When news broke earlier Wednesday that playmaker Pity Martinez would likely be leaving Atlanta United on a big-money transfer to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr FC, it perhaps disrupted their tactical preparation heading into their match against Inter Miami CF.
To a man, however, Atlanta players and interim manager Stephen Glass insist it did not hurt their mentality on a night that ended in a 0-0 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"If you want to look at the preparation standpoint, yeah, OK, you can say that he was in the team and then he’s not in the team," said Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. "But it is what it is. This is the business that we’re in. And I don’t think anybody looked at it saying, 'Oh crap, what are we going to do now?'"
In fact, Guzan considered the performance a step forward from an embarrassing home defeat to Orlando City SC over the weekend, the club's first ever loss in that rivalry series. There might not have been polished attacking, he said, but there was considerable more bite in their own half.
Glass, who said the prospect of Martinez's exit grew from a possibility earlier in the week to a likelihood by late Tuesday, saw it similarly.
HIGHLIGHTS: Atlanta United FC vs. Inter Miami CF | September 2, 2020
"The team didn’t expect it," Glass said of Martinez's pending exit. "And when you expect a player, it’s going to be a disappointment when he’s not part of your group. But from then on, I think it was just down to the players on the night.
"We had probably a good level of control in the first half. Didn’t threaten the goal too much, but played the bulk of the half in their half. But the final third, the quality in the final third was probably lacking a little bit. But other than that, in terms mentally, I don’t think there was too much effect other than players obviously wanting him to be in the group."
The news came on the same on the same night that Erick "Cubo" Torres made his first start for the club. The Mexican striker likely arrived in Atlanta last month believing his performance would hinge on forging a successful on-field relationship with Martinez, a former South American Player of the Year.
Now, it's just another thing to adjust to.
"We’ve had new players join the team. A new coach. Pity’s pending transfer, so there’s new guys," Torres said through an interpreter. "But those things happen in soccer. So what we have to do is adapt quickly, because that is what is important. We’ve got more of a season to play, and before you realize it the playoffs will be here, so we have to adapt as quickly as possible. Me personally, I feel good physically. The team has welcomed me in the best way to the group. Mentally I feel good. I’ve been working hard at training to prepare myself and earn my first start tonight. And I hope to continue that and play more minutes in the next matches."