Three of Atlanta United’s own are representing the red, black and gold in Chicago this weekend at the MLS All-Star game presented by Target. Miguel Almirón, Greg Garza and Michael Parkhurst are all being recognized as the best of the best in MLS so far this year.
“I’m really excited to be able to share the field with some great players who are going to be in that game,” Almirón said through a translator. “I just want to thank my teammates, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Almirón is going to his first All-Star game, but Michael Parkhurst is a veteran of the league, with this marking his fifth MLS All-Star appearance. But he says it’s an honor that doesn’t get old.
“It means a lot to me to be selected,” Parkhurst said. “The level of the league and the quality of the players increases each year. So it’s a tremendous honor to go out and represent my club amongst my peers, and represent the entire league against a very quality opponent. So I’ll go out there and try to do it to the best of my ability.”
For Greg Garza, his first year in the league has clearly made an impression among the fans, earning home more All-Star votes than any other defender. Just a few years removed from career-threatening surgery, Greg isn’t taking the season for granted.
“Everything I have been through the past two years has been a pretty big roller coaster for me, so I feel really happy,” Garza says. “That just doesn’t come from me that comes from the 45,000-50,000 people that are here that have our backs. I am really glad that everyone voted for me and I’m very happy right now in my career.”
With three players named to the squad, the Five Stripes is one of the most-represented teams in the league, a huge testament to the impression Atlanta United has made on the league in its inaugural year.
“I think it says Atlanta United is pretty darn popular,” Garza says. “We had a lot of guys who were up there on the list as well; Leandro, Josef, and Yamil were all close. I think Atlanta made the step in the right direction to bring a team here, and to have so many fans in the stands definitely helps.”
With the MLS All-Stars set to face off with Champions League title-holders Real Madrid, it provides an opportunity for Atlanta United’s stars to see how they measure up against the very best.
“It’s cool to have the chance to play against guys like that,” Garza says. “Playing in Mexico and Copa Libertadores, I was able to play against Ronaldinho a few times. I was a ten-year-old wearing his cleats and then a few years late I was playing against him. So I feel very fortunate to play in games like this.”
“I’m excited to go and to have fun but also there’s a responsibility because it’s an important game,” says Almirón. “It’s going to be great to play against one of the top teams in the world with some of the world’s best players. It’s going to be great to see how I match up.”
But more than anything, the players say they look forward to some friendly competition, and are looking forward to representing Atlanta United in its historic first year.
“It’s a fantastic honor to represent the squad in the first all-star game for Atlanta United,” Parkhurst says. “Myself, Greg and Miguel are going to go out there and do our best. Off the field, we are going to have a good time, but we’re going to represent the club well on the field, as well. We’re looking forward to it.”
You can watch Atlanta United's All-Stars join the best of the best in MLS as they face Real Madrid in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. EST, and it will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and streamed online at Fox Sports Go.