Shorthanded Atlanta United limp into Concacaf Champions League opener at Motagua

Miles Robinson – Atlanta United – tight shot

ATLANTA — With the start of its season less than 48 hours away, Atlanta United has been bit hard by the injury bug.

The club will be without three players due to injury and two more with P-1 Visa delays for their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 opener Tuesday (10 pm ET | FOX Soccer Plus, TUDNextra1, App) against Motagua.

The chief worry is that starting center back Miles Robinson will be sidelined with a quadriceps strain.

Robinson collapsed to the ground after slipping on the field twice in short succession in the 21st minute against Leones Negros in a preseason match last Tuesday in Mexico. He walked off the field under his own power, but Atlanta coach Frank de Boer said on a conference call Monday he is listed as week-to-week and will not fly with the team to Honduras.

“He slipped two times,” De Boer said. “The first time he fell a little bit, and then he slipped another time and it was so much pressure on his upper thigh. So he has a small-degree injury, but still enough so that he cannot start to play yet this week.”

Robinson had a breakout 2019 under De Boer. Having started just four games in his first two professional seasons under Tata Martino, the 22-year-old made 33 league starts last campaign on his way to earning a spot in the MLS Best XI. His 2019 season ended early, however, suffering a hamstring injury during his first US men’s national team camp in October.

Robinson won’t be the only player missing from Atlanta’s roster Tuesday night. Two of the team’s left backs — Edgar Castillo and George Bello — are also out with injury. Castillo is recovering from a broken rib sustained earlier this preseason, and Bello is still experiencing some dizziness after suffering a concussion in the team’s friendly against Birmingham Legion Feb. 8.

Also, new signings Jake Mulraney, Matheus Rossetto and Manuel Castro have yet to secure work permit visas, so they will not be registered for the fixture. 

“I have to see if Rossetto and Manuel Castro can be involved in the [CCL],” said De Boer. “Those procedures normally take really long, and also Manuel Castro, I didn't see him yet. He's still in Uruguay. You never know when he's coming, and Rossetto the same — he has to go back one time to Brazil to get his work permit visa. That's not an ideal situation. Hopefully we get it resolved as soon as possible.”

The absences, many of which are hitting the backline, means Atlanta United is likely to revert to a four-man defense, according to De Boer. 

“It makes the list a little bit thin for me to put the names on it,” De Boer said, but joked, “but in a way it's easy, because I don't have that many names to put on [the team sheet]. That's the situation right now.”