When Atlanta United FC unveiled its name, you wouldn’t have been alone in thinking the name was a tad bit cringy. Seeing as way to many teams in MLS have the “United” surname, the name seemed to lack meaning or originality. It would’ve made much more sense to just name it Atlanta FC, or come up with some arbitrary mascot because this is America and we have those for some reason. But as the season has started something strange has happened; The team is actually living up to its name.
I never thought in a million years that a high profile soccer team would work in Atlanta. I didn’t think it would work in the entire south to be honest. While plenty of kids play club soccer and everybody has that one friend who won’t shut up about how good the Silverbacks or Battery are, professional soccer has been nothing more than a minute curiosity in the south. We are talking about Atlanta, the same city that has been known to have inconsistent support at best if your name isn’t the Braves. The same city that had two failed hockey teams relocate north of the border. So no one would fault you at balking at the idea of a MLS expansion team in Atlanta.
That makes what is happening in midtown even more astonishing. Not only is it not a failure, it is a booming success. Atlanta United has already broken the record for season tickets at over 30,000 (which is larger than most MLS teams average attendance). They have a roaring fan base lead on by five major supporters groups, which has already put a strain on their temporary home in Bobby Dodd Stadium. In just three games, Atlanta United’s support has outdone teams that have been around for decades, showing what good ownership and planning can do. And I haven’t even mentioned what product they put on the pitch.
The team has been nothing short of electric, going head to head against one of the best teams in the league in the form of NY Red bulls, as well as dominating fellow MLS newcomers Minnesota United 6-1 and Chicago Fire 4-0. Their explosiveness is something rarely seen in the MLS, especially right out of the gate. They have the leagues leading scorer in Josef Martinez as well as potential MVP candidate Miguel Almiron. Their level of play already has the rest of the league taking notice, with many pundits expecting them to finish towards the top of the East as well as being one of the few expansion teams to make the playoffs in their first season.
The whole point of this post isn’t to revel in the play of the team, or marvel at the team building done by Darren Eales and co. The point is to marvel in the team as a living, breathing organism. Atlanta is a transplant city, where people come from across the south to live in work in the closest thing to a metropolis. It has worked well, but hasn’t exactly breeded unity. Its the main reason why you see so many Saints fans walking around, but Atlanta United is different. It has finally given Atlanta a sport that is distinctly theirs. A team that lives and breathes Atlanta, from the supporters groups, to the sometimes corny railway theme. Who knows if their good form will continue, or if they will continue to sell out at a record breaking pace, but one thing is for sure. In an ironic twist, an Atlanta sports team has actually united our City.
All Stats via MLS.com
Photo credits Curtis Compton/AJC