Five Stripes are trusting what they have built

Jarrett Smith
August 10, 2018 - 8:31 am

© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


For a team that leads The Supporters Shield, Atlanta United certainly has dealt with its share of injuries in 2018.

When it comes to sports it is fair to say that winning – or even competing – for a title involves some luck. One of the most obvious places that luck can manifest is on the injury report. Atlanta’s luck in that department can best be described as hit or miss in 2018.

The Five Stripes lost Mikey Ambrose Monday just five days after losing Sal Zizzo to the same injury. Suddenly the left back and right back cupboard are a bit lean. Franco Escobar came in and grabbed the right back spot when not being lit up by Brad Guzan while Chris McCann is currently the last man standing on the left side with Ambrose and Garza both having to go under the knife.

The last few weeks have been a harsh reminder of how quickly depth can evaporate in any sport. You can never have enough pitchers, linemen, full-backs, etc. and often it feels like it happens in waves. Atlanta saw a slew of players struggle to get on the field as the season was trying to get started, with Tito Villalba missing most of the preseason, Ezekiel Barco missing the first few weeks and Franco Escobar getting his bell rung on a miscommunication in the box. After a spell of good fortune, Atlanta then lost Greg Garza to shoulder surgery and Darlington Nagbe suffered an adductor injury.

The lack of action Wednesday means that Atlanta is going to go forward with the pieces they have – save an out-of-contract addition that could join the team in the next month – as they march to the playoffs.

Some of the in-house replacements they could look at include Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu or Jose Herandez, just recently settled from his international duty with Venezuela. There is also the outside chance that 16-year-old, homegrown product George Bello finds his way into the 18 more often. Bello is overflowing with potential but Martino and the staff may choose to continue brining him along slowly.

The Baracy Sagna rumor that went through the lifecycle of a mayfly is an example of the kind of move Atlanta could make if the stars align though. One of the best parts of silly season is the existence of the global market that allows teams to comb the entire planet for talent as opposed to just 50 states. The Five Stripes might find the right fit before the September 14 deadline when the rosters lock. On the other hand,  Atlanta’s gravity as a name could also mean that they are tweeted out along with a number of bigger names out of contract so silly season might not be over by a long shot and we all get a chance to brush up on how [insert country here] twitter works when it comes to soccer rumors.

The fall of the full backs has just added another obstacle to a team that has had its depth tested in ways that many veteran teams struggle to handle, much less a second-year club. There is a chance you could see Greg Garza make his way back to the defense but that is taking a risk if Martino and company do not think any of the in-house options can step in to do the job.

The acquisition of Eric Remedi looks beyond brilliant right now, but they will need more from someone, be it a free agent or one of the previously mentioned players. They got that from Ambrose when he used his minutes to prove that he belongs in MLS. Now they’ll see if they can catch lightning in a bottle again.

Atlanta has thrived as opposed to just survived – some frustrating results notwithstanding – with long-term injuries piling up. They will have to keep doing that if they want to lift a trophy in year two.