Atlanta United Profile
|Major Honours||MLS Cup (1), US Open Cup (1)|
Despite only having come into existence in 2014, Atlanta United have already made their mark on the MLS.
Atlanta United played their first MLS game in 2017 as an expansion side after being founded three years earlier.
They rocketed to the top of the league under manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, making the play-offs in their first season and winning the league title a year later.
Atlanta United's nickname is The Five Stripes, and they are also known as ATL UTD. Playing at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, they share a ground with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
The arena lists a soccer capacity of 42,500, but this can be expanded to over 70,000. United set several MLS records for single-game attendance in 2018.
The Five Stripes are owned by Arthur Blank, the co-founder of The Home Depot. Blank also owns the Falcons, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Atlanta United 2, a reserve team in the USL Championship.
The Tata Martino era
Atlanta were announced as an MLS expansion side in April 2014 and were slated to play in the 2017 season. On September 27, 2016, they hired Gerardo 'Tata' Martino as their first manager.
The roster included designated players Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba, both midfielders, and striker Josef Martinez.
Midfielders Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin were Homegrown Players, with defender Miles Robinson as the first United draft pick.
Brad Friedel, the goalie for the US men's national team, signed from the English Premier League, while defender Michael Parkhurst was named the first captain.
Since the Mercedes-Benz Stadium had multiple construction delays, United had to start their 2017 season at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech University.
On March 5, 2017, they lost their first-ever game to the New York Red Bulls in front of 55,297 fans. Yamil Asad scored United's first goal in a 2-1 loss.
United finally moved into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 10 and beat FC Dallas 3-0 in front of 45,314 fans.
Six days later, Martinez scored a hat-trick in front of 70,425 fans, but United could only draw 3-3 against Orlando City FC.
United drew both of their last two games and finished the regular season as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, qualifying for the play-offs.
In the knockout round, they lost at home to Columbus Crew 3-1 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw. Martinez scored 20 total goals in 2017, 19 in MLS play, while Villalba added 13.
The 2018 campaign
Heading into the 2018 season, Atlanta United acquired midfielder Darlington Nagbe from Portland in a trade and signed Argentine Ezequiel Barco as a designated player for $15million.
They also added defender Greg Garza from Tijuana and Franco Escobar from Newell's Old Boys.
After an opening day 4-0 defeat, United went unbeaten over the next eight games, with seven wins. They battled back-and-forth at the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season with the New York Red Bulls.
They fell to RBNY 2-0 on the road in late September before winning two-straight home games in October.
United had a shot of attaining top seed in the East, but lost the regular season finale 4-1 at Toronto. The Five Stripes finished with 69 points to RBNY's 71.
As the No. 2 seed, United picked up their first-ever play-off win on November 4 as Eric Remedi scored at Yankee Stadium to beat New York City FC 1-0.
In the second leg, Martinez scored twice and Almiron scored the other in a 3-1 win. The Eastern Conference finals were a showdown against RBNY, with the first leg in Atlanta.
Martinez scored the opener before Escobar and Villalba added second-half goals for a 3-0 win. Four days later, United lost the second leg 1-0 but advanced on aggregate.
With the better record, Atlanta United hosted the 2018 MLS Cup on December 8 against Portland.
In front of 73,019 fans, Martinez put United ahead in the 39th minute. Escobar made it 2-0 in the 54th minute and so it remained as Atlanta claimed the city's first professional title since 1995.
Martinez was the MLS MVP with 31 goals and added four more in the play-offs.
Martino was named the 2018 MLS Coach of the Year but announced that he would not return in 2019. He eventually signed to take over the Mexico national team.
Frank de Boer era
After Martino's departure, Atlanta United hired Dutchman Frank de Boer as manager. A former player for Ajax, Barcelona, Galatasaray and Rangers, De Boer managed Ajax, Inter Milan and Crystal Palace before taking over in Atlanta.
United broke an MLS record when they sold Almiron to England's Newcastle United for $27million. They brought in midfielder Pity Martinez for $17million from River Plate and added defender Brek Shea.
After a shaky start to the season with two losses and two draws, the Five Stripes won six of their next seven games.
In August, they won four games in a row, while also beating Orlando City 2-0 in the US Open Cup semi-finals.
A week later, De Boer claimed his first title when Atlanta United beat America 3-2 in the Campeones Cup final.
Emerson Hyndman, Jeff Larentowicz and Josef Martinez scored in the 3-2 win as United became the first MLS team to beat a Mexican side in the competition. Darlington Nagbe was named man of the match.
Two weeks later, they added another trophy - the US Open Cup. An own goal in the 10th minute of the final made it 1-0 and Pity Martinez doubled the lead six minutes later.
Rivals Minnesota United scored in the 47th minute, but Atlanta held on for a 2-1 win.
United dropped points in two of their final three regular season games and finished second in the East to NYCFC by six points.
In the Eastern Conference finals, Julian Gressel scored in the fourth minute but Atlanta lost 2-1 to Toronto FC.
The 2020 season
Before the 2020 season, Atlanta United traded Nagbe to Columbus and Gressel to DC United. They also lost Shea to Inter Miami on a free transfer, sold Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to Tijuana and traded Villalba to Club Libertad.
They brought in Hyndman permanently from AFC Bournemouth, traded for defender Brooks Lennon from Real Salt Lake and added Irish midfielder Jake Mulraney from Scottish side Hearts.
The 2020 season started with a 2-1 win over Nashville SC in February, but Josef Martinez tore his ACL and was ruled out for the season.
Despite Atlanta beating expansion side FC Cincinnati in the last game before the COVID-19 shutdown, losing their top scorer changed the complexion of their season.
United showed up at the MLS is Back Tournament as group favourites but crashed out with no goals scored in three losses.
As a result, De Boer was relieved of his duties on July 24 and Atlanta United 2 coach Stephen Glass took over.
United won their first game under Glass - a 2-0 triumph over Nashville on August 22. They sold Pity Martinez to Al-Nassr for $18million on September 7 and added Argentine midfielder Marcelino Moreno from Lanus for $7million on September 22.
Atlanta United had a six-game winless streak and won just twice between August 22 and October 31.
After losing three straight games, Atlanta beat FC Cincinnati 2-0 on November 1 with Moreno and Adam Jahn scoring the goals.
United went into their final match with a slim chance of reaching the play-offs but lost 2-1 at Columbus Crew to finish in 12th place in the East.
They scored just 23 goals in 23 league games, with Jon Gallagher leadng the club's goalscoring charts with four.
On December 11, 2020, it was announced that Gabriel Heinze would manage Atlanta United in 2021.
He appeared in 72 international games for Argentina and has managed Godoy Cruz, Argentinos Juniors and Velez Sarsfield in his home country.
However, Heinze struggled just as much as his predecessor, and after just 13 games in charge, was relieved from his duty as head coach in July 2021.
With just 13 points on the board from as many games, as well as a reported feud with star striker Josef Martinez, a 1-0 loss to New England Revolution was the final nail in the coffin for the Argentine manager.
Atlanta United play their home games at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a multi-use facility that opened in 2017 at a cost of $1.6billion.
In addition to being the home field for United, it is also home to the NFL's Falcons and multiple college football games, including the SEC Championship and the Peach Bowl.
The stadium hosted Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and was scheduled to host college basketball's Final Four in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the tournament.
Atlanta United broke the MLS single game attendance record when 71,874 fans attended their October 22, 2017 fixture against Toronto FC.
That game also allowed Atlanta to set the single season MLS attendance record.
They broke their record on March 11, 2018, when 72,035 fans attended their clash with DC United.
Atlanta hosted the 2018 MLS All-Star game against Juventus on August 1, 2018, when 72,317 fans were in attendance.
The stadium set a new MLS Cup play-off record with 73,019 fans for Atlanta's 2-0 title-winning performance over Portland Timbers.
They added another competition's single game record on August 14, 2019, when 40,128 fans attended the Campeones Cup game as Atlanta beat America 3-2.
Although just four years into their history, Atlanta United have geographic rivalries with Orlando City SC and Nashville SC.
Atlanta won their first nine games against Orlando City. Orlando City finally beat United on August 29, 2020, with a 3-1 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After two draws later in the season, Orlando City beat Atlanta United 4-1 at home on October 28 as they made the play-offs.
Nashville is just a four-hour drive from Atlanta, and the rivalry began in the first-ever MLS game for the Tennessee side on February 29, 2020.
Atlanta won that game 2-1 and also beat Nashville 2-0 in Atlanta in the second meeting. Nashville picked up their first win at home on September 12 with a 4-2 success.
Atlanta United's top players
Striker Josef Martinez is Atlanta United's top goalscorer with 77 goals in MLS games and 90 goals overall.
Miguel Almiron had 22 total goals before his record-breaking transfer to Newcastle United. Hector Villalba tallied 20 goals for United before his 2019 departure.
Julian Gressel, traded to DC United after the 2019 season, holds the franchise record with 39 assists. Almiron had 30 assists and Villalba had 24 before both left the team.
Brad Guzan, who has appeared in more than 60 games for the US men's national team, has started over 120 games in goal for United.
Only midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (132) has played in more games for Atlanta than Guzan. In his first 124 games for United, Guzan recorded 41 shutouts, including six in his nine play-off games.
Atlanta United News
- Jun 21, 2021