When the Verde & Black take the field against CF Montreal on Saturday, it will have been 20 days since the team’s last MLS match – the longest break between fixtures on the schedule this season. After a well-deserved rest and recovery period, the squad is hungry to continue what’s been a strong campaign so far, and to climb back to the summit of the Western Conference.
“The international break has been a really long break. I think a lot of guys took some much-needed time away just to reset their bodies and their minds,” said goalkeeper Brad Stuver.
“This week’s been good, it was good today, training ended and guys wanted more,” said Head Coach Josh Wolff. “The tempo was good the last few days, the guys have been fatigued but in a good way. The training’s been intense and quite purposeful as you hope for all the time.”
The Club’s first match back from the break against Montreal begins a run of 5 of its next 7 on the road. It’s a tricky stretch where points will come at a premium, but those earned will set ATXFC up very well for the final 13 matches of the season, eight of which will be at Q2 Stadium. Even with three trips to Eastern Conference opponents and three matches against Texas rivals on the horizon in the next month, the team’s attitude remains the same.
“We’re going to take it the same way that we have been thinking about it the entire time,” said Stuver. “For us, it’s just to re-focus, get back to playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We want to be near the top of the West and near the top of the Supporters’ Shield.”
The international break was punctuated by a friendly defeat to C.F. Pachuca, one of the top sides in Liga MX. Despite the result, the match was valuable in regaining sharpness, both mentally and physically.
“Coming off a break, the Pachuca game was really important because it gets that game impulse that we had lacked,” said Wolff. “The next eight games are also quite challenging. It’s not an easy league and there’s a lot of unpredictability and a lot of opportunities in home and away games. Our main focus right now is going against Montreal, going there and trying to get points against one of the better teams in the East.”
That one-game-at-a-time mindset is something Wolff has intentionally distilled in the group throughout the year, and one that helps in a season as long as Major League Soccer’s, with highs and lows inevitable.
“You’ve got to stay mindful of your next opponent, you can’t get too carried away,” said Wolff. “We started the season well, but the process by which we operate, review ourselves from the week before, what do we need to do to prepare for the next opponent – those things will always be our drivers.”