Just in time for the Eastern Conference finals of the Major League Soccer Cup playoffs, Atlanta United FC is getting healthy.
Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said Friday at the club’s training grounds in Marietta, Ga., that Jeff Larentowicz, Andrew Carleton and Brandon Vazquez were set to return to training that day.
Larentowicz, 35, had been dealing with a muscular issue that kept him sidelined for Atlanta’s 3-1 victory over NYCFC last Sunday in the conference semifinals. Carleton, 18, had been recovering from the flu and Vazquez, 20, had been dealing with a nagging foot injury.
Starting in 34 games, Larentowicz has been a rock in the defensive midfield all season for Atlanta. Carleton has appeared in seven games, starting twice and notching one assist. Vazquez has appeared in eight games this season.
Martino, the 2018 MLS Coach of the Year, also added Darlington Nagbe, Chris McCann and Sal Zizzo could return next week. Nagbe, 28, suffered a “low-grade left hamstring strain” in Atlanta’s playoff win against NYCFC. The injury kept Nagbe away from USMNT camp.
McCann, 31, has been absent from the team all postseason while recovering from a left quad strain. Zizzo, 31, has been out since August after he had surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus.
While Martino was optimistic about the return of McCann and Zizzo, he said that fellow fullback Mikey Ambrose will not resume playing this season. He also had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in August.
It’s important for the Five Stripes to get healthy heading into their battle with the New York Red Bulls, because four regular starters could be a little fatigued from international travel. Miguel Almiron and Hector “Tito” Villalba flew to South Africa for a friendly with Paraguay, Josef Martinez will have flown from Atlanta to Japan to Dubai for games with the Venezuelan national team, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan is in Europe with the United States men’s national team.
In the first leg of the conference finals, Atlanta will host the Red Bulls on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The second leg will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in Harrison, N.J. on Nov. 29.