I was at the first Atlanta United soccer match ever. I make this post a few months after the fact because I’m about to attend my second match this upcoming weekend against Columbus Crew, and I’ve now had a great deal of time to think about the opening match and how the team has evolved since then.
First off, I must remark on how much support has poured out across Metro Atlanta for this soccer club. I thought the team would be pretty popular, and I’m sure Mr. Blank must’ve thought so, too, or he wouldn’t have bought a franchise… but it’s really been crazy. It’s amazing to see Bobby Dodd packed every single home match. You can hear them roaring through the tv. The commentators pause often because they are awestruck by the volume coming from the crowd. And the chants! The Viking clap, the side-vs-side Atlanta United yells, the entire stadium transforming into a choir for the national anthem. Soccer is the beautiful game for a reason.
All of that is great, and I’m extremely excited to be getting back down to the Flats for another match. When I went back in March, I suppose you could say that the fan experience was still a work in progress. The stadium was woefully understaffed, although I didn’t go to the concessions anyway. The fan didn’t really have many proper chants or anything; we kind of just screamed or devolved into shouting “A-T-L” over and over.
The first goal in Atlanta United’s history, Yamil Asad’s score off a beautiful cross from Tyrone Mears… That moment will live on in Atlanta sports history for a long time, I think. Still, we lost the game after blowing a late lead, and we showed there something which will have to improve over time: a lack of cohesion.
Since that first match, it’s seemed like Atlanta has been a very hit-or-miss club. Obviously, Josef Martinez’s injury was a massive blow, not just for the loss of a scorer but for the chemistry which could have been built up in the attack if he were playing the entire season. Miguel Almirón, on the other hand, has been improving every match and is a great joy to watch. The key for Atlanta United needs to be improved chemistry, and I’m sure that’ll only come with time. My only worry is that the improved chemistry at the tail end of the season will be offset by fatigue since the last month or two of Atlanta’s schedule will be packed to the brim.
I’m excited to see the team live again next Saturday (6/17) against Columbus, but before then, I’m hoping we put our best foot forward against Charleston Battery in Kennesaw on Wednesday in the US Open Cup. It’s a fun tournament, and it represents Atlanta United’s best chance to earn a trophy and a CONCACAF Champions League berth this season.