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Training Notes: Martinez “closer”, Garza “possible”, Carleton/Goslin available for Houston

Get the skinny from the training ground.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

  • Here’s your Josef update:

He’s never coming back, life is pointless, sports are dumb, love is just a chemical reaction, the bass sound on Seinfeld was just a synthesizer and God hates Atlanta.

All Tata had to say on the striker is that he’s “closer.” Martinez won’t be available for Saturday as the thigh injury continues to nag him and Tata gave no indication on a return date.

The striker did at least walk into the training center today. So that’s something.

  • Tata cited Greg Garza as “possible.”

Mark Bloom would likely continue to fill in if Garza were not available against Houston and my opinion is that, in Tata-speak, “possible” means that Mark Bloom will be your starting left-back on Saturday. The Atlanta United camp plays lineup decisions very close to the vest so we’ll just have to see.

  • A little bit of good news. Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin are both available after time off recovering from national team duty.
  • Tata was relatively quiet today, but did offer insight into how the Five Stripes will match up against Houston.

“They’re a team that runs a lot,” Martino said. “You can see that they rely on their attack and that they’re a very determined team in attack. We’ll have to see if that’s the case against us.”

Houston is a team that loves to break on the counter, and seemed to struggle last night against Philadelphia Union when Philly simply let them have the ball. As Joe Patrick pointed out, Atlanta is third in the league in possession, holding the ball 55.4% of the time. Despite the Union’s success in allowing Houston to control the ball, Tata is obviously in no hurry to get away from the team’s possession based style of play. He knows that Atlanta will control the ball a majority of the time, but feels that as long as no catastrophic mistakes are made, the Five Stripes will be able to contain Houston’s counter.

“They’ll probably give us possession and they’ll drop back a lot. But we’re also in the hands of their style and we’ll be able to find space with our counter attack,” Martino said. “We can’t make the same mistakes [as against D.C. United]. We were controlling the game but our mistakes allowed them to get back in the game.”

  • If you’re wondering whether Tito Villalba or Kenwyne Jones will be leading the Atlanta attack, Tata’s lineup update was a revelation.

“It’s a home game for us. It’s possible we’ll use the same lineup, it’s possible Kenwyne goes in.” Martino said.

  • Jeff Larentowicz -- whose midfield role may be the most important on the team – explained how he’s the first line of defense when it comes to stopping Houston’s counter.

“If we’re in possession and someone turns the ball over, I’m usually the first one to step out and slow it down,” Larentowicz said. “If you can cut it off early on or slow them down off the break that’s the most important thing. If they’re able to make one or two forward passes that’s when you start chasing and that’s where the problems arise.”

Larentowicz also explained exactly what happens in the midfield when team’s do get out on the break. The key to Larentowicz’s and Carlos Carmona’s positioning is determined almost entirely by the fullbacks.

“Tactically if the outside backs are higher up the field then that leaves space for the wide players on the other team. When the ball turns over, we’re covered in the middle by the centerbacks and the center midfielders will slide out. That’s how the shape changes,” Larentowicz said. “If we’re not sending an outside guy forward we stay central. The centerbacks are the last line of defense. You don’t want them stepping out to stop the midfield on the counter attack.”

  • In addition to counters, Houston loves to score off set pieces. Portland’s lone goal on Mother’s Day came from an extremely poorly defended set piece (partly because two Portland players were offside) and Larentowicz acknowledged that the team would be working on defending set pieces today and Friday. However, it’s not as easy as just correcting the mistakes against Portland. Larentowicz says that preparing to defend set pieces varies with each team, and Houston always provides a challenge.

“Set pieces are a work in progress. Week to week they change because each team is doing something different. Houston for the last 15 years has been good at set pieces. Coaches, stadiums, everything changes but they always have some guys who are good on set pieces. It’s something you always have to watch for,” Larentowicz said.

  • Miguel Almiron said that he enjoyed the connections created by having Julian Gressel out wide and Villalba as striker, a tactical change implemented against Portland that Josh Bagriansky discussed in detail. Almiron also added to what most of us already knew: Atlanta is a lot faster without Kenwyne Jones up top.

“I think there’s more speed on the team, and with Julian and Tito we have a good understanding. But like I’ve said before I think there’s a healthy competition among the team. Guys train everyday like they’re going to start and they push other players for those starting positions.” Almiron said.


Yeah, probably.

“I think I need to have more confidence to shoot,” Almiron said. “In the game against Portland there were maybe two opportunities where I could have shot but I thought I played my teammate in a better position. But, yeah, I could have more confidence to shoot.”