ATLANTA — With Atlanta United well on their way to an MLS Cup victory over the Portland Timbers, manager Tata Martino made a substitution in the beginning of stoppage time: Ezequiel Barco for Miguel Almiron. This was Martino’s way of giving the record MLS record crowd of 73,019 gathered at Mercedes-Benz Stadium their chance to show their appreciation for the club’s first No. 10.
"Miggy," as he’s affectionately referred to by, walked off the field but there was something different about his exit. Added to the usual claps above the bowed head were a couple of waves.
Almiron has been linked more than once to a European move this season. Added to that is the fact that Martino, who was a major influence in Almiron deciding to join Atlanta in the first place, will be leaving the club.
In the dressing room after the game Almiron was asked about his future, and he said he would be returning to the team for preseason in 2019. With that date coming less than two months away – and before the close of the European winter transfer window – that statement, won't do much to stop the speculation.
“Things change in professional sports,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan when asked how the team was able to rally with the knowledge of Martino leaving. “There’s going to be players in this locker room who won’t be here next year. There’s going to be new players who come in. It’s part of professional sports. That’s why you savor these moments. That’s why you enjoy these moments that much more.”
The way Guzan spoke about his No. 10 suggested he was well aware of the transfer speculation swirling around Almiron.
“His legacy, his impact on the game and on the city is huge,” Guzan continued. “Whatever happens with Miguel, we wish him all the best. He has been a fantastic servant of this club, of the city. He deserves everything that he is going to get going forward in his career on an individual basis. I couldn’t be happier for him to be able to—if this is the end for him—to be able to send him off as a champion.”