Zizzo says Atlanta United was his top choice

Sal Zizzo said Atlanta United was his top choice when it came to signing with an MLS team.

“The style of play, the training, the staff, everyone here is top class,” he said. “It was No. 1 on my wish list. I’m glad it worked out.”

Atlanta United signed Zizzo as a free agent after the 30-year-old spent the previous three seasons with New York Red Bulls. The transaction was announced last week. Zizzo brings eight years of MLS experience, as well as three with Hannover 96 in Germany.

Zizzo is expected to challenge Franco Escobar for the starting position at right fullback.

Zizzo thinks that his natural inclination to attack, born from his days as a midfielder before transitioning to fullback with Red Bulls, will benefit him in Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino’s tactics that require the fullbacks to often play as high up the field as the strikers when the team is pressing.

“I’m excited to bring what I used to do as a winger to right back,” Zizzo said.

Zizzo played in one of the two meetings between Red Bulls and Atlanta United last season. He notched a complete game in the franchise opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium. He didn’t appear in the 0-0 draw in Harrison, N.J. on Oct. 15. That game became notable after Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch accused Martino and his assistants of telling their players to deliberately kick the Red Bulls players. Zizzo said he hadn’t heard that before asked about it on Monday.

He said one thing did stand out about facing Atlanta United: talent.

“One player can win a game for you,” he said. “They are good as a team, but when you have talented players and attack like we do it can really post a threat to any team in the league. Even talking to some of the guys, they’ve been happy that I’ve come here here and praised how good this team is.”

That Zizzo played in one of two games follows the playing ratio of appearances-to-games in his MLS career. His maximum number of appearances (30) came with Portland in 2011 and his maximum number of starts (20) came with Red Bulls in 2016. He made 23 appearances with 18 starts last season. His dependability and versatility will be assets for Martino, who last season continued his reputation as a manager who will move around players in formations depending upon needs.

“From what I can tell it’s a similar style to what I played in New York, high pressing,” Zizzo said. “I don’t think it’s going to take too much time to get adjusted.”

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