March 5th, 2017 will be a day that is remembered in Atlanta for years to come. At just past 7:40 pm Atlanta United made history by taking the opening kick of their Inaugural MLS season. This may have been the start of the game, but the party had been going on for the majority of the afternoon already. All over Georgia Tech’s campus there were people tailgating, in Atlantic Station at the team store there was a line that required almost a 45 minute wait just to get into the store! All this buzz that this team was causing the city on this, the first match-day, was incredible, but it had nothing on the feeling inside Bobby Dodd Stadium when the players came out of the locker rooms.
Walking to the stadium was insane. So many people in Atlanta for the same purpose and watching the Falcons, Alabama Football, or protesting was not the purpose of this gathering. The main road was filled with so many people you could hardly walk down it and once inside Bobby Dodd it became even more cramped. Despite all this the excitement that was in the air was enough to make it seem all worth it.
I arrived at my seat with nearly 70 minutes until first kick even
began and there were already people chanting! The stadium was
already beginning to fill up at that point, and by the time the players came onto the field for warmups the atmosphere was already electric! I did not sit with anyone that I knew and it was still a blast. I got to meet a fellow Chelsea fan and there were kits from a wide variety of European, South American, Mexican and International teams. It was obvious that the majority of the crowd knew what they were watching!
When the first kick finally happened the atmosphere was bonkers! The team looked a bit shaky for the first 20 or so minutes, but they eventually settled in and were able to get good ball movement
particularly on the right side of the pitch. That would be the key side on Atlanta United’s first ever goal as Tyrone Mears was able to whip a cross in from the right and Yamil Asad was there at the back post to poke it through Luis Robles’ legs! You want to talk about jubilation? Having over 55,000 people going absolutely crazy is an incredible feeling! Throughout the rest of the half there were many ‘A-T-L’ chants and even more patches where the boo birds were out in full force directed at referee Mark Geiger.
By halftime it seemed almost inevitable that Atlanta United was going to score again. The entire stadium felt like it was coming, and when Miguel Almiron got in on the break everyone readied for another celebration. It was not to be though as Almiron tried to chip the keeper instead of sliding it by him, although it would have been immensely more helpful if Josef Martinez had been onside as they could have used the 2 v 1 against Robles. Still the crowd was behind this team, our team.
When a shot slipped through Alec Kann’s hands and out for a corner there was an anxious feeling in the air as we were struggling to clear the ball giving up plenty of scoring chances. After Red Bulls tied it up the stadium again erupted A-T-L, A-T-L letting our boys know we were still behind them. The crowd stayed behind our team despite another goal finding its way into Kann’s net before all was said and done.
This game showed what I think many people knew for a while before, soccer belongs in Atlanta! We have an owner that wants to bring championships to the city and is willing to bring in world class players and managers to do so! We have a fan base that is young and will be around for a while. To have 55,272 people show up to the first match is incredible, but if you look at attendance numbers from the rest of the world only three games had more fans in attendance than the Atlanta United game! Those games featured Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Manchester United. The second highest attended game in the MLS was the Orlando City-NYCFC game which drew a shade over 25,500 spectators to see Orlando City’s new stadium.
Here’s to the beginning of a great season! Our team is fast and skilled and proved yesterday that they can compete with the best our conference has to offer. We Are Atlanta United!