Coronavirus, Sports

Atlanta United Players Look Forward To Resuming Season — Even If It’s In Front Of Empty Seats

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan dives to block a shot during a soccer match last year. He says he’s eager to get back on the pitch, but not at the risk of anyone’s health.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan dives to block a shot during a soccer match last year. He says he’s eager to get back on the pitch, but not at the risk of anyone’s health.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press file

Brooks Lennon likes being back at Atlanta United’s training facility in Marietta, even if workouts are currently limited individual drills.

“Just a lot more equipment than I would have by myself, and also there’s coaches out there that are telling you exactly what to do,” said the 22-year-old Lennon, who’s in his first season with the Five Stripes.

Atlanta United’s season has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Major League Soccer says it plans to play matches this year, it’s still not clear when or where they’ll take place.

Lennon says when play resumes, it’ll be an adjustment to not high-five teammates or jump into a dog pile to celebrate goals. But he says there’s one aspect of soccer that can’t change – the often physical battles over controlling the ball or jockeying for position.

“To play to win, you have to do everything you normally do,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s game should change in terms of not being able to get in contact with the opponent.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan says he’s eager to get back on the pitch, too, but not at the risk of anyone’s health.

“We as players, we want to get back on the field, but we also want to do so, as I said, in a safe way, and that not only means from the virus that’s certainly going around, but that means being fit and healthy enough to play games,” said Guzan.

One Major League Soccer proposal would isolate teams and have them play at one centralized location — Orlando, Florida.

Guzan, 35, says that might work for now, just to get the season back up, but it can’t be a long-term solution.

“To take players away from their families for six months, that would be … you know, that’d be insane,” he said.

As much uncertainty as there is about soccer’s return, one thing is clear: It’s likely to happen initially without fans in the seats.

That would take away one of Atlanta United’s big advantages – the record-setting and raucous crowds that fill Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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