Atlanta United rested and refreshed for final 6 MLS games



Jeff Larentowicz didn’t watch soccer last week. Julian Gressel had two days where he didn’t know what to do.

It was perfect.

For the first time since the first week of June -- 19 games and two trophies ago -- Atlanta United didn’t have a game last week.

Though the team did hold three training sessions, it was a nice time to recharge ahead of the team’s final six regular-season games. The streak starts against Columbus on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Atlanta United is in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference, with 48 points. It trails first-place NYCFC by five points and second-place Philadelphia by three.

“It was necessary,” midfielder Larentowicz said. “I think everybody knows what’s on the line, so I got away from soccer as much as possible, didn’t read it, didn’t look at it, refreshed the brain.”

The team returned mostly healthy.  Wingback Gressel said he feels much better than he did against Philadelphia in the final game of the stretch, when he was suffering from the bumps and bruises accumulated during a season that started Feb. 21.

“Mentally and physically refreshed,” he said. “That describes it best.”

Four players didn’t participate Wednesday. Centerback Miles Robinson and goalkeeper Brad Guzan were returning from playing with the U.S. men’s national team. Ezequiel Barco is out with an injury. Andrew Carleton’s absence wasn’t explained by the team. He scored two goals for Atlanta United 2 on Sept. 7.

“I think we look pretty healthy, so that’s a good thing,” Larentowicz said.

To regain its sharpness after the break, Atlanta United scrimmaged 11-on-11 on Wednesday and may do so again Thursday as part of its preparation for Columbus.

Larentowicz said the team is working at becoming better at what it has been doing to make sure its patterns and ideas are sharp.

“Get back in the game rhythm again,” Gressel said. “Can’t have any rust now that you’ve played so much. Can’t have any rust going into it. Be mentally ready for those moments.  Pretty good session yesterday to get back into it. Mentally, have a good session tomorrow, and that will prepare us well for Saturday.”