Leandro González Pirez got an up-close look at English soccer this offseason while visiting his good friend Manuel Lanzini at West Ham. But he says even the crowds at the famous Wembley Stadium don’t stack up to the Five Stripes nation.
“It was different,” he said through a translator. “The fans here are amazing, they support the whole game and pay attention the whole game and support us. In England it’s different.”
“Plus it’s colder, I prefer here,” he laughed.
To say Pirez is eager to get back in front of that crowd is an understatement. He admitted what has become a common theme among the Atlanta United squad: a feeling of unfinished business after last year.
“I think last year we had even higher expectations for our group. This year we want to win the league or the Open Cup, and we’re going to work really hard to accomplish that. We want to have an even better season this year than we did last year.”
Part of improving on last year’s success has been the added offseason reinforcements to the squad. And as a native Argentine, he’s taken a special role in welcoming the new South American players to the roster.
“I told [Franco Escobar] that he was coming to a great club and a great country. At first he had some doubts just like anyone would coming to a new place. He laughed a little bit about what I was telling him, but after these past few days at training, he’s come up to me and told me I was right about everything.”
Pirez and his fellow defenders gelled into a formidable back line as the inaugural season went on. But Head Coach Tata Martino is always trying to come up with new ways to beat the opposition and has hinted at the possibility of using more of a three-man back line, something Pirez says he’s ready for.
“It’s different because there’s a lot more space to cover and there are fewer defenders to cover that space,” he says. “But I do think we have the players who are capable of playing in that system.”
Regardless of the formation, Pirez says he and his teammates are focused on improving on last year’s results and says there’s always ways the team can improve.
“Instead of being in the top five [defenses] like last year, we want to be the top three or the best in the league as far as goals allowed. We’re a very ambitious team, and we’re going to give our all and go for everything.”
Pirez and his teammates will have a chance to prove their ambition starting in just over a month as the regular season kicks off. They will make their home debut on March 11th against D.C. United, you can get tickets to cheer them on now by clicking here.