Atlanta United’s newest announced signing, goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt, gave his first interview with Atlanta media on Tuesday afternoon.
The signing of the former FC Cincinnati netminder was announced last week.
Hildebrandt, 29, has spent his professional career playing in the lower leagues of soccer in North America. His reputation grew last season when he made three saves of penalty kicks in a U.S. Open Cup win against Chicago.
Questions and answers have been edited or paraphrased for brevity and clarity:
Q: Stopped any penalty kicks in the past 24 hours?
A: (Laughs) No, not in the past 24 hours. I had my fill this season. I’ll just wait until 2018 to get back on track.
I guess that’s what I’m known for so I loved how you segued into that one.
Q: Because Atlanta United needed to either make a few penalty kicks or save a few in their playoff loss, and you are known for that from the U.S. Open Cup, is there a key to stopping penalty kicks? Is it more skill than luck, or both?
Q: You go about it two different ways: Some goalkeepers tend to guess. I tend to stay up as much as possible. I have a few keys I try to read as the shooters start. Some shooters are good getting you to go the wrong way. But there are some tendencies you pick up as the shooter approaches the ball.
You definitely have to have a little luck to save one.
It’s a little bit of both (luck and skill).
Q: Have you moved to Atlanta yet?
A: I haven’t. I’m still in Cincinnati. I’m going to head down there this weekend with my wife to look at houses.
My wife is an assistant volley ball coach at Xavier. She’s still finishing her season and things and different recruiting responsibilities.
Q: Why Atlanta United, when Brad Guzan seems cemented as the No. 1?
A: It was a long story and a long process. I think it’s the right move for me.
Atlanta, after the season, showed interest. We started to speak with Atlanta.
We found out that they did put a Discovery claim on me with the league. Ultimately, I became a Discovery signing. That’s good because as a player you always want to go somewhere where you are wanted. That made me feel like they wanted me to come down there and compete.
Brad is a phenomenal goalkeeper, a national team player, a Premier League player, and when he came to Atlanta United he had a fantastic season and was the backbone of the team.
To come in and compete with him is what you want as a player.
Anything I can do to help the club win the championship when my number’s called or if I’m there helping Brad get ready for the game.
It will be a tough test. But hopefully, it will make Brad better and make the team better as well.
Q: Did you have other offers?
A: When our season ended, the MLS season was still going on. We were speaking with other clubs at the time. Clubs were still playing, Atlanta United being one of them.
Everything ramped up with Atlanta when I spoke with the goalkeeping coach, Aron Hyde, and Paul (McDonough), the vice president. They wanted me to come to Atlanta.
My agent then informed me they went through the process of the Discovery claim.
Q: Atlanta United is known as having a terrific fanbase, and Cincinnati had the best in USL. Describe what made it fun.
A: The fans there got me ready for Atlanta. We averaged 20-25,000 a game. That’s remarkable for a USL team.
It was sometimes weird going on the road. You go from 20,000 to some places in the U.S. playing in front of maybe 1,00.
It’s a unique league in that aspect.
But it got me ready to play for Atlanta and Mercecdes-Benz Stadium.
I’m used to that noise. Big crowd, I won’t shy away from it. It’s something I welcome.
I’m really happy to play in front of the fans in Atlatna. They can cheer me on and I won’t be on the other side of the net where they would be cheering against me.
My wife and I have gotten nothing but good things from Atlanta United’s fans and we are excited to get down there.
Q: Did you watch any Atlanta United games?
A: It was tough to not see them. Not only being an expansion team, but a breakout team and the brand of soccer and movement within the club was something everybody had to watch.
There’s not a fan of MLS that doesn’t know about Atlanta United.
Their brand of football is phenomenal. The goals they put up in games and players they have up top.
The thing that excites me is the way they play out of the back. I enjoy playing with my feet. I’m really excited to pay in that system.
Q: I was going to ask you if you are good with your feet.
A: I want to be an option if needed, not the old style of goalkeeping where you pass it back and put your foot through. I like to be able to keep the ball and give our team the ability to move it up the pitch with purpose.
It’s something I continue to work on and get better. It’s something I enjoy doing and think I’m going to the right club in that sense.
Q: Ever played in Atlanta?
A: I played in Minnesota United in the NASL before they joined MLS. I played the Silverbacks a couple of times. Played them when Eric Wynalda was coach. Played at Silverback Park there.
Obviously, Mercedes-Benz is a different venue.
Q: Have you seen the stadium?
A: I saw the training ground, which is absolutely phenomenal. Mr. (Arthur) Blank and his staff didn’t spare any expense with the team to give them everything they need to compete.
The only glimpse I’ve had of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was flying to Atlanta. We flew right over it. So that was a cool view.
I’ll definitely have to see if I can sneak my way in.
Q: Do you speak Spanish?
A: I’m starting to realize that I need to learn. I don’t. I took Spanish in middle school and high school. I don’t really speak Spanish. The layout of the team, I need to brush up. The guys in the locker room are a wide variety of nationalities. That’s one of the things that’s great about soccer: You take the best of what you have and everything blends together.