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Might as well get a thread going!

The inaugural Major League Soccer regular season for Atlanta United FC kicks off tomorrow evening, over here at sold-out Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, versus the New York Red Bulls (7:30 PM Eastern, FS1 nationally, 92.9 FM in ATL).

In the NBA offseason, my sports dollar historically gets split up between the WNBA Dream and the Atlanta Silverbacks, a formerly professional soccer club playing a few levels down from the top-tier MLS. While I've watched a lot of local soccer, it's always been just for casual summertime fun, without really learning much more about the sport itself.

I'm hoping my immersion will become more serious with the MLS in town. I've already read more about "Tifo"s and 4-2-3-1 formations and "tiki-taka" than I ever thought I'd care to know. I'm hoping a few vastly more knowledgeable Squawkers will chime in during the course of this season.

Around many parts of town, you'll find there's a huge build-up of support for #ATLUTD; flags flying from homes and gardens, merchandise from the Atlantic Station team store flying off the shelves.

Naturally, the excitement dies down once an expansion team starts losing LOTS of games. However, there are quite a few prognosticators comfortable with the notion that this outfit is not only going to compete well in its first year together, but even has a chance to make the MLS playoffs. It's not unprecedented; the Chicago Fire was the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in its first year of operation back in 1998.

Stuff to Know:

* It's Arthur Blank's foray into a whole other brand of football. The Falcons owner championed the expansion of MLS Soccer to the ATL, originally in 2008, but more earnestly in 2012, when local momentum built to construct a multi-purpose stadium suitable for both pro football and pro soccer.

* The team's Training Ground and headquarters is slated to open next month, in Marietta.

* Along with Atlanta United, Minnesota United will expand the MLS to 22 clubs this season. Atlanta will compete in the MLS Eastern Conference alongside the Red Bulls, NYC FC, Chicago, Columbus, D.C. United, Montreal, New England, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Their regular season schedule runs through mid-October. [ https://www.atlutd.com/schedule ]

* When not airing nationally, Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Southeast will carry many ATLUTD games. Spanish-language broadcasters Univision Deportes and Unimas will air a handful of games during the season as well. 92.9 FM is aiming to become the flagship radio station, but is running a 3-hour pregame show in the interim. [ http://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/2017/2/21/14684738/atlanta-united-tv-schedule-2017-time-full ]

* British-born, US-collegiate former All-American star Darren Eales serves as the team's President. He was previously an executive with the London-area side Tottenham Hotspur FC.

* The "Technical Director" (GM) of the team is Carlos Bocanegra, a former MLS Rookie of the Year and two-time MLS Defender of the Year winner as a player. He was also a six-time captain of the USA Men's Soccer team.

* Former Argentine midfielder Gerardo "Tata" Martino is the Head Coach. He briefly managed FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi's Argentinian national team, which reached the final of 2015 and 2016's Copa America tournaments before losing on penalty kicks.

* Team captain is defender Michael Parkhurst, a former Wake Forest star who was the 2005 MLS Rookie of the Year and 2007 MLS Defender of the Year. Before getting traded, Parkhurst previously played for Columbus, where he was an All-Star back in 2014.

* Starting at goalkeeper is Alec Kann, a Decatur product. I got to see him a couple years back when he was with the Charlotte Eagles in the USL. He broke into MLS with Chicago in 2013, and was acquired via the MLS Expansion Draft from Sporting Kansas City. 

* MLS announced this week they will expand team rosters from 28 to 30, allowing teams to designate two spots for homegrown talents, like Locust Grove's 16-year-old Chris Goslin [pictured up top] who come up through the team's youth system.

* Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host its first MLS event on July 30, with Atlanta United facing off with Orlando City SC. Its estimated capacity of 40,000 doubles that of most MLS clubs. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to park at Atlantic Station (off 17th Street) and catch a free gameday shuttle over to nearby Bobby Dodd (off 10th Street), which hosts the team's first 8 home games. [ http://atlanticstation.com/2017/02/16/atlanta-united-game-day-shuttle/ ]

* No sport has fan clubs as dedicated and fervent as those in pro soccer, and ATLUTD has several. Most prominent is @curtmcgirt's Terminus Legion, who have a strong presence at soccer games all over the area. Other fan clubs include Resurgence, Faction, and my favorite name by far, Footie Mob. [ http://terminuslegion.com/ ] [ https://footiemob.club/ ]

* The easiest way for me to catch up on the team's ongoing activities and news is through SB Nation's dedicated team site, Dirty South Soccer. [ http://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/ ]

Here's a taste of what some experts are saying about this club's prospects in its first season:

http://the18.com/soccer-news/atlanta-united-most-exciting-team-mls-history-hector-villalba-miguel-almiron-josef-martinez-young-talent-players-roster

Quote

BEFORE THEY'VE EVEN STEPPED ONTO THE FIELD AS A TEAM, ATLANTA UNITED HAVE ALREADY ASSEMBLED THE MOST EXCITING SQUAD IN LEAGUE HISTORY.

Quote

 

Martino has quickly justified his reputation. Backed by a free-spending owner, Atlanta have methodically built a powerhouse to be unleashed in March.

Starting with the glue guys. Although Jeff Laurentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, and Jacob Peterson aren’t exactly players that promise excitement, they know MLS and what it takes to succeed. All are good signings.

With the additions of Kenwyne Jones, Greg Garza and Brad Guzan, the club has three CONCACAAF veterans that bring stability and saavy.

 
x
 

And that’s where it starts to get fun...

 

http://americansoccernow.com/articles/toronto-is-tops-with-both-new-york-teams-in-the-mix

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(Prediction: 6th in MLS East... six teams in each conference make the playoffs)

Atlanta United is coming into MLS with a real purpose and its acquisitions have been remarkable. Tata Martino is one of the most high-profile coaches in league history —although it's worth noting that foreign coaches often struggle in Major League Soccer.

Atlanta's designated players are young and talented: Atlanta reportedly outbid several European suitors to land Miguel Almirón. Héctor Villalba is another impressive signing and he should add intrigue to the team’s attack. Homegrown product Andrew Carleton, 16, is extremely young and will miss time with the U.S. U-17 team this season but he is one of the league’s most promising teenagers.

Behind the glitz and the glamour, Atlanta lacks depth and that can be especially difficult for expansion teams. Michael Parkhurst, the team captain, struggled last year with Columbus and left back Greg Garza has missed most of the past two years with injuries. So the backline has issues right from the start.

It is tough for an expansion team to make the playoffs but this team has a lot more pieces to start with than most other newcomers.

 

http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/gallery/mls-eastern-conference-predictions-who-will-make-the-playoffs-030317

Quote

(Prediction: 4th Place in MLS East)

The big question mark. Will the team coalesce around its talent and light MLS aflame? Or will they struggle to come together and need a year or two to mesh and find an identity?

I've sort of split the difference with my prediction, because I think there will be a few bumps in the road. But good lord, this team on paper looks fearsome. They're young, ambitious, talented, and if they come together quickly, we could see an expansion side win MLS Cup. 

 

 

 

~lw3

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I never care anything about soccer until the World Cup rolls around. Then I get really into the US team and their underdog story and still find myself fascinated by the tournament once they're eliminated. I've had brief thoughts of trying to get into the sport before, but now is as good a time as there will ever be. We'll see. I'm excited to at least check them out at the beginning. I don't know if it's good for my health to get invested into another Atlanta team, though. 

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I'm really excited this season. I've been a fan of Portland for the past few years, but happy to start following ATL. Really looking forward to watching a game there after the new stadium gets built. A lot of praise coming their way, too, so they should really grow into something specialin the next few years.

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Hype should remain I guess being a transplant city, if fans there dlove soccer, they have one of their own.

 

Only one in the region too, I think, between Texas and Washington.

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Atlanta has got to be either on an Indian burial ground or somebody made a deal with the devil awhile back and it's now due. Sigh.

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Went down to the tailgate and it was crazy.  Like a Falcons game.   

Agreed it was the most Atlanta of games.    Not sure the source of the curse.  

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On a positive note, in my amateur opinion, it looks like we have some strong players. The one guy who admittedly messed up on the chip shot attempt looks electric with the ball. And it seemed like a couple of others were making nice attempts at goals and assists. Also some good defensive play apart from the own goal. A lot of people are very encouraged even with the unfortunate result. Apparently the Red Bulls have had the best record in the East two years running.

Also, I think the fan support is going to stick as long as they can avoid too much heartbreak this season. For whatever reason Atlanta feels like a city that has a lot of soccer fans. Maybe it's all of the millennials who a looking for something new and hip to get into. And I don't think the transplant problem for other teams will be a problem for this team. It's unlikely too many people are attached to their MLS home team or even have one. I already read a couple of comments from dirty Carolina Panthers fans climbing aboard. For me, the idea of a fresh start is nice since all of my other teams are synonymous with failure and mediocrity. 

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrring the noise!

Atlanta United's game is underway with Minnesota United on The Deuce (ESPN 2, 5:00 PM Eastern). The home opener for Minny United, this game has been billed as probably the coldest MLS game ever recorded.

~lw3

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This team has some really good players, and they are young.  I don't think it's a stretch to say they could legitimately be contenders to win it all in 3 years.  Maybe they won't be held to the same historical curses given they're a brand new team.  Cheers to fresh starts!

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Not to mention that their #1 goalkeeper (U.S. international Brad Guzan) won't even be with the team until later this summer when his season in England ends.  Look for things to really get cooking once they've developed chemistry and have the USMNT keeper in goal directing the defense.

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Had trouble watching a match/game I have so little understanding of when I couldn't even see the field. Those are some really tough cats though and I enjoyed the scoring that I actually did see.

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Fiesta, Fiesta!

Some of the MLS games are scheduled to air on Spanish-language station UniMás (check your proverbial local listings), and that includes tonight's game over at Bobby Dodd between ATL UTD and the Chicago Fire (4:00 PM Eastern, also on 92.9 FM before the Hawks game).

According to SB Nation's Dirty South Soccer, there's also a free trial of a soccer-oriented streaming channel called fuboTV that could let you watch today's game online.

fuboTV link: https://www.fubo.tv/lp/v2/getpro.html?mbsy=dQL2J

19 years ago, the Windy City's expansion franchise won the MLS Cup in its very first season. The Men In Red have fallen on rough times in recent years, with one playoff appearance in the last seven seasons, but hope to be on the come up after bringing some rejuvenating talent to the pitch.

That talent includes Juninho, who won three MLS Cups in the past six years with the L.A. Galaxy, longtime Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty, and Ghanaian forward David Accam. They pulled off a draw at Columbus to start the season, then came home to beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 last week.

On the hunt for their first home win, Atlanta's side hopes last week's comfortable 6-1 snowout of fellow expansion team Minnesota hasn't gotten to their head. They hope to again free up forward Josef Martinez and midfielder Miguel Almiron, who have combined for 5 scores in 7 shots-on-goal.

DSS game thread: http://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/2017/3/18/14962706/atlanta-united-chicago-fire-live-stream-time-tv-schedule-and-how-to-watch

~lw3

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Totally forgot about this until right after it ended. Looks like it was another good one. First home win. Wish I forgot about the Hawks game instead. 

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14 hours ago, High5 said:

Totally forgot about this until right after it ended. Looks like it was another good one. First home win. Wish I forgot about the Hawks game instead. 

Me too, think I'll be watching mire soccer until the playoffs. This Hawks team leaves me wanting less, smh.

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I think I heard where the leading scorer will be out a good while due to injury...so the local hype will have to go on without him.

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Nil-nil!

ATLUTD couldn't put the biscuit in the basket, but the Seattle Sounders couldn't either. Atlanta picked up a point last night in the Emerald City with the 0-0 draw.

The Sounders even had Clint Dempsey (who played recently for Team USA) available off the bench, and still wound up scoreless. The road trip for United continues in Toronto (Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley) next Saturday night.

~lw3

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      ~lw3