Tata Martino tight shot
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta players keep focus on MLS Cup despite Tata Martino-to-Mexico rumors

MARIETTA, GA. — The winds are changing in Atlanta, and the chilly temperatures bring with them ice cold rumors regarding the status of Atlanta United manager Tata Martino. After numerous reports out of Mexico and South America stating that Martino would depart for the Mexican National Team following the season, ESPN has entered the fray—the first major American-based outlet to do so.

Speaking to media Friday morning, Martino remained quiet and steadfast in his demeanor as he manages to keep the team focused on the matter at hand, Sunday’s nationally-televised match against the Chicago Fire (3 pm ET | ESPN — Full TV & streaming info). He refused to speak about any speculation regarding the recent rumors, stating that he would only declare his intentions when there is something to officially announce.

“We read it. We see it and we recognize it, but we’ll know when people tell us for sure—when the right people tell us,” said Julian Gressel, a player who’s made a leap in his career under Martino. “Right now, we’re all focused on one goal, which is to win our next two games and win a trophy and then focus on the playoffs. It’d be a waste if we didn’t focus on that right now and throw it all away.”

Two weeks ago, Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst talked about the mentality of professional players, who live on a year-to-year basis due to the nature of the business and short contracts compared to most working people. 

“That’s how life is for us,” said Gressel. “Parky has told me a bunch of times that you don’t these opportunities to win [trophies] too often in your career, so you have to make the most of it. Whatever people decide, I hope people stay committed to what we’ve done this year. I know I am and most of the guys are, if not all of them.”

Veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan, fresh off of duty for the US national team during the international break, said that regardless of any rumors, the stakes for Atlanta United are too high to worry about anything other than the run-in to the season and the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I don’t think [the team’s focus] has anything to do with thinking about next year,” said Guzan. “We know that we’ve put a lot of hard work in the last 9-10 months going back to preseason. We’ve put ourselves in this position. Regardless of what players will be here next year, what managers, what coaches, what front office staff – you can’t think about that. It’s part of professional sports. You can walk into work one day and be told you’ve been traded. So you can’t think to far down the road and have to be in the moment.”

Despite the club’s infancy, Atlanta United hopes that this will be their moment to cement their legacy.