At the halfway point of its inaugural season, Atlanta United FC (translation: Soccer team) got itself a meaningful victory Saturday at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium in the same manner the home team always does it here:
Relying heavily on the running game.
Beating Colorado 1-0 at its makeshift home bumped Atlanta back into the top six of the Eastern Conference, back above that red line that appears in the MLS standings to separate the playoff eligible teams from the chaff.
If just barely, an expansion team finds itself on the right side of that border. Its papers have been checked and Atlanta United has been allowed to cross over into the company of more experienced franchises. Halfway through the season – a not insignificant sampling of 17 games – it vaguely resembles a postseason contender. That's got to be a least a Grade Two surprise.
If this first-year bunch is not careful, it is going to expect things of itself.
Said defender Michael Parkhurst after beating Colorado, “We had talked before this game that if we win we put ourselves above the red line and into a playoff spot. We know that there is a lot of season to play but we want to get into the mentality of seeing ourselves in that picture and we want it to be a week-to-week thing that we are above that red line. That everyone sees that Atlanta is in the playoff picture. We want to have that mentality throughout the rest of the season.”
This was Atlanta United’s fifth win in seven home games (it’s 2-5-3 on the road). That’s the exact home record of Tech’s football team here last season. The ground game has done pretty well here in 2016-17.
The scene for soccer has in some way eclipsed the scene for the average Tech football game. Seven Atlanta United games here, seven sellouts (with the north endzone upper deck closed off for maintenance). And half of the crowd wasn't Clemson fans.
Saturday, it was a now typical tableau of non-stop chanting and cheering in the seats, the passion far more coordinated than it is for college football. Newcomer fans, like their team, have shown themselves to be surprisingly talented.
One thing a grumpy old observer notices is there is no need to blare music at these games like all the others. The fans supply their own melodies, far more happy and pure than anything that has assaulted the ears at Philips Arena, the doomed Georgia Dome and even SunTrust Park.
There are four more soccer games scheduled at Tech before Atlanta United is scheduled to move into Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Only hope that opulent setting doesn’t rob Atlanta United of the quaint charms that have visited this new team at this old football stadium.
“It’s going to be tough to leave to be honest,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said.
Arthur Blank probably will insist upon relocating, however.