It seems like a long time ago, but Atlanta went into the last World Cup qualifying international break on the verge of a massive stretch with six of seven games on the road from late March to mid May. The two biggest impacts of the international break were missing players for the match against the Seattle Sounders and the injury to Josef Martinez. While Atlanta took a bye week to help lessen the blow of losing players to the international break, the team will power through with a match on June 10 against the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.
But that won’t be the only game the international matches will affect. Several national teams have friendlies before the qualifiers and Atlanta could be without star players for two complete games. Even if players are available, coach Tata Martino may elect to rest those who miss significant practice time and be weary from traveling thousands of miles before matches. Atlanta United won’t be the only team looking to overcome these challenges, and the teams the Five Stripes will face will also have players missing due to international games.
As it stands, the Five Stripes will only be missing Brad Guzan, who hasn’t played a game yet this season, and Miguel Almiron at some point for the next three games. Guzan is in USMNT camp to prepare for a June 3 friendly against Venezuela and World Cup Qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8th and at Mexico on June 11th. Almiron will travel with the Paraguay National Team to France for a friendly on June 6th.
Obviously the main concern for Atlanta will be the availability of Miguel Almiron. He’s been the best player in MLS the past two weeks and right now is scheduled to play in Vancouver on June 3rd, then fly to France possibly arriving June 5th for his game on the 6th. At best he would be back with the team on June 7th as they prepare to take on the Chicago Fire in the windy suburb on the 10th.
After his last absence he came on late against Seattle after missing nearly two weeks of practice. If the past is any indication, Tata may elect to do the same when United faces the Fire.
Though it hasn’t been announced, Kenwyne Jones is expected to join the Trinidad & Tobago squad before they play the US on June 8th and Costa Rica on June 13th. But his absence won’t be felt until the weekend. Jones and Guzan may either miss or have limited availability for the match against the Columbus Crew on June 17th due to missing practice in the week leading up to the game.
The Whitecaps won’t have the same issue as Atlanta United does as they look to redeem their loss last week to DC United. Midfielder Christian Bolanos and defender Kendall Waston will be with Costa Rica for their qualifier vs Panama on June 8th, but that shouldn’t make coach Carl Robinson think of sitting his players for the match Saturday evening.
Atlanta goes from BC Place to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on June 10th. The only call up as of yet for Chicago is Dax McCarty who will miss the game as the USMNT prepares to take on Mexico. Since adding McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Fire have looked like one of the best teams in the East. The match with Atlanta will be a test for Chicago who is yet to take the field without their captain. If there’s any doubt that McCarty is a vital player for an MLS club, ask the New York Red Bulls if they miss their central midfielder and team leader as they sit three places below Chicago in the table.
The honeybees, as I think they should be called from now on, don’t have any players good enough to get called into international games being held this month so will have a full squad, unless something changes, to face Atlanta on June 17th.