Regardless of whether or not Ezequiel Barco, Franco Escobar, Greg Garza, or Jeff Larentowicz are available to play this Saturday against LAFC, one thing is certain. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez will not be.
The Argentinean picked up a red card in the first half of last weekend’s game against Minnesota United and is suspended for one match. Ultimately, the show must go on and Atlanta United need to find an alternative to compensate for his absence at center back.
“We’ve got a few guys capable of playing there,” said captain Michael Parkhurst. “Obviously Chris(McCann) played very well there Saturday night when we needed him. Jeff(Larentowicz) has played there if he’s fit. Sal(Zizzo) and Miles(Robinson) can do it, so there are some options. Whoever it is will be more than capable.”
Although not his natural position per se, Zizzo is welcome to any opportunity thrown his way.
“I’ll play anywhere that I’m needed. It doesn’t matter the position. I’ll just do my best and always be ready.”
McCann seems like the natural replacement considering his good performance against MNUFC both early on as the left center back in the 3-5-2 and then as one of the two central defenders in the 4-3-3 once Pirez was sent off.
“It’s a pretty easy transition from playing in a back three to a back four,” the Irishman said. “You just have to be a little more aware of what’s around you when you’re playing in the middle of a back four, but I think we cope with it very well.”
Another interesting aspect of this decision is choosing whether or not to continue utilizing a 3-5-2 instead of returning to a 4-3-3. Although Atlanta’s personnel would seem more suited toward the latter without Pirez and potentially even Escobar, Robinson has featured heavily in training this week. It would be quite the accomplishment for last year’s #2 overall MLS SuperDraft pick if he were to play on Saturday, as he has yet to appear in an MLS match so far in his career. Whatever it is, the backline has its work cut out for it against an impressive LAFC attack.