Atlanta United’s second foray into the Concacaf Champions League will start with a depleted squad heading down to Honduras to face Motagua in the first leg of the round-of-16 series.
Defenders Miles Robinson, Edgar Castillo and George Bello are all listed as out on the Five Stripes’ injury report, while Mattheus Rossetto, Manuel Castro and Jake Mulraney are working through visa issues.
“I have to see if Rossetto and Manuel Castro can be involved in the [CCL],” De Boer said, according to MLSSoccer.com. “Those procedures normally take really long, and also Manuel Castro, I didn’t see him yet. He’s still in Uruguay. You never know when he’s coming, and Rossetto the same — he has to go back one time to Brazil to get his work permit visa. That’s not an ideal situation. Hopefully we get it resolved as soon as possible.”
Even though the squad is thinner than the club hoped, Josef Martinez, Franco Escobar and others will headline the group traveling to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The game is being played at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano due to renovations at Motagua’s home stadium.
The match is one of two to feature a Major League Soccer club Tuesday night. Los Angeles FC plays Club Leon at the same time as well.
As a result, the Five Stripes’ match will be on Fox Soccer Plus and TUDN Extra at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday night.
De Boer confirmed he will utilize a four-man back line because of the absences. Center back Fernando Meza is likely going to make his club debut with Escobar, Brooks Lennon and Anton Walkes in contention to start.
De Boer, always candid, said ATLUTD will play with a back four to start on Tuesday night. Not surprising considering the the personnel and a tough, experienced opponent that will press Atlanta.
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) February 17, 2020
Meza is expected to be a rock in defense next to Robinson, a role that was previously held by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who was sold to Club Tijuana in the offseason.
With so many missing pieces, Atlanta’s goal will likely be to contain whatever damage the Honduran side can do on home soil.
A year ago, the Five Stripes lost 3-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 to Herediano, but they turned around and won 4-0 at home a week later.
If Atlanta is able to contain Motagua and steal an away goal from San Pedro Sula, it should be in decent shape to finish off the two-leg series in Georgia.
Honduras international Emilio Izaguirre, who has experience playing in Europe with Celtic, is one of the key players for Motagua.
The left back said in the buildup to the match that the club will be playing for itself and for the country of Honduras, according to Diario Diez.
“We are representing Honduras and we are going to get the best version of Motagua to represent the country,” Izaguirre said.
Motagua qualified for the Champions League by placing second in the Concacaf League, which produced the final six CCL participants.
Motagua defeated Managua from Nicaragua, Jamaican club Waterhouse and Alianza FC out of El Salvador to advance to the Concacaf League final, where it lost to Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa.
Motagua last competed in the CCL in 2018, when it lost to Liga MX’s Club Tijuana in the round of 16.