The city of Atlanta has seen some great teams in various different sports with the likes of the Hawks in the NBA, the Falcons in the NFL, the Braves in the MLB, just to name a few; but, let’s not forget and take a look at the up and coming, Atlanta United in the MLS. With Major League Soccer projected to return this July 8, Atlanta United is considered as one of the top prospects to win the title. Last season, two of their biggest stars, Josef Martinez, and Miles Robinson both made the 2019 MLS Best 11. For as long as they stay healthy, the team is very much in the race for the MLS title.
It is important to establish that Atlanta United are a new team. The club was founded only in 2014 after being awarded an expansion franchise into the MLS. However, it was not until 2017 when the club played its first professional game in the league. From the get-go, it was easy to see that the club had a lot of potential. They were led by a great coach in Gerardo “Tata” Martino, a well-known and respected coach who managed prominent sides such as Barcelona and the Argentine professional team. Although he only spent one year in FC Barcelona and having only managed them for 58 games, he led the team to win 40 of those games as well as setting the record for most games unbeaten to start a season (20). He also coached the 2015 Argentina squad all the way to the Copa America finals, finishing 2nd place in the tournament. Martino’s resume spoke for itself, and it reflected on the performance of Atlanta United. The team finished in a tie for 3rd in the Eastern Conference, (eventually finishing 4th due to tiebreaker rules), this meant they were able to clinch a playoff berth, and this made them only the third team to do so in an inaugural season in MLS history. In that season they were knocked out in the first round by the Columbus Crew, but only by a penalty shootout that ended 3-1. Despite this loss, many fans saw the potential in the club and started to believe in their chances of going all the way in future seasons— and they were not wrong.
A season after their debut, Atlanta United began to dominate the MLS. The club finished second in the Eastern Conference, and they were the highest-scoring team, bagging a staggering 70 goals. The club finished second in the Supporters Shield, first in the MLS Cup, and first in the CONACAF Champions League, all in one year. To put that into perspective, a MLS team competes for a total of 4 major trophies. Atlanta United managed to win 2 and finish second in one for these tournaments, all in one season. Their 2018 team was a magnificent team playing some amazing football led by 2018 league MVP Josef Martinez, and 2018 Coach of the Year Tata Martino. The 2019 season saw a lot of changes in the club as Tata Martino decided to leave the club to coach the Mexico professional team. The club appointed renowned Dutch legend Frank de Boer, who is still the present coach, to lead the team. Their 2019 season was still successful. They finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference, 3rd overall in the entire league. This meant qualification for 2020’s CONACAF Champions League. The club ended up semi-finalists for the 2019 MLS Cup, losing 2-1 to Toronto FC, officially being dethroned at the top of the MLS. The club also saw defeat in the 2019 CONACAF Champions League, losing in the Quarter Finals to Monterrey by an aggregate score of 3-1. However, the club ended the year winning 2 significant trophies in the US Open Cup as well as the Campeones Cup. Overall, despite the disappointments and the defeats to Toronto FC and Monterrey, Atlanta United Fans have not a lot to be disappointed with.
Given their fast and rapid success, Atlanta United has grown to be one of the top teams in this year’s season. Before the lockdown, the team won their first two games, putting them on top of the Conference and second in the overall standings. The club still has their star Josef Martinez, but is currently injured. Regardless, fans have nothing to worry about as Frank de Boer is a great tactician and other stars such as Ezeqiuel Baco, Matheus Rossetto, Emerson Hyndmann and Miles Robinson to fill in the hole Martinez is currently leaving. Safe to say, this year Atlanta United is still one of the top teams to beat, and most certainly, they should not be counted out for the possibility of winning trophies when the MLS resumes. Other than that, Atlanta United is looking even more promising in the long future as Frank de Boer is known for his time in the Ajax youth academy, one of the most well-known and respected academies producing stars such as Frank de Boer himself, Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cryuff, and many other stars. With that being said, it is exciting to see what the Atlanta United youth academy can become and what these young stars are capable of doing. Given de Boer’s trust in youth players, it is not unlikely that we will see a star come out of Atlanta United’s very own academy. If that happens, then surely Atlanta United will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. With a great history, a dominating present and a promising future, what reason is there to not support Atlanta United? Get on your phones, follow the club, support their games, and revel in this club’s excellence.