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Diagnosing Atlanta United’s captain and leadership hole in wake of Brad Guzan’s injury

Atlanta United is dealing with an injury crisis, and the club’s captain is the latest casualty.

Brad Guzan suffered an Achilles injury in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati, leaving Gonzalo Pineda with more issues to worry about than simply putting another goalkeeper between the sticks. It is important to note that at the time of writing, we do not know the timeline for Guzan’s return.

“I don’t want to go into the details of the injury, but it doesn’t look good. That’s why I’m sad, it’s not about the result or the performance, it’s about Brad’s injury,” Atlanta United coach Gonzalo Pineda said after the match. “I have to wait for the scans and tests they will do. No, it wasn’t a knee injury, it was an Achilles tendon injury.”

For starters, Brad Guzan has been at the club since the summer of the 2017 inaugural season and led the club to appearances in 165 appearances across all competitions. What’s even crazier is that it all started. Guzan is the definition of fixed availability for the five lines.

Turning away from the numbers and looking at the human side of the injury blow, the team was clearly shaken by the goalkeeper hitting the floor in such terrible pain. Pineda, full-back Miles Robinson and left-back Andrew Guttman appeared to be deeply affected by the situation.

“It is definitely devastating. It means a lot to this team. He is a real leader. Its energy is contagious. Miles said. “It’s definitely tough for us. Especially me, you know, he’s been a leader in my career so far. It’s definitely hard to accept, but it’s something you have to address over time.

“At this point, I was used to Brad coming back there you know, he was always there always. In pretty much every game I played for Atlanta United, so you get used to him, you understand what he wants, and he’s asking more than ever.” .

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This problem is compounded by the other injuries Atlanta United are currently dealing with. Of course, I’m referring to Josef Martinez and Ozzy Alonso. The latter only joined the Five Stripes before the 2022 season, but he quickly emerged as a leader in that team – given his massive MFL experience.

This is what makes this situation so difficult for Pineda. In the field, who will be the outspoken leader who can rally the forces when the team is in a difficult moment? Who will direct the traffic, organize the defense on set pieces, and make sure the players stick to the task at hand?

Leaders in the field do not need to wear a captain’s armband. As far as I can recall, Joseph had only worn the armband on one occasion. But Atlanta does not have many players available who have been considered de facto and de jure leaders in the field before.

Miles took the captain’s armband Saturday night after Guzan was dragged off the field. He’s been at the club since 2017 when Atlanta United drafted him into SuperDraft and recently made his 100th debut in the Five Stripes Championship against Charlotte. He made 114 appearances for Atlanta United, and the closest player on the current roster was Brooks Lennon in 68 games. Depending on your time at the club and quality on the field, Miles is the most obvious choice to wear a captaincy. If he was the one to take up the mantle, it would be the next step in his career.

Knowing Pineda and how it works, it is likely that he will find a solution to this and invite men to step up at this difficult moment.