Crucial stretch ahead for Atlanta United

Larentowicz says separation in Supporters' Shield starts against Columbus

John and Hugh
August 15, 2018 - 11:27 am

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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Atlanta United is back in action this week after a much needed week of rest. Midfielder/defender Jeff Larentowicz joined John Fricke and Randy McMichael to talk about the team's matchup against Columbus Crew SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

The week of rest came at a crusical time of the season for Atlanta United. Players won't get much a break, at least, until the end of October or longer, if they make the playoffs. 

"It's not often you get a free weekend...get a mental break away from the game for a few days. We're going into a tough stretch where there won't be many breaks after this so kind of recharge and get going again."

Atlanta United comes off the break with the NY Red Bulls and NYC FC hot on their heels in the Eastern Conference of the Supporters' Shield. It's got to be foot hot on the gas coming into Sunday's game against Columbus SC.

"Columbus is obviously the next team in line [behind Red Bulls and NYC FC>. It's going to be difficult but the final stretch of the year is going to be tough. This is one of our only home games of the next five so I think we've got to take care of business to make sure we're in a good spot against those teams."

It was back in June that United last faced the Crew, ending in a 2-0 win. Before that, Columbus ousted Atlanta from playoff contention. No question that has added fuel to the fire every time these teams matchup. 

"They're one of the better teams in the league over the last few years. They're a team that plays a similar style to us. They're a very, very good team. Everytime we match up, it seems to be a good game...it's team that whenever we go out there, we want to beat. We know they're going to be in and around us come the end of the year, and the more points we can take from them, the more we can distance ourselves. You want to be the team to beat in the conference, and beating them twice in a year does that."

Striker Josef Martinez is on pace to shatter the MLS season goal-record, and sits only one goal away at 26.

With that said, Martinez is scoring at least once a game, leaving other players to assist on  goals or not score at all. John and Hugh, speaking to VP and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra last week, wondered if there was a concern to get other players scoring. And when asking Larentowicz that same question, he thinks it is important for other guys to start scoring besides Martinez:

"I think it is important, to be honest. Don't tell Josef I said that," Larentowicz said jokingly. "At the same time, [Josef> is scoring at a pace that is just incredible, and it takes care of business. But you always feel  like if you count on it too much, then it could dry up, and you don't want that to happen. There are other guys who are creating chances; we have plenty of guys that can score. If we can get other guys contributing, other people chipping in, I think that it's going to make it more well-rounded for the team and harder to defend."