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Atlanta United star Miguel Almirón questionable for Columbus Crew match

May 20, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron (10) reacts after being injured on a play with New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams (4) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron could miss a crucial match against the Columbus Crew due to a shoulder injury. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United FC’s game Wednesday at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, is a critical one.

A win and three points would give the Five Stripes more cushion atop the Eastern Conference. A victory for the opposition, Columbus Crew SC, would tie things up at the top of the table.

And Atlanta could be without arguably its best player in that match. Early MVP candidate Miguel Almirón is still nursing a shoulder injury. At training Monday, Atlanta manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said the Paraguayan midfielder was questionable for Wednesday’s game.

“Luckily, we don’t think it’s anything serious,” Martino said through a translator. “But since there is only four days between the two games, we’re going to evaluate the risks and see if we’re going to be able to count on him.”

The injury is to Almirón’s left shoulder, but the coach didn’t elaborate how severe it is. It seems that Almirón aggravated that shoulder in Atlanta’s 1-1 tie to NYCFC on Saturday. He played all of the first half, but was subbed off at halftime for Romario Williams.

A 5-foot-9 attacking midfielder, Almirón has started in every Major League Soccer contest for the Five Stripes this season. He has tallied six goals, six assists and leads the league in shots with 73.

If Almirón is unfit to play Wednesday, Martino has options. Williams has played well in short spurts this season and has shown an ability to score goals. Kevin Kratz is another option, providing the Five Stripes with a veteran presence and a threat on set pieces.

17-year-old homegrown Andrew Carleton is another choice, but Martino may not want to start the youngster on the road in a hostile environment. Martino did suggest that 19-year-old Brandon Vazquez could start in Almirón’s absence.

In good injury news, Martino said that Hector “Tito” Villalba will be available for selection Wednesday. The 23-year-old Argentine has missed the last three games with a hyperextended knee. Villalba has just one goal and two assists over six starts this season, but tallied 13 scores and 11 assists a year ago. He could fill in for Almirón too.

Martino added that defender Chris McCann will not be available for selection against the Crew as he is still healing up from a hamstring injury.

Since falling to the New York Red Bulls at home on May 20, the Five Stripes are on a three-game unbeaten streak in MLS play, notching a win and two draws.

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