CONCACAF Champions League

          The way our CONCACAF Champions League season turned out was definitely not as we would have liked. It was a real priority for us as a team to make it as far as possible, but unfortunately we lost to a good Monterrey team in the quarterfinals. Playing in this competition was  a great experience and something I will be able to draw from as my career continues. Visiting different countries was fun, and I hope I will be able to advance further at some point and maybe even lift the trophy. Let’s start at the very beginning, though. 

          Once we found out we were playing Herediano in our first matchup, I did not really think about it for long. At that time, we were preparing for MLS Cup and I did not even want to think one second about the following season. Everything was focused on not only the biggest game in my career, but the biggest game for the club and Atlanta Sports in a while. There was definitely no time to think about what happens in a few months, especially since the draw gave us an opponent that I had never heard of in a country that I associate with vacation more than anything else. After our MLS Cup win, I also never really got around to actually really do some research and check out our first real opponent of the 2019 season. By the time we had been in camp for a week or so I had a better idea of what would come our way with Herediano. Preseason came and went and it was time for the first real match of our 2019 campaign. The travel to Costa Rica was easy. We took a Delta charter and stayed in a nice hotel for the few days we were there. The weather was great (unlike the weeks before during preseason) and we all felt pretty good about getting the season started. Once I saw the stadium I knew that it would be a really tough place to play. The turf played really slow and the ball bounced more than it rolled, therefore it was going to be hard to move the ball quick and open up space for us to create some quality chances. I remember hoping for rain to make the conditions a bit easier and shift it more in our favor, but it did not rain and the game definitely did not go the way we wanted it to. We lost 3-1, but thankfully we scored an away goal. That goal was about the only positive to take back to Atlanta. Our performance simply was not good enough and we had to improve a lot if we wanted to turn this around. 

          The return leg at Kennesaw State University happened just the way we wanted to. Two early goals and full control of the game led to a 4-0 victory and secured our spot in the next round. The feeling was good after that game, we played well and deserved to move on to the quarterfinals. We knew that the next round matchup in Monterrey was going to be difficult. They have not lost a game all year, are one of the top teams in Mexico, and are essentially in mid season form. But we also knew that if we were at our best, we could definitely beat them and advance. It all happened quickly, we found out right after the second leg against Herediano that we would go straight from D.C. to Mexico for the midweek game. Unfortunately, I was not be able to play in that beautiful stadium because of my ankle injury. We trained in Washington on Monday before our departure to Monterrey and I rolled my ankle. I was in a lot of pain and it was pretty swollen, but I was not going to give up on the game, yet. On Tuesday, I got treatment basically all day and we really made some progress in terms of managing the swelling. I had also made progress towards being able to walk normal again, but unless a miracle happened over night I would not be able to play. 

My view of the first leg in Monterrey

         The miracle did not happen and unfortunately, I had to miss my first game in an Atlanta United uniform due to injury. This was the first time I was not able to play because of an injury in years. I cannot even remember the last time I had to miss a game. It was a different feeling for me not being able to help the team. I was a lot more nervous watching than I would have been playing. I thought we played a very disciplined game until the last ten minutes, where we conceded two goals and took a 3-0 deficit back to Atlanta. After a poor performance during the weekend in MLS, we were back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to try and make the impossible possible. During warm ups, there was a strange feeling in the air and I was hoping that that would turn out in our favor. We played pretty well, but unfortunately were not able to score a goal in the first half to put some more pressure on Monterrey. We deservedly won the game 1-0, however, ultimately lost on aggregate 3-1 and got knocked out against a good Monterrey side. 

          Ultimately, we did not deserve to advance, but showed in the second leg that we can compete with the best teams in Mexico. This performance is what leaves me hopeful for not only the rest of the MLS season, but also the Campeones Cup later this year. Overall, my first CCL experience was one I will be able to learn from and hope that I can use later in my career. I visited a couple countries I have never been to before and really wish I could have played in that beautiful stadium in Monterrey. Maybe that will happen another time. Hopefully we will be able to play in that competition again soon and make a real run at that trophy. 

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. The match Wednesday night felt like HOME again. This season is just getting started and you have plenty more opportunities ahead! Glad you’re back on the pitch. We’re always behind you guys!!

  2. You’re on the right path! We love you, guys and support you all the way, always! ❤️????

  3. Very interesting how some players are hurt basically every season (Robben comes to mind) and others rarely get hurt. Glad you were back so quickly!

  4. Enjoyed the read. Glad you are back and am looking forward to cheering you and the team on again this year!

  5. I know it’s been a rough start to the season, but we are behind you guys no matter what. Wednesday’s game was amazing and it really looked like things are starting to click. Such a short off season and so many changes have to be hard to manage, but we are so proud of you guys!!! #vamosatlanta ❤️????❤️????❤️

  6. I love this, reading the inside of a player’s view. Monterrey was a good match but with aggregate it was a tough loss. They knew to stay on you, a threat for the goal. I’m excited to see what new ideas come of our new players and a new coach, Same #1 team! A????T????L

  7. Thanks, Julian!

    It’s cool to get an inside look—as much as you can give us without getting in trouble with the league or the team 😉

    Looking forward to continuing to read!

    1. How many players are not only growing every game and killing it on the field, but also laying the groundwork for either coaching or broadcast media career after a successful playing career?

      Looking forward to following you for a long damn time.

  8. I know it’s been a bit of a different start to the season, which is particularly hard after winning the Cup. You’ve already been a major contributor in 2019. But yes, Wednesday’s game felt like a total victory – and return to form – even though we didn’t advance in CCL. #Gresselmania

  9. Thank you for a players perspective! We love your heart when you are on the pitch! Expecting more great things from you this season! I know you want to play in the Bundesliga, and I hope one day your wish comes true!

  10. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Julian. You always give 100% and you are a crucial part of the ATLUTD machine. Can’t wait to continue watching the team shine this season! #gresselmania

  11. Thank you for sharing even more with the 17s. It’s really neat to have that perspective. CCL was/is tough tournament. Take heart though, last time ATL UTD was knowcked out, y’all came back to win it all. Enjoy that well earned ring.

  12. We love you and the Five Stripes, kiddo! Keep pushing hard and being the amazing team we know you can be. We are so glad you’re healthy again!

  13. Awesome write up on your experience.

  14. You guys deserved that great CCL experience. Yeah, that last 12 minutes in Monterrey was disappointing, but to see you guys bounce back with a good performance against an excellent team on Wednesday was fantastic. Here’s to getting those 3 points tomorrow and a well-deserved rest during the international break.

  15. This city loves you. ????

  16. You guys looked fantastic Wednesday night and even though the CCL journey ended a bit early this year, I have no worries. I know you all are finding your groove and will undoubtedly continue kicking tail. Can’t wait to see you guys play tomorrow! We go again…

  17. Julian,

    I’m happy to see your infectious hussle (It should be husselmania) infecting others on the squad. Just know every time you make that 60 yard recovery run it is noticed by fans, especially those that have played. Keep fighting the good fight and whipping in those crosses. You are playing very well and maturing quickly. (No I don’t mean getting old and injured).

    All the best,
    17

  18. Thank you for the insight and for all that you bring to the A!

    The work rate, effort and heart you and the team showed on a Wednesday is just what we fans have fallen in love with… keep it up!

  19. Glad your ankle is better…..being out for an injury is never easy but you can always grow from the experience. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  20. Thanks so much for all your insight to these matches and the season so far. I’m still new to the sport and am looking forward to learning more from your point of view. The match up against Herediano: the away match loss sucked but I still felt if the conditions were right and we played like the team that won the MLS cup then we could still advance. And holy crap did we come back with vengeance at Kennesaw. That night felt right and we looked amazing out there. You mentioned that the turf played really slow, what conditions make the field fast or slow for you? In regards to the match up against Monterrey: what were your thoughts on their stadium? Do you think the higher elevation of the stadium in regards to all other MLS stadiums had an effect on the match? I hope you get to enjoy the countries you visit for matches some. Do you ever have the opportunity to go out and explore any? Thanks again for the great read!

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