With their first-ever win - a 6-1 defeat of Minnesota United FC - in the rear view mirror, Atlanta United has their eyes set on their first-ever winning streak with Chicago Fire coming to town on Saturday. Chicago is unbeaten in its first two matches after a season-opening 1-1 draw at Columbus Crew SC and a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake this past Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Tito Villalba. “We’re going to try to start strong in the first 30 minutes. We know that it depends on us. The win (over Minnesota) was big for us as a team, especially getting that first win on the road, but now we’re just getting ready for another good test against Chicago.”
“I think we can build off the (Minnesota result),” said Greg Garza. “We have a very important game on Saturday to help us keep the momentum building and go into the break knowing we have a tough task ahead of us with four straight away games.”
After Saturday, Atlanta doesn’t return to Bobby Dodd Stadium until April 30 against D.C. United. The FIFA fixture window gives the club almost two weeks off before a tough away match against defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC on March 31, followed by trips to Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake. Although the temptation to tweak things is there heading into this stretch, the club is looking to stay the course.
“(We’re) not changing anything,” said Atlanta head coach Tata Martino. “Even in the loss to the Red Bulls, we didn’t want to change anything. Win or lose, our idea is to not change how we play and to maintain our style.”
As for not being selected to the U.S. national team, Garza expressed disappointment but stated that his focus now was his club as they move forward.
“(U.S. manager) Bruce Arena sent me a text the day before letting me know about his decision. I respect it...The most important thing right now is to keep my head in Atlanta and the best will come after.”
One player that will look to continue his great run of play is Josef Martinez. MLS’s reigning player of the week recorded a hat trick in Atlanta’s win over Minnesota and hopes to carry that on to Saturday.
“You just have to train like you did the last week and keep working hard in practice,” Martinez said. “During the game, staying focused for 90 minutes and finishing the chances that occur.”
What was it like to be selected for the Venezuelan national team, and what will the feeling be to see his club teammate, Carlos Carmona, when Venezuela and Chile meet on March 28?
“It’s really exciting for any player to be called up to the national team. It’s the biggest honor there is...It’s not an easy feeling (to see your club teammate as an opponent), but it’s something that I’ve experienced a lot. You just have to know that every player is there representing their country...but it’s a little complicated to describe how it feels to be playing against your teammate.”