It was a whirlwind start to Atlanta United’s third season, with fixture congestion and constant travel a little bit of a grind that ended up showing in the results. Fortunately, the first international break of the season came at the perfect time for the Five Stripes.
“We had a little more time to prepare,” Julian Gressel said this week. “That break always helps in terms of getting certain ideas across the right way instead of rushing things in a two-day lead-up to the game. I feel quite a bit fresher, so that’s nice."
Six matches in eighteen days was a tough start coming off a short preseason, and combined with all the travel involved, it drained the team for the final stretch. So with a few days off, the talk at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground was about a new 'freshness' among the squad.
“Mentally just as much physically, being able to step away and regroup is huge,” said Brad Guzan. “That’s from an individual basis but ultimately a team basis. You come back together, you have that buzz, that eagerness and freshness back. We have the hunger to get out and train again.”
“Energy is a big part of this sport,” added captain Michael Parkhurst. “That was a grind we went through, so to get a few days off is important. That recharge is hopefully going to be something we can use to our advantage Saturday night.”
Not only does that break give the team time to refresh themselves for the next phase of the season, it’s also some critical time on the training pitch for a team still learning a new system under a new coaching staff.
“I thought after the three days off, the team looked very sharp,” said head coach Frank de Boer. “We want to come further in the Champions League, and the results in the league, so that was mentally tough. But after those days off, everyone had new energy again. This is the second phase that we go into right now, and we are very positive and I’m very happy with how energetic the team looks right now.”
Next up is another tough, a road trip versus one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. With this the only match in a four-week stretch for the Five Stripes, they see this as an important tone-setter for the next stretch of the season.
“Ultimately we’re trying to find our way into games, ways to get on top of teams and create chances,” said Julian Gressel.
“Only having two points from three games, we’re looking up in the standings and we don’t like doing that,” Parkhurst said. “So we want to get back to winning as quickly as possible. We want to go up to Columbus and get three points. It’s our only game in three or four weeks, so it’s mentally an important game. Coming off a poor performance all you want to do is get back on the field and play again. We know after the Columbus game we have another week off, we want to go into that with our head held high, feeling good, with three points, so we can look ahead to the Revolution two weeks later.”
With a renewed focus, and fresh legs to execute on their plan, you can bet that you will see a bullish Atlanta United squad ready to scrap for three important points against the Crew. Click here for all you need to know about how to tune into the match.