Atlanta United loses Ronald Hernández (knee) for 3-4 months

May 31, 2022 GMT
Atlanta United Ronald Hernandez lieson the ground after a play in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Columbus Crew in Atlanta, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta United Ronald Hernandez lieson the ground after a play in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Columbus Crew in Atlanta, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Atlanta United Ronald Hernandez lieson the ground after a play in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Columbus Crew in Atlanta, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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Atlanta United Ronald Hernandez lieson the ground after a play in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Columbus Crew in Atlanta, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
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Atlanta United Ronald Hernandez lieson the ground after a play in the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Columbus Crew in Atlanta, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernández will miss three to four months after injuring a knee ligament in a 2-1 loss to Columbus, the latest in a string of major injuries for the struggling team.

United announced Hernández’s status on Tuesday, saying it also will prevent him from being called up to the Venezuelan national team for international matches.

Hernández went down in Saturday’s game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium while starting in place of injured Andrew Gutman. Shortly after the kickoff, Hernández collided with United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and dropped to the turf clutching his right leg.

Hernández tried to stay in the game but had to come off in the sixth minute with what Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda described as a “pretty swollen” knee. It was diagnosed as an injury to the medial collateral ligament, though the team provided no additional details.

Two of Atlanta’s most prominent players, goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Miles Robinson, both suffered season-ending Achilles injuries on noncontact plays at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Robinson’s injury will also likely cost him a spot on the U.S. roster for the World Cup in December.

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Those injuries raised questions about the new FieldTurf artificial surface at Atlanta’s stadium, though the team says there is nothing to indicate it is to blame.

Installation of the new surface was completed in February before United’s season opener. The Major League Soccer Players Association has expressed concerns about the safety of the turf, which is the same product and brand that has been used since the stadium opened in 2017.

“We are gravely concerned about the number of serious injuries that have occurred on the new playing surface at Mercedes-Benz,” said Bob Foose, the MLSPA’s executive director. “We have shared and reiterated our concerns with the league and inquired about what is being done to address the issue. We have yet to receive a clear answer back.”

United has played home games on artificial turf since moving into the retractable-roof facility, also home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, when it opened midway through the MLS team’s inaugural season.

The stadium near downtown Atlanta is expected to be selected as one of the hosts for the 2026 World Cup, though a natural-grass surface will be put down for that competition.

“At the very least, the league and the club should be investigating all possible causes for these injuries and reporting back to the players on proposed solutions moving forward,” Foose said.

Gutman injured his left quadriceps tendon in a 2-2 draw at Nashville on May 21. He is expected to miss two to three months.

Atlanta also lost midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (right ACL) and third-string keeper Dylan Castanheira (left Achilles) to season-ending injuries.

In addition, star forward Josef Martinez returned to the lineup this past weekend, coming on in the second half of his first game since undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery on April 6.

While recovering, Martinez missed seven league matches for United, which has only one win in its last eight games and has dropped to 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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More AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports