2017 was a year that largely went as well as anyone could hope for Atlanta United. Despite a disappointing playoffs end, 70 goals, record-breaking attendance, and one of the most exciting breakout seasons in MLS history showed plenty of promise for the future. But every season is a chance to improve, and the players are looking to take another step in 2018.
“I think everyone on the outside of our locker room, they’ll look at this year and think it’s a successful this year,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan says. “And we will too to an extent, as there were a lot of positives to take away. But we also know how good our team can be. On certain days we can be very good, and it’s our jobs as players to bring that level that we’re capable of every day. I think if we can do that, hopefully we will continue our progress and growth next year, and hopefully we’ll have more celebrating to do.”
For players that established themselves as first-team regulars in the inaugural season, it’s no secret what they want in 2018.
“Next year I want to win the league,” says defender Leandro González Pirez. “We worked for this, and that is my dream: to win the league.”
“I think we raised the bar very high for next year, because it was a great season,” added midfielder Carlos Carmona. “But we want to improve and go further in the Cup. I think we’re prepared and I hope to go even further in the Cup next year.”
For the younger players, it’s the more individual goals on their mind as they look to contribute more to the team’s success in year two.
“Hopefully just breaking into the squad,” says Andrew Carleton when he looks forward to next year. “Now that the World Cup is over we have a little bit of a break with the national team coming up. So hopefully we will be able to be here a lot more and have more of a chance to break into the team, to get more minutes, and get more awesome experiences like I had against the Houston Dynamo with my debut.”
“As great as the experience was, being gone with the national team didn’t really help us get first-team minutes this year,” midfielder Chris Goslin added. “We’d be here one week and then gone the next. So hopefully being here more will lead to more playing time.”
For MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel, a debut season is now in the past, and the expectations – both for himself and from the outside – will only get higher. But he says he’s looking forward to getting back out in front of the Five Stripes nation.
“I’m looking forward to continuing the hype around Atlanta,” he says. “It’s such a great and fun atmosphere to play in front of in this city. I’m just looking to get better as a team and an individual, and then hopefully collecting some trophies as a team.”
And for a league veteran like team captain Michael Parkhurst, he’s used to the excitement of a new season. But he says there’s something special brewing for this club in 2018.
“I’m just looking forward to see how far we can push it, how far we can progress,” Parkhurst says. “I’m excited because we have a good group of guys coming back. We have that core group set, so we want to build on what we created this year. We know we need to improve, get better, and be more consistent. So everything’s an unknown for next year as far as our style of play and how quickly we can get back to form. The question is if we can raise that form. If we get better, the expectations will be the same as this year: playoffs, and from there, the Cup.”
Whether the goals are small, individual, or Cup-sized, it’s fair to say the squad is focused on making 2018 an even better year than the first. And just like the fans, they’re counting down the days until they can get back on the field in front of the red, black and gold faithful, and eager to see where year two will take them.