Fans of Atlanta United FC who pick up “Conquered: The Inside Story Of Atlanta United’s Magical Run” may be tempted to focus on the glossy color photographs, but the story it tells will interest even those who have followed the team closely.
To the credit of its author, I.J. Rosenberg, “Conquered” is full of absorbing behind-the-scenes information, gathered from interviews with team owner Arthur Blank, team president Darren Eales, and others on the sporting and business ends of the operation. The title is drawn from the team’s motto: “Unite and Conquer.”
At the book festival Nov. 17, Rosenberg and Eales will discuss Atlanta United’s past, present, and future in a conversation with sports broadcast reporter Ashley Rose, I.J.’s daughter, who appears on the enormous Mercedes-Benz Stadium halo screens as a host at Atlanta United games.
From the outside, it appeared that most everything Atlanta United did before and during its first two seasons worked. The atmosphere at the team’s first game, on March 5, 2017, in front of 55,297 fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium (MBS still not being ready) was electric.
Blank – excuse me, Uncle Arthur, as the fans serenade him – Eales, et al, put an attractive product on the field (aggressive up-tempo play), created an enjoyable experience for the fans (including those low concession prices), and developed a business model different from much of Major League Soccer (buying young players, not older stars near the end of their careers).
The proof of the pudding came Dec. 8, 2018, when Atlanta United defeated the Portland Timbers 2-0 to win the MLS Cup, the league championship, before an announced crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium of 73,019. (The attendance at Atlanta United home games was just one aspect that attracted interest from media around the world.)
Atlanta United not only delivered a title in its second season, but in a relatively short period, wove itself into the city’s fabric, becoming as much a cultural phenomenon as a sporting franchise. That kind of success required as much ground-up consideration of a diverse fan base as it did the top-down assembly of a front office, coaching staff and player roster.
This year’s MLS Cup will be played one week before Rosenberg and Eales appear at the book festival. As the defending champions come toward the end of a challenging third season (its outcome still to be determined when this article was written), their fans will appreciate all the more the individual parts that formed the whole, making up the story told in “Conquered: The Inside Story Of Atlanta United’s Magical Run.”
The book will be featured at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 17 with Eales and Rosenberg in conversation with Ashley Rose.