Early in the first half of his team’s 2-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Almiron pulled up after making a run down the right side. He grabbed at his hamstring, and tried stretching it out for a minute or two while waving off the coaching staff on the sidelines. Eventually, the Paraguayan midfielder was subbed off for Julian Gressel in the 17th minute, and as Almiron exited the field, he was covering his face with his jersey and fighting back tears.
Almiron wasn’t made available for interviews after the match. But Atlanta manager Tata Martino said he’ll know more about the extent of his star player’s injury tomorrow.
“It’s difficult to say anything now,” Martino said through a translator at his postgame press conference. “Apparently it’s a muscle injury, but tomorrow he’ll see a doctor and we’ll know more.”
Almiron has yet to miss a game this season, and starting with a game against D.C. United on June 21, he’s only been substituted twice: once in the 89th minute in Atlanta’s 3-0 defeat of FC Dallas on Sept. 10, and again in the 79th minute in a 4-0 win over the LA Galaxy last Wednesday.
Sunday’s match against Montreal was Atlanta’s fifth match in two weeks. Martino admitted fatigue might have played a role in the injury.
“It’s tough to say, but maybe,” he said. “[Almiron’s] coming off playing a lot of games with us and also playing two games with Paraguay. So he’s played a lot of games. But it’s also true that as a team we’ve been accustomed to playing one game and then a game midweek, but we’ve had a tough stretch of games, so it’s possible that could be another explanation.”
Looking ahead, the schedule doesn’t ease up for Atlanta any time soon. The Five Stripes have another match at home on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union, followed by an away match the following Saturday at New England, before yet another home match against Minnesota United on Tuesday, October 3.
“In the second half today, I think we felt it,” said Atlanta center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. “Playing five games in a row, especially in the style that we play – we want to have the ball, press high, and control the game. So I think today in the second half we lost our legs a little bit, but it’s just from playing five games in a row.”
Depending on the severity of his injury, Almiron may also miss two key World Cup qualifiers for Paraguay during the international break in early October.
“We just have to move forward,” said veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. “Miguel is obviously the heartbeat of our team when he’s out there. He make so much happen for us, so to lose him would be difficult.”