ATLANTA (AP)Brad Guzan has been the last defense for Atlanta United almost since the beginning of the franchise.
Now, the MLS club must figure out a way to get by without its goalkeeper and captain.
The 37-year-old Guzan is done for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati last weekend.
United is confident in his replacement, Bobby Shuttleworth, an MLS veteran who was brought in this season to back up Guzan and now takes over as the No. 1 keeper.
Still, it was a shocking blow to lose Guzan, who along with Josef Martinez is United’s most prominent player.
”Personality, leadership, good character, good footballer, good goalkeeper, many things,” coach Gonzalo Pineda said, describing all the attributes that Guzan brought to the team.
Guzan went down without any contact while moving toward the ball in the second half of the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He pounded the artificial turf in frustration and had to be carried from the field on a stretcher.
Guzan started nearly every game for Atlanta after joining the team midway through its inaugural season in 2017, having completed a nine-year run in England with Aston Villa, Hull and Middlesbrough.
A former starter for the U.S. national team, Guzan has been part of four playoff appearances in Atlanta, highlighted by an MLS Cup championship in 2018. In 140 MLS games, he has 47 shutouts.
”Huge loss,” midfielder Emerson Hyndman said. ”I mean, he’s obviously been a leader here for many years. And it was just sad to see him go down and all of us feel for him, but we’ll be right behind him.”
Pineda said the team may sign another goalkeeper. In the short term, Justin Garces was called up from Atlanta United 2 to serve as an emergency backup for a U.S. Open Cup game against Chattanooga FC on Wednesday.
United’s next MLS game is Sunday at Inter Miami.
The 34-year-old Shuttleworth has nearly as much experience as Guzan with 221 appearances since joining MLS with New England in 2009.
”I’ve been in this exact situation before, and I’ve played a lot of games,” Shuttleworth said. ”So you know, rely on that experience. And at the end of the day, it’s just a soccer game.”
Guzan going down was the latest in a series of injuries that have plagued United this season.
Martinez is expected to be out at least six more weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Midfielder Ozzie Alonso is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee two weeks ago. Luiz Araujo recently returned from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener. Machop Chol has yet to play because of an injury sustained during the preseason. Dylan Castanheira, the previous third-string keeper, ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session a few weeks ago.
”The mantra that we’ve been using since the very beginning, next man up, and now Bobby is going to take care of that,” Pineda said. ”And I’m sure he’s going to do fine.”
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