Road map for Atlanta United


Two years later, the world sees Atlanta United differently. This is no longer the ambitious expansion team with the famous owner and the shiny new stadium. This is the MLS Cup holder, the club with many well-known players and lots of fanatical fans. Two years later, this is the team to imitate. It is also the team to beat.

It was no great shock that in their first competitive match since the start of the MLS Cup, Atlanta United won 3-1 by a Costa Rican team. To twist the timeless phrase of Uncle Ben of Spiderman: With great football conquest come bigger – and more exotic – challenges. Just 10 weeks after his night of triumph at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he was missing out on a stadium of 8,700 seats, not far from the Panama Canal. When you are an MLS champion, you need to play in the CONCACAF Champions League, which can be a burden as a privilege.

The result was that even before February, the newly formed champions faced an elimination game in a borrowed field. (Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been hired by Supercross to claim Thursday's match at Kennesaw State.) Football giants are accustomed to juggling competitions – Manchester City closed out February four games in 12 days, all in a different league event – but that's all new to the ATLUTD.

To their credit, Manchester beat Herediano by 4-0 on Thursday, advancing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League by 5 to 3 in total. That means they will play at least two more pressurized games outside the MLS limits. Next: a home and home against the MX Monterrey League.

Asked if the difference in his team's workload increase will require acclimatization, United coach Frank de Boer said: "One hundred percent, for sure. If you play normally every week, every six or seven days, you have the preparation for these games. Now you are just recovering and starting to prepare for the next game. It's every three, four days that you have a game. This is really different, and they have to think that they really need to take care of themselves, recover, get a massage and rest really well to be ready for the next game. "

"This is a different approach that maybe many players are not accustomed to, but they have to experience that." "You have to feel that." "I hope we can adapt quickly, because we need that, too, because of the trip. Europe.European clubs usually have a two-hour flight, a one-hour flight.Now you sometimes have a six- or five-hour flight.That's a huge difference.I think a lot of players are accustomed to traveling , but maybe not every three days. "

Different: Atlanta United have something to defend, which proved difficult in MLS. Only three times in the first 22 years of the league did the holders retain the MLS Cup, the most recent repeat coming in 2012. In a sport where scoring the first goal carries a disproportionate weight, the margin between winning and losing is especially good, and can become even better when some teams are being asked to play more often than others.

Here's what United has to face – the regular season of 34 MLS games, which starts Sunday in Washington DC; the midseason Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which is a separate knockout tournament, and the current CONCACAF Champions League, which can make them play three more two-leg games, as such clubs are known in football. And every time the ATLUTD line up, he will face an opponent who wants to defeat the US football champions.

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The MLS is not like Serie A in Italy, where Juventus have won seven consecutive seasons, or the German Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich finished six straight. Two years ago, Toronto FC was clearly the league class, winning both the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup. Last year it finished ninth in the Eastern Conference of 11 teams.

Said Manchester United goalkeeper Brad Guzan: "Whenever you have a new season, there is no guarantee that it will be as good as last year, or potentially, if last year was bad, be as bad as last year A new season is just that.Everyone starts from scratch.

Atlanta United may still have the league's best roster, but they lost Miguel Almiron, who in the worst case was the league's second-best player for Newcastle in the English Premier League. As a substitute, United hired Gonzalo Martinez, known as Pity, away from Argentina's famed River Plate. ATLUTD also saw Tata Martino, his charter coach, leave the Mexican national team. If you were listing the top three reasons why United fired from expansion to champ, two of them were gone. (The third MLS MVP, Josef Martinez, remains.)

That's not to say that Atlanta United can not handle more games and more scrutiny. This has been a top-notch club since the opening minute of its opening night at Bobby Dodd Stadium two days ago and was absolutely walking. We're about to see if Atlanta's new favorite team can grow stronger. We are about to see if this club, having entered the global stage, may be the center of attention.

About the author

Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with AJC since 1984.


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