Atlanta United could be very short-handed on Saturday, as Ezequiel Barco is still not fit to play(although he will return to training next week according to Tata Martino), Franco Escobar is still out with a concussion he picked up against the Vancouver Whitecaps three weeks ago, and Greg Garza is listed as questionable.
Barco’s absence, although noteworthy, isn’t terribly surprising and Atlanta have played well without the $15 million signing. However, the absence of Escobar and potentially Garza only adds to their defensive woes with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s red card suspension. That isn’t ideal for a potent LAFC attack.
“The first challenge for us is being able to manage so many absences on our team,” said Martino. “The second part is being able to defend their attacking quartet. It’s a big challenge because our absences favor the strengths of their team.”
Chris McCann, a player expected to step in and help a makeshift backline, understands what LAFC’s attack is capable of.
“I think you saw on TV the other day against the Galaxy that they were three goals up in a short space of time. Going forward, they’re a real big threat. Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing, Marco Urena as well, they’re really potent going forward. We’ll have to be on our toes, communicate really well from the back this weekend, and stop them.”
This is probably the biggest challenge Atlanta’s backline has ever had to face due to their injuries. It’s a tough ask, but Martino is more than confident in his side.
“Players usually prepare even better during the week when they know they’re playing a really good team on the weekend. We have to get guys ready tactically and spiritually for the game, but when guys know they’re playing a good team, they’re up for it.”