Parkhurst: Atlanta's "full focus is now on MLS" after CCL disappointment

Atlanta United FC vs. Monterrey - Game Highlights

Acá tenemos todas las acciones del partido que llevaron a Rayados a la semifinal. #SCCL2019 #ATLvMTY (edited)

Posted by Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ATLANTA – Their maiden voyage in the Concacaf Champions League came to an end Wednesday at the hands of CF Monterrey, but Atlanta United’s 1-0 win in the second leg offered glimpses of things to come in their 2019 MLS campaign.

Manager Frank de Boer admitted that his team failed to live up to lofty expectations in the team’s home opener against FC Cincinnati, and he told media Wednesday that the performance on display against Monterrey is one the team can build upon.

“I just spoke to the guys and gave them a very big compliment,” De Boer said in the moments following the final whistle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday. “The energy they put in tonight in this game — this is the energy you want to see. This is what the fans expect from Atlanta United.”

It’s understandable why that energy hasn’t been a constant for Atlanta this season. Having played six matches across a three-week timespan, Frank de Boer has chosen against heavily rotating the squad, instead leaning on his most trusted players, just like his predecessor Tata Martino. That fixture congestion and travel — the Five Stripes have already played in three different countries this season — has physically taxed Atlanta’s most talented core.

Still, in the media mixed zone after the match, ATLUTD players appeared buoyed by the result. They’ll hope it’s enough of a lift to see them through one more game, Sunday at home vs. the Philadelphia Union (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), before a well-deserved break in the schedule.

"It's been a tough run and guys are tired,” captain Michael Parkhurst admitted. “You saw some heavy legs there in the second half, but we pushed through it. We understand that we have a little bit of a break after Philly.”

Heading into that matchup against a struggling Union team, the smart money is on De Boer trying to get one more performance like Wednesday’s out of his core group of players. Tito Villallba, a player that impressed in one of his longer cameos so far this season, could possibly force his way into the side in place of Pity Martinez, who looked sluggish against Monterrey and will be traveling to play for the Argentine national team during the upcoming FIFA international break.

While players noted that exiting the tournament on a winning note is a bittersweet feeling, the team can finally narrow their focus on an MLS competition that provides more familiarity.

“We're disappointed not to advance. We had high hopes going into this tournament, but the performance down in Monterrey hurt us,” said Parkhurst. “Now that it's over though, the full focus is now on MLS and righting that ship and making sure we give good performances.”