on July 21st before playing their southern neighbors again in the last ever game at Bobby Dodd Stadium the following weekend on July 29th. Tickets are still available for that historic match, click here to reserve your spot.