When Atlanta was announced in 2014 as part of the next wave of expansion teams for Major League Soccer, a sleeping giant awoke. Now, two years later, Atlanta United are on the eve of their first season as a club. To prepare for their first season in the league, Atlanta are part of the 2017 edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup, and their fans are showing exactly why there are such high hopes for one of the newest teams in America’s top flight.
We spent time at the Atlanta fans’ tailgate, which comprised of the club’s four fan clubs, Terminus Legion, Resurgence, The Faction and Footie Mob. According to Terminus member Gail Carr, the groups had filled up three hotels in the local area, by far being the most represented of the three MLS sides at the tournament.
Fresh off of a 4-0 win in their first ever match against Chattanooga FC, the atmosphere was electric, and the anticipation (and perhaps the expectation) was high. There was food, as well as merch booths for fans to purchase Atlanta United products, and of course, a stereo blasting music by Atlanta based music artists.
After 30 to 45 minutes at the tailgate, which also had a mingling of hosts, The Regiment, and the travelling Columbia branch of the American Outlaws, the time came for Atlanta’s first ever “competitive” match. After all, it was pre-season, but there was still silverware on the line. The party continued in the stands, with the drumline for the Atlanta faithful leading as they turned songs by Atlanta rapper Ludacris into Football chants.
ATL UTD boss Tata Martino had apparently gotten the silverware memo, putting Atlanta’s first choice team out, and thus treating the match as if it were a competitive fixture.
Atlanta started well. They set a high press and the defense was solid. All this was made easier by the fact that Chris McCann picked off a ball in midfield, passing to Josef Martinez, who laid off the ball before receiving it again on a diving header that put Atlanta ahead against the Columbus Crew in the sixth minute. Columbus came into the match more as time went on, but Atlanta went in at half time with their 1-0 lead still in tact. The midfield was definitely running things, with Chris McCann being a great anchor in front of the back four, and Miguel Almiron being at the center of everything.
The heads dropped a little and legs certainly got tired when Alec Kann fluffed a clearance which hit Federico Higuaín on the leg and bounced in, but the fans weren’t going to stop singing. You could hear them from minute one until the final whistle, as they certainly gave a good account of what’s to come as they enter the league ahead of the new season.
Though their team ended up losing on the night, Atlanta’s fans certainly enjoyed themselves, and gave fans in Charleston a taste of what’ll be on offer at Bobby Dodd stadium, and will be at Mercedes Benz Stadium come summertime, which will only help the matchday experience.
TOP IMAGE: ATLANTA UNITED AND BATTERY FANS MINGLE BEFORE THE CAROLINA CHALLENGE CUP BEGAN ON SATURDAY NIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT NICKI ACE