Captain Michael Parkhurst and Atlanta United will face the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park and will look to come away with a victory as they did in their first matchup, when they won 4-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will face Atlanta for the first time as he made his debut for Chicago a week later when they faced the Montreal Impact and has since helped the Fire to a 6-3-2 record, which currently has them in second place of the Eastern Conference.
“He’s been doing what he’s been doing for such a long time at such a high level,” Parkhurst said. “The game slows down for him; he makes the easy things look really simple and the hard things look easy. We need to make sure he doesn’t have time on the ball to pick his head up and see the game because he always picks out the right pass.”
Stopping Schweinsteiger is easier said than done but Parkhurst said their plan will be to pressure the center backs early on, which will limit the touches of Schweinsteiger.
“It starts with our pressure up front,” Parkhurst said. “If their center backs don’t have time on the ball to play easy passes into him, it’s gonna make our midfielders job a lot easier to contain him. He’s not gonna be our sole focus, they got one of the leading scorers and one of the most dynamic wingers in the league and he’s a guy that dictates the game for them, so he’s an important piece that we’re gonna have to make sure to figure out.”
Parkhurst also praised Julian Gressel, who has scored twice and added three assists in the last four games for the five stripes.
“(Julian) Gressel has been a key player for us this year, he’s done really well,” Parkhurst said. “With a team that spent a lot of money in our attacking third, I don’t think many people expected a rookie to come in and be one of our main contributors and hats off to him. He’s a non-stop worker, he runs tirelessly and he’s got a good brain as well. He puts the ball in dangerous positions and like against Vancouver, I wasn’t sure if he was playing it to Greg (Garza) or if he was just putting it in a tough position for the defense, when you do that good things happen. He’s been in great form for us and hopefully continues.”
Parkhurst, who played against Mexico in the fifth ‘dos a cero’ victory in Columbus in 2013, also took time to wish good luck to the USMNT as they will head down to the Azteca on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s the biggest game for your country,” Parkhurst said. “One of the best environments that I’ll ever play in. It’s not only an honor to play for the USMNT but in that game with everybody watching and now the media is all over it as well. The way soccer has just risen in general, those games are under a lot of focus and scrutiny and they’re a fun thing to be a part of and you take a lot of pride in those games. They got their hands full and hopefully we can get three points against Trinidad (which the U.S. did after two goals from Christian Pulisic) and go into Mexico and take a point, if possible.”