Atlanta United recharged heading into final six games

Atlanta United defender Anton Walkes (right) kicks the ball during the first half Sunday, May 23, 2021, against Sounders in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Atlanta United defender Anton Walkes (right) kicks the ball during the first half Sunday, May 23, 2021, against Sounders in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Heading into the sprint of the season’s final six games that will determine if Atlanta United makes the playoffs, two of the team’s important players said they feel recharged and ready.

Ezequiel Barco, who has seven goals and six assists this season and had played every minute of the previous 12 games, said he spent the days off granted by the team during last week’s international break and the beginning of this work week at home watching games from Argentina or the few MLS games that were played. He has played 1,695 minutes this season and should easily pass his career-high mark of 1,730 set during his first season with the club in 2018.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I think it’s all in the coaching staff. They do a really good job giving myself and all my teammates confidence so you know I want to be out there. I want to help the team, and we know we have important games coming up so we want to try and do our best and be in the best position we can be.”

Atlanta United is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one spot below the playoff line. The team trails fourth-place Orlando by one point and leads ninth-place Red Bulls by two. Because the conference is so jumbled, every point earned will matter in the final games. Atlanta United will play at Toronto on Saturday, the first of the six games in 23 days.

“Each game is gonna be like a final to us,” said centerback Anton Walkes, who leads the team in minutes played (2,326).

Walkes said he needed the time off to refresh and recharge, but soon found himself missing being at the training ground.

“Hopefully, I can keep building on from here,” he said.

Several previously injured or unavailable players rejoin the team for training. That group included central midfielders Amar Sejdic and Franco Ibarra, winger Jurgen Damm, striker Erick Torres and assistant coach Rob Valentino. Striker Josef Martinez didn’t train with the team Tuesday. Sejdic’s and Ibarra’s return from muscle injuries will add depth to a midfield that was down to only Santiago Sosa and Matheus Rossetto in its past few games before the break.

Having lost two of its three going into the break, Walkes said he thinks the intensity needed during the recent training sessions has been good.

“It’s been a bit of a steady build up to that time of the year where the games are coming,” he said. “And it’s very important to just be ready physically, mentally to ... try and get these points back.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Aug. 18 Atlanta United 1, Toronto

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, D.C. United 1

Aug. 28 Nashville 2, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 3, Orlando 0

Sept. 15 Atlanta United 4, Cincinnati 0

Sept. 18 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Sept. 25 Philadelphia 1, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 29 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 0

Oct. 2 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE