Despite being unable to even meet his coaches and teammates — let alone train with them — Atlanta United’s new designated player Marcelino Moreno showed off his talent in its rawest form in an hour of action against New York Red Bulls Saturday night.
Having recently arrived to Atlanta, the Argentine was forced to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days before being allowed to have contact with any non-medical Atlanta United personnel per the league’s COVID-19 safety protocols.
So it was a surprise to many that when Stephen Glass’s lineup for the match was released at 5 p.m. Saturday, there was Moreno’s name listed among the starters. Glass admitted prior to the game that his staff had “something in mind” for Moreno to see the field, but few thought — given the circumstances — there was a realistic shot at seeing a full debut.
So, how’d he do?
“I thought it was a good performance from him, considering the circumstances were incredibly difficult,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said after the match. “He literally just walked in and it was our first opportunity to really get to talk to him face-to-face, but he was dangerous, he was causing problems. He took a smack in the face and kept going. I think that it was a good debut.”
Franco Escobar, thoughts?
“Very good,” said Atlanta’s versatile defender. “I thought he felt very comfortable. Obviously, he didn’t have the opportunity to train with us and it was a little strange but he felt good, we felt good. He was naturally involved and that is very good. He has to adapt, obviously, but he had a good game.”
For his part, Glass felt the player would be able to cope with the situation while adding quality to help the team create through the middle of the park. The manager added that he’d seen similar situations happen during his time plying his trade as a player.
“I’ve come across a situation like this a few times in my career, where you arrive pre-match and you meet your teammates and go out and play,” Glass said after the game. “I think there has been a lot made of that side of it. You have a really good footballer that showed he’s able to fit into a group of players. We were able to show him video of the team, because we haven’t been able to have him around the group.”
In the end, match fitness proved to be a clear issue for Moreno has he was noticeably depleted in the second half. That’s to be expected for a player getting his first competitive match action since March, but Glass added that getting him as many minutes as possible now will make for a fitter, more capable player in the immediate future.
“You just trust that a very good footballer knows how to play. He repaid that belief tonight that we put him in the starting lineup,” said Glass. “He showed he’s going to be a fantastic footballer for this club. Putting him in the group today means we will get more from him sooner, rather than wait to put him in the team.”