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Julian Gressel returns to Atlanta United training; Ezequiel Barco, Tito Villalba missing

The Five Stripes have one key player back with the first team.

Julian Gressel [center] celebrates a goal as Josef Martinez [left] and Eric Remedi walk back to the center circle during Atlanta United's 2-0 win over Toronto FC on May 8, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Julian Gressel [center] celebrates a goal as Josef Martinez [left] and Eric Remedi walk back to the center circle during Atlanta United's 2-0 win over Toronto FC on May 8, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

MARIETTA, Ga. — Midfielder Julian Gressel participated in full training with Atlanta United Monday morning. Winger Héctor “Tito” Villalba was absent again, and winger/attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco missed the session.

Barco sustained a knee injury during Atlanta’s U.S. Open Cup win over the Columbus Crew last week. Manager Frank de Boer said the injury is similar to Villalba’s, though not as severe. Barco suffered a few hard challenges from Crew players. At one point, Atlanta centerback Leandro-González-Pírez received a yellow card for dissent over a lack of punishment for the fouls.

“Maybe it’s a red card in any country, only here [in Major League Soccer], no,” González-Pírez said after training Monday.

De Boer hopes Barco will be able to return “in two weeks.” 

Gressel missed Atlanta’s Open Cup victories over the Charleston Battery and Columbus earlier this month. After playing in eight games over 28 days from May 5 to June 1, the German experienced general muscle tightness, according to manager Frank de Boer. Gressel received extra rest as a precautionary measure. He is available for selection going forward

Villalba has not played or trained with the Five Stripes since a 1-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on May 19. In that game, he sustained a knee injury that cost the Paraguay international a spot on La Albirroja’s Copa America roster. Villalba recently underwent treatment in Argentina and returned to Atlanta last week. On Monday, de Boer targeted Atlanta’s Open Cup quarterfinal against St. Louis FC on July 10 as a potential return date for Villalba.

The Five Stripes have not played a Major League Soccer game since defeating the Chicago Fire 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on June 1. Atlanta resumes league play this Wednesday, June 26, at Toronto FC. The game will kick off at 8 p.m.

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