MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United reconvened for a lengthy session at the Children’s Healthcare Training Ground Tuesday morning . gollowing a few off days. The Five Stripes can now put their season-opening stretch of seven games over 24 days in the rearview mirror and move forward with a routine that is less taxing. In fact, Atlanta must downshift into a mentality that will have the team prepared for just two games in month: at Columbus Saturday and at New England on April 13.
“I think it was nice to have the time away and to have a couple weeks to focus on Columbus,” defender Michael Parkhurst said Tuesday. “But it makes that Columbus game that much more important, because it is the only game within about a three or four-week period. So those three points become very valuable, and the performance itself becomes very important. We understand that, and we’re looking to have a very good game on Saturday.”
Brad Guzan acknowledged a mental adjustment must be made, but the goalkeeper is relieved Atlanta can recover between games.
“Physically, it gives us a chance — after those seven games — to hopefully try to get some fresh legs into this next run and really try to kick on,” Guzan said.
Players missing this weekend
Six Atlanta players departed for national team duty during this FIFA international window. Atlanta won’t have a first-choice starting XI against Columbus as some players receive time off.
“We’re going to be missing, it seems, a couple guys still for Columbus,” Parkhurst said. “That’s all right. We’ve got plenty of firepower, of depth to get the job done there, and we expect to.”
Forward Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez exited Argentina’s game against Venezuela with an apparent muscle injury last week, so he figures to be one of the players out of action, though the club has not yet confirmed. Who else might be absent remains to be seen.
Back three in flux
Parkhurst and Miles Robinson, Atlanta’s breakout star, have frequently swapped spots in the formation this season. When he is available, Leandro González-Pírez is a lock on the left side of Frank de Boer’s back three. The center and right side of the back line have been flexible. Parkhurst doesn’t expect he or Robinson will be assigned a single position as the season progresses.
“It’s more matchup-based against the opponent and how they’re going to play, what their center striker looks like,” the captain said. “I’m not sure going forward who is going to play where, but I think the most important thing is both of us feel comfortable in both spots, so I think that we’re able to interchange now without much of a hiccup.”
Guzan’s eye is OK
The ’keeper took a Cory Burke spike to the his face during Atlanta’s 1-1 draw against Philadelphia on March 17 and looked worse for the wear after the game. On Tuesday, Guzan’s mug was in much better condition.
“After a few days, all the swelling and the blood has drained out of it,” Guzan said. “All good.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Pity Martinez suffered an apparent muscle injury.