Heading into Wednesday night’s matchup against Minnesota United, fans may think back to the last time these two teams played, when two late goals sunk a 10-man Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But for midfielder Julian Gressel, revenge will have to wait.
“I think we’re waiting more for the regular season matchup than this one,” Gressel said after training Tuesday. “I think this one is more focusing on us progressing through preseason and getting ready for Houston.”
That’s not to say the team is looking past their Wednesday game, another vital piece of the preseason puzzle.
“It’s good competition playing an MLS team,” Gressel added, “a good team that’s gotten better in the offseason. We know it will be a good little test for us, and helpful for us just to get better. As a team, we want to get better and individually we want to get better.”
That’s been the common theme among the Atlanta United players: a desire to keep improving and utilizing every minute of preseason. Because the offseason may feel long, but time on the field together is limited, and it’s vital to be as prepared as possible for the regular season.
“This is probably our second real game now that we are having, so we want to get more comfortable on the field. I personally got better every half we’ve played, and I think the team has gotten better every half we’ve played together. Now it’s just taking steps forward instead of backwards, and getting ready for Houston.”
Atlanta United’s first real test comes on the road against the Houston Dynamo in the MLS regular season opener. It’s a tough opponent only made trickier by coming as the first match of the year.
“It’s a Western Conference team to start, and you never really know coming into the season how good teams will be. They probably don’t know how good we’ll be either, exactly. We just have to be up for the challenge.”
But Gressel welcomes the challenge, and says he’s counting down the days just like the fans.
“ [I'm] just looking forward to being back. It’s been such a long time. I wish it was at home, but it’s away for the first week. But it’ll be exciting to be back and just get going again.”
After Atlanta United’s return to competitive play on the road in Houston, they’ll come back to Atlanta for their home debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against D.C. United on March 11th. Tickets to that match are still available, make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.