Atlanta United hires new coach; Update on team

The Southerner

By: Alex Durham

Atlanta United has been the talk of Atlanta for the past couple of months. On April 16, 2014, the MLS (Major League Soccer) announced that they would be awarding an expansion team to Atlanta. This was groundbreaking, as soccer was one of the only sports that Atlanta had not had a real major league team. From that moment on, soccer fans all around Atlanta have been avidly following the club as they have chosen faculty, and even more excitedly, players. The big news, however, was who would coach this brand new MLS team? Would it be an American coach trying to get their first step in the big leagues? Or would it be a big-name European who has years of experience? This was the million-dollar question, and this past September, the club answered it. The coach would be none other than Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

Martino is one of the most well known coaches in Europe, coaching some of the strongest teams in the world. He is best known for coaching the Argentine national team from 2014-2016, taking them to number one in the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football) national rankings, and also coaching them to back to back Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016. Martino is also known for coaching FC Barcelona, arguably the best club team in the world, in their 2013-2014 season.

“He definitely is a top class coach, and Atlanta is lucky to have him,” Grady junior and Atlanta United Fan, Joseph Norman said. “It was a little sad that he lost his job with Argentina, but hopefully he can bring the club success.”

The club is right in the midst of building their squad, and the club hopes that Martino will help them with this process. Not only does he bring years of experience to the club, but he also has connections in Europe and will be crucial in bringing real talent to the team. Currently, the team only has eight players on their roster. Two of these players are homegrown players, meaning they were born and raised in Georgia, and only 16-years old. Three other players are international players, meaning they were brought from out of the country to play.

On October 16th, the club won a coin toss against Minnesota United, granting them the number one pick in the 2017 MLS expansion draft, occurring on  December 13th, and the number two pick in the MLS SuperDraft, occurring on January 13th, 2017. This was big news for the club, as the drafts give the club a chance to obtain players from all over the world that can strengthen their side.

“Getting the top pick in this draft is very important for the club,” Grady sophomore and Atlanta United fan Robert Mobley said. “If they can get at least one strong player to be the face of the club they will be in good shape for the season.”

As the main squad is being built, the club’s academy teams are already establishing themselves as forminable forces. The club has five academy teams, the youngest being an under-12 team, and the oldest being an under-18 team. The goal of these teams are to develop future players for the club, though some of the players in the academy might move to different clubs. A majority of the players on these academy teams come from Georgia, with a few players coming from out of the country. One of these players might be Jeremiah Louma, who comes from South Sudan and was offered a chance to play for the academy team.

“I was able to try out for the academy team, and may get to play with them,” Jeremiah said. “They seem like a strong club and playing under a good coach will make them stronger.”

Another talking point about the club is their stadium. Their home stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is not planned to be finished before the start of the season, so the club has decided to play their opening home games at the Bobby Dodd Stadium. The club was initially planning on playing their first games on the road and waiting for their stadium to be finished, but club president Darren Eales thought that they should play some in Atlanta for the fans.

As Eales said on the Atlanta United website, “With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players.”

As of now, fans have the chance now to buy founding member tickets, which includes season tickets for the club’s inaugural season as well as become a member of the Founders’ Club. The season tickets account for 18 matches out of the club’s 34 game season, and give the buyer the chance to secure premium seating. Single ticket options for the club will not become available until the season schedule comes out, which historically occurs in mid-January.

Until then, fans can buy merchandise from the club store, follow the website for updates about players and staff, and prepare themselves for the opening season of the new team.

“It’s great that Atlanta finally got a professional [soccer] team,” Norman said. “There is a strong academy team, and the coach [Martino] knows what he’s doing, and I’m excited to watch the team in their opening season.”