Usually, these Atlanta United training day posts begin with mountains of imagery designed to transport the reader to the particular day at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Not this time.
The imagery is this: it was cold, y’all. Still is.
Which is why it was perfect that the Five Stripes instead opened their preseason training at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, rather than outside in this blasted, frigid weather. Senior team players and Academy players alike both ran drills across the home pitch on Tuesday, focusing more on fitness and team chemistry than anything truly tactical.
“Possession with a purpose,” could be heard emanating from Gonzalo Pineda as he oversaw drills on one end of the pitch, while the majority of the goalkeeper corp - minus Josh Cohen - ran through a variety of exercises near the Supporter’s Section. It’s still unclear why Cohen wasn’t at training.
A few other obvious faces also were missing, though, namely Thiago Almada, Edwin Mosquera, and Caleb Wiley. The three are all participating (Edwin is nursing an injury) in their respective national team camps as they prep for the summer Olympics in Paris.
In addition to viewing training, the media were also able to speak with newcomer defender Stian Gregersen for the first time since his arrival, along with Carlos Bocanegra and Giorgos Giakoumakis.
Bocanegra noting that one signing “yall are familiar with” will be announced in the next day or two. He also noted the club is looking at one more signing to round out the squad.— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) January 16, 2024
Said no “formal offers” for Thiago Almada but lots of “interest.” #ATLUTD
Stian Gregersen is 1/2 pic.twitter.com/LGz52zgCsJ
Gregersen explained his strengths as a defender, pointing specifically to his 1v1 acumen and pace. He also noted his leadership and communication on the pitch, plus he knows English, some French, and of course, his native Norwegian. Perhaps most importantly, his stated goal for the season is simple: to win. Stian will be training by himself until his visa process is finalized.
Next up was VP and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra, who dove into a variety of topics related to the transfer window. His press conference is worth a watch because of the detail, but here are some quick highlights, in addition to his praise of Stian Gregersen.
- The club will be announcing another signing very soon. He obviously didn’t name the player but noted it was someone folks would be familiar with due to the rumors (It’s Polish midfielder Bartosz Slisz).
- He said the team is also looking at one more signing after that to “round out the squad.” He then later noted that there shouldn’t be any other visa processes, so if one wanted to draw conclusions, perhaps this other signing is another current or recent MLS player?
- Ronald Hernandez has received his green card, so that’s one international slot free. Edwin Mosquera is going in a couple of weeks to also get his, so that’ll be another slot.
- The loans of Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra don’t free up those U22 spots. They both have purchase options, though.
- The club wanted Dax McCarty not only due to his leadership - which Bocanegra mentioned was very important - but because of his consistency and minutes player over the past few years.
- They wanted the number 6/CDM position to be someone who had a high soccer IQ and could act not only as a cushion for the back four in absorbing pressure, but someone who was also very good on the ball and highly mobile. He made the comparison to Tristan Muyumba, and how he opens up the spaces across the pitch because he’s constantly moving. The ability to also essentially be the equivalent of a defensive bulldog was key.
Giakoumakis said offseason was absolutely needed after playing since summer of ‘22. Noted he was feeling good but his body just needed a break. Also said he’s been researching ways to improve his game I.e. technical stuff like his running gait & what’s best for his body. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/9rbhrrFgb7— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) January 16, 2024
Finally, Giorgos Giakoumakis took the podium, as well. He made a point to explain just how important this offseason was for his overall health, noting that while he felt good at the end of last season, his body simply needed the time off. At the finale of Atlanta United’s 2023 season in November, he’d been playing football since the summer of 2022 when Celtic’s season began.
GG also spoke about how he’s been researching ways to improve his own game in a variety of ways, from the way he runs to how he takes care of his body. Chemistry was another main point; he described just how important - and sometimes underrated - the time spent with teammates without game interruptions truly is. Giorgos said he feels 30% of the success of the season is based on how preseason goes, where everyone has time to talk about the detailed aspects of each other’s game and learn their tendencies.
All early signs point to plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into this 2024 season.
The team will have a final day at the Benz before returning to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground on Friday. Be sure to keep an eye on DSS for all the latest updates and news on everything going on around the Five Stripes as they dive fully into preseason!