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Garza returns, Eales talks Almiron and more Atlanta United notes

Mar 3, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Atlanta United defender Greg Garza (4) kicks the ball during the game against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United F.C. might be getting a big boost to its roster just before the start of playoffs.

By the looks of the club’s Twitter feed and his Instagram page on Friday, Greg Garza seems to have fully returned to training with the Five Stripes.

The left back, who was a Major League Soccer All-Star selection in 2017, hasn’t played in a match since May 20, when he re-injured his right shoulder in a home loss to the New York Red Bulls. Garza, 27, had been playing with a torn labrum and had surgery to repair the shoulder a few days after the Red Bulls match.

Before the surgery, Garza started 10 games for Atlanta United, tallying a goal and three assists. In his absence, several players have filled in for Garza, including Chris McCann, Sal Zizzo, Mikey Ambrose and most recently, 16-year-old George Bello.

Garza resumed running and was training some on the side with the club in late August. On Friday, he was wearing a black brace around his right bicep. Garza initially injured the shoulder in the 2017 MLS All-Star game in Chicago, then re-tweaked it against Minnesota earlier this season.

A native of Texas, Garza started 25 games in 2017 for the club, notching a pair of goals and five assists. He is nearly perfect for Gerardo Martino’s offense, because he’s sound defensively but is also eager to get forward and contribute to the attack. Garza was initially with Atlanta on-loan from Liga MX side Tijuana, but the club purchased him outright this past December.

The 5-foot-8 defender has had a well-traveled career so far, playing professionally in Brazil, Portugal, Mexico and the U.S. With an annual salary of $175,008, he is Atlanta’s 14thhighest paid player.

Eales: Almiron won’t be cheap

Atlanta United fans briefly gasped last week when a report surfaced that Arsenal of the Premier League was nearing a deal with the Five Stripes for midfielder Miguel Almiron for about $11 million euros.

The report turned out to be false, and fans had a laugh on social media when they realized the outlet had quoted “Darren Eagles,” not Darren Eales, the club’s president.

Eales spoke to Atlanta-based sports radio station 92.9 The Game this week to throw more water on the fiery rumors surrounding the sale of Almiron. For starters, Eales explained, $11 million euros doesn’t begin to sniff the Paraguayan’s price tag.

“You know you’ve made it when they start to make up quotes from you,” Eales said. “There was two clues as to why that was total nonsense; one was they called me ‘Eagles’ and the other was the suggestion of $11 million, because it would take at least triple that for me to even get out of bed and think any bid for Almiron… It was a load of rubbish.”

Almiron, 24, has been mentioned in several transfer rumors and reports this season, linking him to clubs in England, Italy and Germany. In 62 games played for Atlanta, the midfielder has racked up 21 goals and 28 assists.

Last week, in Atlanta’s 2-1 win over the New England Revolution, Almiron left the game in the 30th minute with what was later determined an injury to his left hamstring. Martino said in his postgame interview that Almiron could miss the remainder of the regular season, but the club said in a press release a few days later that he is “week to week.” Almiron was supposed to travel with the Paraguayan national team during this FIFA window, but stayed in Atlanta to nurse the injury.

“We’ll just be monitoring (Almiron’s injury) and hope that he gets back as soon as possible,” Eales said on 92.9 The Game.

Notes

  • Romario Williams was named USL Player of the Week after he notched a brace in ATL UTD 2’s 2-1 win over the Charleston Battery last Sunday. Williams, 24, has appeared in 16 MLS games this season and seven at the USL level. The Jamaican forward has six goals and an assist across all competitions this season.
  • ATL UTD 2 finished its inaugural season on Saturday with a 3-2 win against the Richmond Kickers. Homegrown Lagos Kunga notched his fourth and fifth goals of the season. Last Wednesday, the USL side drew 1-1 with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as Laurent Kissiedou scored his third goal of the season. Said Kissiedou, 19, of Ivory Coast, after the game: “My job is to put in the work and score to help the team to win the game. If I didn’t score that goal on the second chance, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight.”
  • Atlanta United announced Thursday that it had hired Dean Atkins as Manager of Coach Education and Development. Atkins will lead the coaching education program giving back to coaches in Atlanta. He will also be responsible for the execution of all clinics and programming in the soccer community and will lead club development. Atkins previously served in the same role for the New York Red Bulls.
  • George Bello captained the U-17 USMNT against England on Friday. Fellow Atlanta United academy product Will Reilly started for the U.S. in the match.

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