More than three weeks after returning to individual training at the club's facility, Atlanta United players are reaping the benefits.
Able to do much more physical and technical activity, albeit alone, the players are getting much closer to match fitness than with their at-home workouts. The increased intensity possible at training facilities may mean the players need less time in full team training to be ready for MLS matches, whenever the league gets the green light to return to play.
"I'm much more prepared now than I was," Jeff Larentowicz told reporters on a video conference call Thursday. "Once we get to full team training, I don't think we'll need very long in terms of fitness. What happens tactically and game experience? That might take a little bit of time to knock some rust off, but I think we've all acknowledged that can happen in games. In terms of fitness, we're in a great spot. We've been fortunate to have a club that's taken all the proper steps to keep us safe and allow us to get back on the field."
The next stage of training was unveiled on Thursday when MLS announced that it was now permitting teams to hold voluntary small group training sessions in line with local officials and government policies as well as detailed guidelines.
The grind don't stop 👊 pic.twitter.com/wGXMiCQWcL— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 28, 2020
Still, whenever MLS can return to play, squad depth will be key.
With just two games played in the 2020 season and a break in play that's lasted more than two and a half months, multiple games a week are expected to be the norm across the league. There will be plenty of minutes to go around as teams lean on their entire squad. IFAB has also signed off on a proposal by FIFA to allow up to five substitutions to be made per game.
"It gives the guys who don't necessarily get as many minutes as they'd like a chance to compete," Mo Adams said. "It also puts the guys in the starting lineup a bit of pressure. There's more subs to be made if you don't perform at that level. It gives everybody an opportunity, but more importantly, it balances the minutes for everybody. The games are going to ask a lot of us physically, to be sure we can perform at our maximum levels, it'll be vital for us to do well as a team."
If MLS does return to empty stadiums as is the case across the globe, it'll remind players of youth soccer days at various tournaments like the Dallas Cup.
"It'll be a bit of a throwback, but I think there'll be a lot less soccer in the hallways at night," Larentowicz said with a laugh. "There's no doubt it'll be a major adjustment on the field."