Atlanta United will have a trio of players — Miguel Almirón, Greg Garza, and Michael Parkhurst — representing the team at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target this Wed., Aug. 2 (8:30 pm, FS1, Univision, TSN, TVA Sports). Not bad for an expansion side.
“It is a point of pride for the team to have three guys represented in the All-Star Game in our first season, in these short six months together,” said Atlanta manager Tata Martino.
Together with the other MLS All-Stars, they’ll take on back-to-back Champions League winners Real Madrid this at Soldier Field. MLS newcomers Almirón and Garza, who were voted into the MLS All-Star Fan XI, are making their first appearances at the game.
For Garza, the honor is especially meaningful given all the setbacks he’s overcome recently. Those have includeed injuries, a year-long rehab period following surgery, and a disappointing end to his time at Club Tijuana in Liga MX.
“On a personal note, everything I’ve been through over the past two years of my life has been a pretty big roller coaster for me,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to be called into the All-Star in my first year in the MLS ever.”
He also thanked the Atlanta United fans for visiting MLSsoccer.com early and often to vote him onto the first team.
“That [honor] doesn’t just come from me, it comes from the 45,000 people who are here that have our backs,” he said. “I’m just really glad everyone could vote for me and as I said, I’m very happy now in my career.”
Almirón, currently tied for fifth in MLS in combined goals and assists with 17, is new to the MLS All-Star game. Not only that, he’s also being introduced to the entire All-Star game concept. As Garza pointed out, it’s an “all-American” event that someone like Almirón, who spent his pre-MLS career Paraguay and Argentina, will experience for the first time.
“I don’t think you’ve got that any other place in the world,” said Garza. “Usually in South America, Mexico, they issue prizes at the end of the year, like best defender, best midfielder. But we’re going to put on a show.”
Parkhurst will make his fifth MLS All-Star appearance — his first selection was back in 2005 — and he’s as excited as ever about this year’s match.
“It’s a fantastic honor,” he said. “To be able to go out and represent the squad in the first All-Star game for Atlanta United is awesome. Myself, Greg and Miguel are going to go out there and do our best. Off the field, we are going to have a good time. We’re going to represent the club well on the field as well. We’re looking forward to it. It’s always a good event.”
Martino, meanwhile, is part of a rare club of managers who have defeated Real Madrid, having won two out of three El Clásico clashes during his time leading Barcelona. Asked for his advice on playing a team stocked with global superstars like Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Marcelo, and Sergio Ramos, Martino admitted there’s no secret to beating them.
“It’s tough to say because it’s a friendly, but I think it’s a great honor for the MLS players to be in that game and to play against a team like Real Madrid,” he said. “I just hope the guys enjoy it because it’s not something that comes along very often.”