If you're new to soccer, the international aspect of it can be confusing. Every league in the world stops periodically so a club's players can fly off to represent for their respective national teams in various qualifying tournaments. For the past week-plus, the soccer calendar has been in World Cup mode, though the Cup itself won't be staged in Russia until the fall -- not the summer, but the fall -- of 2018.
(If you are familiar with the sport, you know this already. Bear with me. Atlanta's life as an MLS city spans three whole games.)
The striker Josef Martinez has scored five goals to lead the MLS and power Atlanta United to third place in the Eastern Conference. He's due to miss four to six weeks with a knock (soccer term) incurred while playing for Venezuela, currently last in the South American qualifying table, in a 2-2 draw against Peru. This comes as ATLUTD, owing to Georgia Tech's need for its football stadium during spring practice, is about to start a month's worth of road dates.
Martinez's knock apparently didn't from actually getting knocked. The pitch in Lima (not the one in Ohio) appeared dodgy (British term). He lost his footing while dribbling goalward and had to be subbed out. An MRI revealed a calf injury. Bummer.
Club teams the world over live in fear of exactly that: A guy they're paying to wear their shirt will get hurt while playing in another shirt. It's an occupational hazard -- well, sort of -- but it's unfortunate that Atlanta United is getting kicked by it, if you will, so early in the game.
Just for fun, though, here's a list of the top scorers in CONMEBOL (meaning South American) World Cup qualifying: Edinson Cavani of Uruguay with nine, Felipe Caicedo of Ecuador with seven, Arturo Vidal of Chile with six, then Neymar of Brazil and Alexis Sanchez of Chile and Gabriel Jesus of Brazil and Martinez with five. Here are the club affiliations of those men: Paris-Saint German, Espanyol (that's the other team in Barcelona), Bayern Munich, Barcelona itself, Arsenal, Manchester City and ... Atlanta United. Fast company, folks.
Next, with four qualifying goals, comes Lionel Messi, at worst the second-best player in the world. He was involved in a bit of news himself Tuesday: He was banned for Argentina's next four matches for cursing at a referee's assistant during a 1-nil win over Chile. (The "1" came on a Messi penalty after Angel Di Maria was bumped in the box.) I understand that soccer might be acquired taste for some of you, but -- as someone who has made the acquisition -- it's fascinating to follow. Frustrating sometimes, but fascinating always.
More soccer scribbling: