When Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino answers an interviewer’s question cleverly, it’s evident on his face.
He will try to suppress a smile and his eyes will squint.
That look appeared on his face following Saturday’s 4-0 demolition of Chicago at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Stadium, when asked if, after scoring 10 goals in his team’s past two games, this was a bad time to be heading into an international break when no MLS teams will play for almost two weeks.
“When you have this time to train, you just have to take advantage to keep gaining trust in our style of play and how we want to play, and to keep working on that during the break,” he said. And this came the clever part that was shown on his face: “And after our time in Seattle, we will know if it was a good or a bad time for the break.”
Seattle will be Atlanta United’s next game on March 31. The Five Stripes could be without four key players when they face the reigning MLS champions.
Starters Josef Martinez (Venezuela), Miguel Almiron (Paraguay), Carlos Carmona (Chile), and reserve Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) have been called up by their national teams to possibly participate in next set of World Cup qualifying games.
Should the quartet play in either or both of their national team’s games, the combination of fatigue and travel may make it impossible for Martino to put them in the 18 for the game at Seattle.
That may make it impossible for Atlanta United to continue its momentum as one the league’s hottest teams with more than twice as many goals scored (11) than any other team in the Eastern Conference (New York City is next with five). That momentum started in the 6-1 win in the snow at Minnesota United, and Saturday’s victory over Chicago. The team has six points heading into a four-game road stretch that will continue with games at Toronto, Montreal and Real Salt Lake before the team returns home to host D.C. United on April 30.
Martinez and Almiron have been key, with Martinez scoring three goals against Minnesota United and adding two more against Chicago. Almiron has two goals and two assists in the past two games.
Martino said last week that the team is exploring ways to try to get the players from South America and the Caribbean to Seattle in time for the game.
“I won’t say it’s horrible time, but unfortunate,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “You know we’ve got a lot of momentum right now. Ten goals in two games. But it gives the guys a change to get some training in, work on some things you know we’ll miss just a handful of guys who will go with their national teams and we’ll be ready. You know it’s unfortunate, coming out of the break, we play on a Friday but you know it is what it is. We know that we’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up and we know we’ve got to get results.”