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Atlanta will ‘hit the ground running’ when MLS resumes

Washington (AFP) – Despite losing star striker Josef Martinez to a season-ending knee injury in the opening game, Atlanta United plans on a fast start when Major League Soccer returns from a coronavirus hiatus.

The 2018 MLS champions and 2019 US Open Cup winners have had time for injuries to heal for midfielder Matheus Rossetto and defenders Miles Robinson and Franco Escobar.

“When we’re given the green light, when they say to go back to training, we feel pretty good that aside from Josef, who has the long-term injury, the rest of the squad will be healthy,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said Monday, according to a posting on the league website.

“That’s one bright spot in terms of this delay for when we come back, that we’ll have the whole squad ready to hit the ground running.”

The MLS campaign was shuttered indefinitely after only two matches, with Atlanta the lone Eastern Conference club to open with two wins.

But United lost Martinez to a torn right knee ligament on February 29 against Nashville, the Venezuelan star now going through rehabilitation at the team’s training grounds after undergoing surgery March 18.

“For Josef now, it’s a long task ahead of him,” Eales said. “He’s single-minded, he’s focused and he wants to get back 100 percent. That’s the most important thing for us.”

Martinez was the 2018 MLS Most Valuable Player with a league-best 31 goals and has netted 77 goals in 84 MLS appearances.

“It’s not about how quickly we can get him back,” Eales said. “The important thing for him and for Atlanta United is that we get him back at 100 percent.

“Knowing Josef, he’ll be at 110 percent.”

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