The unwelcome news that Josef Martinez will miss 4-6 weeks with a quad strain poses an additional challenge to Atlanta United while the team prepares to face the Seattle Sounders this Friday. With his absence confirmed Atlanta will have to find a replacement at striker. Other lineup changes may be necessary because national team players Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona may also be unavailable due to travel over the international break. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Tata Martino commented about his lineup options and discussed the upcoming game against Seattle.
While it is never ideal to have to find a replacement for an injured player, and even less so for one who is leading the league in goals, Martino is keeping his team focused on their opponent this week. He told reporters, “for us, at first it’s unfortunate, but at the same time we have to keep thinking about our team and we have players who are capable of substituting Josef.”
One thing Atlanta United has is options at striker. Kenwyne Jones and Brandon Vazquez offer size and strength and would be a change of pace compared to Martinez. Bryan Rochez and Romario Williams may also be options, but the former just joined the team while the latter started the year on loan with the Charleston Battery. As far as who exactly would be stepping in for Josef, the United coach was tight-lipped saying, “we’re going to train today and tomorrow and we’re going to be looking to see who is going to fill in for Josef.” Martino added that with Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones expected to play today, he was waiting until after those games to finalize his roster this week.
Another possibility for Tata would be playing a False 9 with Yamil Asad reprising a role that he played in the preseason match against the Charleston Battery. Asked about lining up without a true striker Martino said, “playing with a false 9 is also a possibility, we know we have some guys who have different skill sets than Josef or Kenwyne so that’s a possibility.”
While most of his comments focused on replacing his striker, Tata discussed the challenge that Seattle poses to Atlanta. Despite beating the Sounders 4-2 in the Carolina Challenge Cup, with the Rave Green playing second or third string players for the first 60 minutes, the Atlanta manager expects a different game this time around. He told reporters, “I think it’ll be a very up and down game. I think it will be an exciting game for the people to watch because of the two styles because of the two teams who want to play their own unique way.”
Atlanta is coming off of two exciting victories but Seattle will undoubtedly be a tougher opponent than Minnesota or Chicago. In their last match the Sounders defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in a dominant performance and the previous week they scored two late goals to tie Montreal 2-2. The travel, international break, and news of an injured star player will make the game that much more difficult but Atlanta should be up for the task.