They may have a year under their belt – and an impressive one at that – but Atlanta United knows there’s still plenty of work to be done to become a cohesive unit. As a club still in its early stages, the importance of meshing with familiar faces and integrating new ones can’t be overlooked. There’s no question team chemistry is a priority heading into the 2018 season.

“You know the guys around you, you know what different players bring to the table,” said 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel. “You obviously have new additions that you now have to take care of a little bit, like for example the rookies that got drafted. I know how it feels, in their shoes out there, so little pointers here and there I think helps them and just trying to be that guy that gets those guys integrated quickly.”

And it’s not just on the field. Gressel says his off-field role is just as important in welcoming the recently drafted rookies. “Get them comfortable, get them acclimated to everybody, to all the facilities, what they can do, what they can ask for, their living situation, all those things.”

It also helps to adapt to a new environment when the club has now an advantage it didn’t have during the 2017 preseason.

“We have a home now,” said the German. “Last year we didn’t have a home at this point. It’s really a lot easier this year just to come here and only focus on what we have to do on the field.”

Even with the nomadic season hopping between training facilities and home-match venues, 2017 proved to be a record-breaking year on many levels for Atlanta United. However, the players aren’t settling for past accomplishments. The sole concentration is on topping the success of last season and making 2018 its own statement.

“We set the bar pretty high,” said defender Greg Garza. “For us to have a better year this year we would definitely have to challenge ourselves, and it started two days ago. We brought the players, we brought the names and that’s what this city wants…It’s really up to us on the field to really bring it to the fans and show these people why we’re here and hopefully have a better season than last year.”


Just like many of his teammates already, some of the new names on the roster are also native Spanish speakers from South America. Being tri-lingual, Garza has been a key cog in breaking the language barrier over the last year and he will be essential again in seamlessly integrating the new players into the squad.

“You have a lot of guys that come in shy in the very beginning,” said Garza, “and I think that speaking a few different languages can definitely help them feel as comfortable as possible. So hopefully [Ezequiel] Barco, and [Franco] Escobar, and José {Hernández] and all these guys can feel as comfortable as they can, and if I can be a guy to help them out with translating as much as possible I’m glad to do it.”

Preseason has just begun but it won’t be long before they put their team chemistry to the test. The first Atlanta United home match is just weeks away on March 11th against the D.C. United, so make sure you secure your seat here.