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Atlanta United’s Sal Zizzo has knee surgery, will miss 3-4 months

Atlanta United defender Sal Zizzo (14) kicks the ball away from Nashville SC midfielder Ryan James (7) during the first half of the friendly at First Tennessee Park. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Major League Soccer season is likely over for Sal Zizzo.

The Atlanta United F.C. fullback had surgery recently on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus, the club said Thursday. He suffered the injury in training.

The timetable for his return is three to four months, which means the earliest he could return is November. The Five Stripes hope to be battling in the playoffs at that point.

Zizzo is the latest Atlanta United player to have a long-term injury. Fellow outside back Greg Garza is still recovering from shoulder surgery he had in June and Darlington Nagbe is healing from an abductor injury. At the time of their injuries, Garza was expected to return in four to six months and Nagbe was expected to return in two to three months.

The club has not offered any recent updates on Garza or Nagbe’s recoveries.

Hector “Tito” Villalba, Ezequiel Barco, Franco Escobar, Chris McCann and Alec Kann are among other Atlanta players who have missed time due to injuries this season. Josef Martinez has battled through a broken hand and nose.

Zizzo, 31, came to Atlanta as a free agent this offseason after spending three years with the New York Red Bulls. He has also previously played for Sporting Kansas City, the Portland Timbers and the now-defunct Chivas USA. Before coming to MLS, he spent three seasons in the Bundesliga with Hanover 96.

He is Atlanta’s 16th best paid player this season, bringing in a salary of $130,000.

Playing time has been sparse for Zizzo this season. He’s appeared in six games for the Five Stripes, making just one start in Atlanta’s home loss to Sporting Kansas City on May 9. His most recent appearance was on June 24, seeing the pitch for 17 minutes in Atlanta’s 1-1 draw with Portland.

But if not for his injury, Zizzo could have seen the pitch this weekend. Starting fullback Franco Escobar is suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Mikey Ambrose is healing from an injury too. He was seen on crutches at the MLS Special Olympics Unified Match on Tuesday.

Atlanta manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino will have a tough decision to make with the lineup against Toronto F.C. on Saturday. He could play a formation with a three man back line that features Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez and Chris McCann. Or, he could stick with the four-man back line and plug in Miles Robinson or Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu. The versatile Julian Gressel could also be shifted to fullback.

The Five Stripes are 14-4-5 this season and lead MLS in points with 47. They kick off against Toronto at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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