The success of Atlanta United FC in its first two years, highlighted by the Major League Soccer championship in the last month of 2018, was the result of a perfect storm of owner, front office staff, manager, players, stadium and fans.
At the top was owner Arthur Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons football team. Then came the front office led by team president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra, and the manager, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who together assembled a team that plays attractive, up-tempo soccer.
As for the players, the names Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Brad Guzan, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, and Michael Parkhurst – to name just five – are carved into the annals of Atlanta sports history.
Then there’s the combination of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a venue unequaled in this country, and the Atlanta United fans, both those who have invested years in soccer and rejoiced when Blank was awarded the franchise in 2014, and the newbies, who make up in enthusiasm what they may lack in understanding of the game’s finer points.
All were rewarded on Dec. 8 when Atlanta United defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 to win the MLS Cup in front of a delirious home crowd of 73,019, save for the disappointed Timbers fans.
The Atlanta United title is the rarest of commodities in Atlanta, a championship won by a professional sports team that calls Atlanta home. The other two (yes, just two) were the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series in 1995 and the Georgia Swarm, winners of the National Lacrosse League title in 2017.
Defending the MLS crown in 2019 will be a challenge, not only because of Atlanta’s checkered sports history. Martino announced before the playoffs that he would be leaving. At least one, and perhaps more of the championship starting 11 will not return. Perfect storms are rare events. Atlanta United fans should savor the 2018 experience.
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