Atlanta United is ready for chapter three, sharing its enthusiasm with a crowd of thousands last week during the new kit reveal.
The kit, or uniform, named “stars and stripes,” is made up of red and black stripes with a black mesh panel on the back with each player’s name and number in metallic gold. The front displays the new gold championship star placed above the club’s crest, featuring the classic five-stripe design behind the gold A.
The “17” mark along the jock tag of the jersey represents the team’s inaugural season and is for the fans who helped break every attendance record in Major League Soccer regular season, MLS Cup Playoff and MLS All-Star Game history. The new kit reveal comes after Atlanta United’s outstanding preseason performance and the club’s 2018 MLS Cup win over the Portland Timbers Dec. 8.
At the kit reveal Feb. 15, “Men in Blazers” co-host Roger Bennett treated fans to a series of interviews with players, including goalkeeper Brad “The Wall” Guzan, who said he gets stopped by fans, thanking him for bringing a championship to Atlanta.
“We’re fortunate enough to call this place home and call these guys our home fans,” Guzan said. “To be a part of this group on and off the field is phenomenal.”
The professionalism and reputation of the team is what attracted new Atlanta United Manager Frank de Boer to the club. The legendary Dutch player spent more than 15 seasons combined with Ajax Amsterdam and Futbol Club Barcelona. His attacking, high intensity approach to the game is parallel to Atlanta United’s style. He explained to the fans he plans to build on the foundation laid by former Head Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino while moving forward with a new vision.
“It’s in my DNA to dominate football with technical ability. Of course, Tata already brought it here and I want to update it and, of course, dominate every game,” de Boer said.
Defensively, Atlanta United can improve, de Boer said, noting the team has already shown improvement during the preseason.
During his career, de Boer made 51 debuts from the youth league, and he is expected to continue this practice as manager of Atlanta United. De Boer said things look good for George Bello, the 16-year-old player who made his debut last season, to play more minutes this season.
“George has already played minutes in the preseason. He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic person,” de Boer said. “I never underestimate these young players because if you’re good enough, the best experience is to play on the first team.”
The club selected midfielders Anderson Asiedu and Amir Bashti in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Then Atlanta United went on to acquire Florentin Pogba, Dion Pereira and 2018 South American footballer of the year Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez to round out the roster after the transfer of Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United, a move that broke the league’s transfer fee record. Team Captain Michael Parkhurst said the team was ready to win the CONCACAF Champions League competition Feb. 19 before playing Club Sport Herediano Feb. 21 in Costa Rica.
“The focus right now is the CCL. … We want to win. We’re taking it seriously as MLS champs and we understand the pressure that comes with it,” Parkhurst said. “We’re looking forward to … getting it started.”
Men in Blazers
The AJT used the kit reveal as a chance to interview Jewish co-host Roger Bennett about his background and his clothing accessory choice for the event.
Originally from Liverpool, the British-born Bennett has made American football, or soccer, his vocation. He’s been covering the sport for more than 10 years on his popular podcast and TV show, “Men in Blazers.”
During the kit reveal, he interviewed team owner Arthur Blank, striker Josef Martinez and Gonzalo Martinez about the 2018 MLS Cup championship win. Bennett who, appropriately, wore a pair of trousers and a blazer, also donned a button with a picture of Atlanta rapper 21 Savage. The rapper was recently taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a traffic stop in Atlanta. 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is originally from London. He was brought to America as a minor in 2005 but overstayed when his visa expired a year later. He is now free and on house arrest with the help of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
On Feb. 15, 21 Savage turned himself in to Liberty County authorities in South Georgia for an outstanding warrant that ended up being a “civil contract dispute,” the AJC reported. However, Bennett took the opportunity to show his support for 21 Savage and voice his opinion on U.S. immigration.
AJT: Why did you decide to wear the button this evening?
Bennett: I love America and I love Atlanta and I’m blown away by the diversity, creativity and talent here, and he represents all that. To single someone out like that is terrible.
AJT: Do you know him? And have you been following the story?
Bennett: Yes. I’ve been following it and one of the great strengths of this country is the mix of people born here and who live here, and personally, I felt terrible watching it. It’s not one day that I don’t take America for granted. There is something very special about people that are born here and the people that move here to contribute and build this place, and I don’t really see a difference between the two.
AJT: Was the transition to America difficult?
Bennett: Of course, it was difficult. You’re here in a new country and you see “Yentl” and “Scarface” and realize it’s somewhere in between the two. What I love most about America is the diversity. We had Killer Mike on the show, and the way he talked about the city and how he understands what Atlanta United represents to Atlanta, and that’s diversity, … he gets it. And when you try to unravel that or pick on it, you’re creating conflict and pulling a thread out of the fabric of the United States.
AJT: How did growing up Jewish in the UK influence you?
Bennett: It made me appreciate being Jewish more and being a part of an amazing tradition. It also made me appreciate America and the freedom. They say most of the Jews in Liverpool were Jews headed to America; they just got off on the wrong stop. You know the promise of America now is different than it was then. We grew up looking at the Statue of Liberty and seeing that; we would watch “Yentl” and “Scarface,” so America represented something amazing to us.
AJT: What made you want to launch “Men in Blazers”?
Bennett: America and football. The two things we love most in the world: America and soccer. We felt when we came here soccer was going to take off and we’re happy they let bald men like me on television.