Atlanta United FC lost their franchise and home opener on Sunday, but the inspired play of the team has the City of Atlanta wanting more.
Bobby-Dodd Stadium was rocking, the atmosphere was electric, and the newly minted MLS team from the Peach State, Atlanta United FC, gave fans a show. Unfortunately, that show didn’t include a win. But the post-game feeling wasn’t one of gloom, rather a sense of inspired beginnings.
Atlanta United is one of two expansion franchises this year in MLS, with Minnesota being the other. As noted before in this space, these teams seem to be looking at different trajectories in their inaugural seasons. General consensus states that Minnesota may take a while to coalesce. Atlanta looks to contend right away.
While both teams are “young”, Minnesota seems to be built as a primarily defensive squad. Atlanta, however, is an attacking bunch with a mix of youth and experience. Both franchises are newly born, but both look to have different DNA.
That showed on Sunday. Atlanta raced to a 1-0 lead over a pretty good New York Red Bulls bunch, and the resulting fervor from fans was palpable even for those watching on television. In fact, there was sense that, if Atlanta could get another and go up 2-0, it might be too much for the visitors. No second goal ever materialized, though.
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Atlanta United only mustered four attempts in the box, and subsequently, missed on a number of scoring opportunities. Yamil Asad scored the lone goal, and played well, overall. Miguel Almirón displayed steady and heady play, as did Michael Parkhurst.
Naturally, and unfortunately for Atlanta, taking 11 shots on goal outside of the box allowed New York to take advantage, and they did late. The game goes down as a loss for ATL UTD, but enough was shown in their first ever foray to conjure thoughts and dreams of future finishes with wins. In short, making an extra pass, taking advantage of open looks, and controlling the ball will all come. They will get better as they play together.
The next time they play together is this Sunday against those aforementioned new-school MLS newbies, Minnesota United FC. They are coming off a 5-1 pounding at the hands of Portland. This match will be a very good gauge as to where these two toddler teams are with respect to early competitiveness. It is early, but even after one game, Atlanta looks to be favored here.
Mark these words (pun intended), if Atlanta goes to Minnesota and runs them, fans will start looking to established teams to measure their mettle. Sure, there will be growing pains. Yes, there will be mishaps. Of course, there will be missed opportunities. And yes, it did hurt to watch another Atlanta team blow a lead late.
This Atlanta team, however, is just beginning to write its story. This team has a chance to forge a new future. Atlanta United FC has a chance to build something from the ground up. They are just getting started. They are just getting rolling. Next stop: Minnesota.