MARIETTA — Former Lassiter High School standout Mark Bloom made his first appearance for Atlanta United last Saturday, starting at right back in a 2-1 loss on the road against the Montreal Impact.
Bloom’s first start came under unique circumstances, with the 29-year-old not even learning he would be starting until the morning of the game. Atlanta’s regular right back, Tyrone Mears, was a late scratch due to a minor ankle injury.
“I had heard some rumors the night before that maybe (Mears) was struggling, but I didn’t officially find out until about two-and-a-half hours before the game,” said Bloom, an offseason acquisition from Toronto FC. “I didn’t really have much time to think about it. You just kind of get thrown in, and you have to be prepared.”
Bloom was thrown into the starting lineup tasked with defending Montreal’s prolific scorer, Ignacio Piatti. The task became even more difficult when Atlanta’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez earned a red card just before the end of the first half. That left United to play a man down the rest of the way.
Playing with just 10 men forced Bloom to change his approach as a full back.
“For me, personally — especially with Piatti on my side, who doesn’t like to get back and defend — It’s kind of sitting back even more and not bombing forward,” Bloom said. “When I do see a good chance to go forward, I just kind of creep forward. I’m a little more hesitant, a little bit more on the safer side because, if I get called out, there’s one less guy there to cover for me.”
Even with the late insertion into the lineup, Bloom did enough to earn praise from Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
“He did really well. He found out that morning that he was going to play,” Martino said through a translator. “It just so happened he was going up against Piatti, who’s Montreal’s most dangerous player and probably one of the most dangerous players in the league, but he did well.”
Mears seemed to be moving normally at training on Wednesday, although Martino said he was still being evaluated. It was unclear whether Bloom or Mears would start at right back when Atlanta (2-2-2) plays at Real Salt Lake (2-3-2) tonight, capping a four-game road trip.
Bloom said the United defense feels confident after facing some of MLS’ top attacking teams to open the season. If the back line continues to play well, Bloom feels confident in a win against Real Salt Lake, whether he is in the starting lineup or not.
“I think it’s a very winnable game,” Bloom said. “We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and if we do, we set ourselves up nicely.”