NEW YORK – Miguel Almiron may have been limited to just 45 minutes on Sunday, but do not be surprised if he goes the full distance this weekend.
Atlanta United welcomed Almiron back to the field for the first time in nearly a month in last Sunday’s 1-0 win over New York City FC. The playmaker had been sidelined since October 6 with a hamstring injury, but he started and delivered a solid outing in a predetermined 45-minute shift at Yankee Stadium in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
More importantly for Atlanta United, however, was that he finished his time on the field without any physical ailments or fitness problems and played well enough to suggest that he might be capable of carrying a larger load in this Sunday’s second leg at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
“Good, I feel very good,” said Almiron. “Yeah, yeah I think I’ll be ready to play more minutes next week.”
It is unclear as of right now how many more minutes Almiron can handle, but Atlanta United is hoping the Paraguayan international will be able to play the full 90. The club is in a good position to reach the Eastern Conference Finals after grabbing a crucial away goal en route to leaving New York victorious, and knows that its chances of closing out the series improve greatly by having Almiron on the field as much as possible.
“He’s important because he influences the team and he influences the opponents,” said Atlanta United head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino. ‘We lose a big advantage not having a player of his quality in the playoffs. … He was very involved and participated a lot in the game, so we hope to be able to count on him for the full amount of minutes in the next game.”
Regardless of if he can play from whistle to whistle in Atlanta, Almiron is surely going to have different role than he did over the weekend. The 24-year-old attacker was asked to play less like a traditional No. 10 and more like a second forward in the first leg, but should go back to his more natural central position.
The game should be an open one because NYCFC needs to find a goal and there will be more space to play than at Yankee Stadium given the larger field dimensions at Mercedes Benz Stadium, which bodes well for both the speedy Almiron and Atlanta United.
“On the field, he gives us another level of dynamism and rhythm” Leandro Gonzalez Pirez told SBI. “Obviously it will help him, too. He played only 45 minutes as a precaution. He was fine and capable of playing more, but (the coaching staff) prioritized his health and didn’t want him to. I think in the next game he’ll be able to play whatever is necessary.”
Almiron probably has a similar train of thought. After all, Atlanta United might currently be in front of NYCFC, but the series is far from over.
“It was a tough game against a tough opponent,” said Almiron. “Nothing has been decided yet.”