Kenwyne Jones, Alec Kann and Harrison Heath were on hand at Atlanta United’s now officially opened training ground in Marietta (Which is stunning. Even the coffee machine in the break room looks like it was built by Skynet.) to talk about Montreal and the season so far.
With Yamil Asad suspended and Josef Martinez still sitting by himself on the bench during training sessions due to a thigh injury, Jones is a candidate to earn his first start for the Five Stripes on Saturday.
Jones has seen time in four games off the bench, playing in just 27 minutes. Despite spending the beginning of the year as a substitute, Jones says his mindset on the pitch won’t change if he’s in the starting XI against Montreal.
“You just have to be prepared to do the job required. Whether you play 90 minutes or just five minutes you have to be able to just focus and carry out your functions,” Jones said.
While Jones is prepared to start, he indicated that the team was in no hurry to analyze last year’s Eastern Conference finals runner-up.
“To be honest we haven’t done that yet,” Jones said. “The way we’re going at the moment we’re just taking every game as it comes and doing the preparation when necessary. When the time comes, we’ll do our homework and try to put our best foot forward when we get there.”
Whether or not he begins Saturday’s match up top, Jones believes that he is already well adjusted to Tata Martino’s system despite limited playing time and a playing style atypical of a Martino striker.
“I’ve been through quite a few different football cultures, I don’t think I have any adjusting to do. Im 32, I’ve had a long career so far. I’ve already molded myself as a player,” Jones said. “I’m not a player that’s fresh or trying to learn the game so I think it’s pretty easy for me to carry out the instructions that are necessary.”
Kann is currently second in MLS in saves, including seven against Toronto FC.
The Decatur native said that early success hasn’t come without missteps.
“It’s a process,” Kann said. “I’ve had some shaky moments, had some good games and some good moments. I’m just trying to build myself into form for the long haul. Because it's not about one game and one moment, it’s about the entirety of the year.”
Kann was also quick to pile praise on his back line.
“Greg is an unbelievable player, a national team guy. Leandro is a freak athlete, big personality. Parky, unreal experience, great distribution. Ty also great experience, great crosser of the ball . I mean, I couldn't ask for a better group of guys in front of me.”
That back line and Kann have kept two clean sheets this season, and have yet to give up more than two goals despite facing two of last season’s top three scorers in MLS in New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco. They could face their third major scoring threat Saturday with Montreal’s Nacho Piatti, who found the back of the net 17 times last year. Piatti is questionable, but Kann says no matter what the Five Stripes will be prepared.
“He’s a dangerous player. He’s one of the best in the league. But if he plays we’ll be ready for him, if he doesn’t we’ll be ready for Montreal either way.
Heath was in good spirits after picking up his first official minutes with Atlanta United late against Toronto.
The 21-year-old midfielder, formerly of Orlando City FC, said his experience with Atlanta United has been nothing short of exceptional so far.
“Incredible. I mean look where we’re training. Beautiful facility and we get to come here and work everyday so I can’t complain about anything. The coaching staff have been first class with me. It’s a really good group of guys that are very much together and it’s been exciting so far.”
Heath has a unique perspective on expansion sides. He played with Orlando City in their first two years in MLS under his father, Adrian. Both moved to a different expansion side this winter, with Adrian taking over as manager of Minnesota United. Harrison says that Atlanta United has been completely different from any other expansion experience.
“You can tell that they’ve had time to think everything through. Everything has been first class. Everything has been organized. We haven’t wanted for anything as a group of players,” Heath said. “Expansion teams can be tough with all the speed bumps you go through and so far we haven’t had any. It’s been incredible.”
While there is obvious pride in being a first year team, Heath says other teams are recognizing that Atlanta United doesn’t play like a typical expansion squad.
“I think we’ve shed that label ourselves with the way we’ve started,” Heath said. “People aren’t really addressing us an expansion team anymore. They’re addressing us Atlanta United who are going to come in and give a really good game. Credit to the guys and the coaching staff, we’ve gotten rid of that title ourselves.”
- Andrew Carleton is in Florida with the U.S. U-18 team, so no chance at a Frosted Orange sighting this week.
- It appears Josef Martinez has to sit there and watch his teammates train for most of the session. Every time I looked at him I heard the Sarah McLachlan, ASPCA ad music. He just seems sad. We need to find something for Josef to do during training.
- His teammates did try and keep him entertained by kicking balls at him periodically throughout the last 15 minutes or so of training. The Venezuelan striker responded with a playful set of hand signals that are understandable in every language.
- The training facility really is world class. We’re remarkably lucky to have an executive group and owner willing to put in the money for stuff like this. I can’t stress how nice this place is.