Atlanta United says lesson learned about intensity

Atlanta United’s players on Wednesday said they expect New England to come out with as much energy Saturday’s as the New York Red Bulls did last week. Atlanta United lost the key MLS matchup, with Supporters’ Shield points on the line, 2-0.

Michael Parkhurst, a 34-year-old veteran with 278 starts in MLS, said that was the most intensity he’s seen from a team in a league game. Jeff Larentowicz, with 388 appearances, agreed, saying it reminded him of how Houston came out in the season-opening game. The result was Atlanta United’s lead over the Red Bulls in the race for the Supporters’ Shield was cut from four points to one with three games to play. Each team assumes the other is going to win out.

“We all know that there’s a team on our heels that’s really up for it and we have to match that,” Larentowicz said. “You learn from wins and you learn from losses and that was a loss that we certainly learned form.”

If the beginning of the game against the Red Bulls wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, manager Gerardo Martino made sure at halftime that the players knew that they need to improve their energy and execution. Atlanta United was forced to play in its own half for the game’s first seven minutes.

“I think everyone within the team, looking back on the game, realizes the intensity and what we need to do better the next time we play them,” Parkhurst said.

Atlanta United played better against the Red Bulls in the second half, but could never break through in suffering their third shutout in league play this season.

“Hopefully, it’s a lesson learned,” Parkhurst said.

Like New York with the race for the Shield, the Revs also have something to play for because they are still alive in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. New England is in eighth with 35 points from 30 games. It is five points behind sixth-place Montreal.

“It’s like a dog in a corner that is going to want to fight their way out,” Larentowicz said. “They need to get three points for them to have hope. That’s dangerous. That’s something we really have to be ready for.”

And like the Red Bulls, the Revs are a team that likes to press. It attempted to do so when they hosted Atlanta United on May 30 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Atlanta United handled the press and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Josef Martinez in the 23rd minute. The Revs tied the game on a penalty kick by Teal Bunbury in the 88th minute.

Factoring the stakes and the opponent style, Parkhurst said that Atlanta United will match New England’s intensity.

“Looking ahead, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “We have a couple of home games coming up. We knew the position that we are in. We still control our own destiny.”

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