The mood was upbeat to say the least in the Atlanta United locker room after Saturday’s win over the Chicago Fire. After an eight-match, six-win stretch that helped propel the Five Stripes to the top of the Eastern Conference, it’s time for a well-deserved break.
“I think they need a little break right now,” Frank de Boer told media. “Normally you would think ‘we want to continue in this rhythm,’ but I think they really deserve a break and focus on the U.S. Open Cup.”
The month has done wonders for Atlanta United’s place in the standings. A bumpy start meant the Five Stripes started the month at the bottom of the East. But catching up on games in hand and winning six matches in May alone means the team’s back where they belong: controlling their destiny to become leaders of the East.
“I think we always knew we had it in us, I think we have a lot of talent in the locker room,” Jeff Larentowicz said. “It was just about making it work. It’s been good team performances –– to get shutouts is always a team performance –– but you have had individuals step up and have good games. Josef (Martinez) scoring is always a big thing for Atlanta United. He’s doing that right now. It’s good to be where we are right now.”
“Sometimes, you don’t score, sometimes you score 15 goals in 15 games,” added Josef Martinez, through a translator. “The most important thing is that you can never get down on yourself as a player. You just have to keep fighting, working hard, and have confidence in yourself. We know we had a bad start to the season. Now, we’ve started to pick it up and the goals are coming. It’s important for us to keep it up and hopefully the goals will still come as well.”
The players acknowledged the need for a mental and physical recharge, but emphasized the importance of not letting the break interfere with their momentum on the pitch.
“It’s going to do us well because we can recover,” Leandro González Pirez said. “We’ve played eight games in 27 games which is a ton. We had very positive results. We won six and lost two, so, in general, it went very well. Now, we can try to recover and start over again with a different point of view.”
Brad Guzan put it best, saying, “We certainly know the amount of work that’s gone in to preparing for these games and obviously getting the results that we’ve had. It means nothing if we don’t come back from this break and pick up where we left off.”
“More than physically, I think mentally, you use this time to recharge mentally,” Guzan added. “To make sure that if you have any little nagging injuries you get rid of them, you take care of yourself. But mentally, it’s just important that we use this time as a positive so that when we come back, we can continue this good form and the good run that we’re on.”
But first it’s time for an important recharge as the team prepares for a crucial stretch in the MLS season.
“Over the past month, we have earned it,” Larentowicz said. “There have been a couple of tough games in there, but to finish strong the way we did this week, I think everybody is going to enjoy their time off this week.”
“The goals are coming,” Martinez said, “and we are back at the top of the table, so for that, we are happy.”
The team will return to action in U.S. Open Cup play on the road against the Charleston Battery next week. They’ll be back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the Montreal Impact on June 29th. Tickets are still available for that one, so make sure you’ve reserved your place here.