It feels like this is the fifteenth time this year I’ve opened a training report like this, but...
The big news out of training today is that Josef Martinez will not be available for Saturday’s game due to injury.
Martinez picked up a foot contusion in the U.S. Open Cup match against Charleston Battery on June 14. It was Martinez’s first start since returning from a thigh injury he picked up almost 12 weeks earlier with the Venezuelan national team, and due to unforeseen injuries and substitutions the striker was unexpectedly forced to put in a 90-minute shift.
Martino said that Josef had been playing through the foot contusion (essentially a bad and painful bruise) since that game.
Perhaps he should have been spending time in the GyroStem?
I couldn't resist. pic.twitter.com/CPcWTtpRKR— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) June 1, 2017
The 24-year-old has scored four goals in six total appearances since returning – three of those were starts – but it appears that once again Atlanta United may be without Martinez for an extended period.
“He’s evolving well but it’s possible we’ll have to wait for his return until after the break in August,” Tata Martino said through a translator on Thursday. “It’s possible no Sporting KC. Orlando, no. Definitely no. It’s the same injury that he’s had but according to the medical report it will take him a little longer to recover.”
Martinez will have to wait for Sept. 16 to finally take on the team from Florida, which means it’s likely Tito Villalba will start at the top of the Atlanta attack Saturday afternoon. The good news is, that worked out pretty well last time.
What's better than a Tito game-winner vs. Orlando? A Tito game-winner vs. Orlando set to the Titanic theme song. #BeatOrlando pic.twitter.com/2JL9c4HsW5— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) July 22, 2017
The Five Stripes will continue to be without Kenwyne Jones, Mark Bloom and Alec Kann, who continue to battle injuries of their own. Andrew Carleton will be on the road with the US U-17 team.
On the positive side of things, Kevin Kratz has returned with a green card in tow which means he will not only be available, but will free up another international spot on the Atlanta United roster. Jacob Peterson has also returned to training and there’s a slight chance of him returning to the 18 Saturday.
While the attack handles life without Josef, the defense is preparing for a revamped and possibly revitalized attack from the team with the tacky purple uniforms.
Cyle Larin will likely put in a full shift after coming on as a sub last Friday, and the addition of Dom Dwyer from Sporting KC in exchange for a whole lot of GAM and TAM means that Atlanta United will face a significant upgrade in attacking power from last week’s duo of Carlos Rivas and Giles Barnes.
The new strikeforce could drive the team from Florida’s attack to new heights, although, if Larin is the one driving they may end up on the wrong side of the road.
“The addition of Dwyer makes Orlando a stronger team both collectively and in terms of the individual quality of their players,” Tata said. “We’ll have to see, similar to last week, the different options they have and how they choose to line up. Whether it’s two forwards, and with Kaka behind them or dropping out wide on the left.”
In addition to Larin and Dwyer, the team still has to deal with Kaka. The Five Stripes handled that task relatively well last week, but Fullback Greg Garza said that it won’t be any easier after the addition of Dwyer.
“It’s a difficult team to play against. They have a lot of talented players,” he said. “They have Kaka who does a lot of work up top and they have few other guys that are dangerous and they’re also adding Dom Dwyer. He’s a bull nosed player. He’s very active and he’ll fight for every ball. We definitely have to pay attention to those two guys.”
Centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez agreed saying, “Kaka is very dangerous. He’s always looking to attack. We have to be extremely careful when he’s on the field. If he’s able to receive the ball freely he can cause a lot of damage. Moving forward they’re a really dangerous team and able to cause us a lot of problems. We’re going to have to be careful.”
All-in-all not fantastic news from the training ground and elsewhere this week. It’s starting to feel like the difficulty level in round is getting ramped up by the second. But, the team is beginning to figure out how to win without Josef and I fully expect Bobby Dodd to be the loudest it’s been since game one even though the game is #NotARivalry.
There’s still reason for optimism and even if things go south Saturday, at least Greg Garza has subtly given us permission to throw some good-natured ribbing the way of the Orlando players.
“I think I was called every cuss word there was while on the sideline last week. I blew kisses to them after the game though so it felt good,” he said. “The fans were pretty hectic last weekend. It’s something you have to deal with though. I think they called us every other name they could think of. We have to hope our fans can do the same to their players this time around, right?”