Atlanta United becomes another struggling Atlanta sports team

Mercedes+Benz+stadium+used+to+be+sold+out+form+almost+every+United+game%2C+but+due+to+coronavirus+and+poor+performances+by+the+team+the+stadium+was+far+from+filled.+

Ashley Meyer

Mercedes Benz stadium used to be sold out form almost every United game, but due to coronavirus and poor performances by the team the stadium was far from filled.

Ashley Meyer, Staff Writer

Atlanta United has fallen from glory as the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in its  short history. The 2020 MLS season brought its own set of unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and evidently, Atlanta United could not adapt. The team had the worst season they have ever experienced, which led to the firing of the head coach, a losing record, and lots of criticism from the fans. 

The season started off with a solid win against expansion club Nashville SC, but the game was not all positive. Josef Martinez, MLS MVP 2018, tore his ACL late in the second half, a season ending injury that left United without their starting striker for the year. 

Trouble did not stop there, because just two weeks later the world shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This left Atlanta United, along with all other MLS teams, unable to practice as a team and play games for the next four months. 

In late June, the league announced that there would be an MLS is Back tournament beginning in early July that would allow the league to return to play. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “The opportunity to have clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.” 

Although the return to competitive play in the MLS Is Back Tournament brought excitement back to United fans, the excitement was quickly dashed when Atlanta went 0-3 in the tournament without scoring a single goal. They were knocked out of the tournament in the group stage and returned to Atlanta disappointed and aware that changes within the club were necessary.

After they were knocked out of the tournament, the club decided to part ways with manager Frank de Boer before the regular season returned in the fall. Club President Darren Eales said, “We want to be successful. We want to win matches but have an expectation of being on the front foot and being aggressive with playing.” Frank de Boer was not living up to these expectations both in playing style and in results, so the club parted ways, hoping this would put them back on track to finish the season with success. 

As a result, Atlanta United 2 Coach Stephen Glass became the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Eales said, “Stephen played at the highest level, played under some good managers, knows Atlanta United and the style and the philosophy since we started the club that we would like.” Glass was the perfect interim head coach while the front office searched for the best new permanent coach for the team. The new coach gave fans a positive outlook going into the last stretch of the unusual season.

Glass started off with a win, but this gave the fans false hope. As the season continued, Atlanta United, under the leadership of Steven Glass, went on to have a 3-4-9 record going into the final week of play. Even though they had played poorly throughout the season, they still had a chance to make the playoffs going into Decision Day. 

The team needed to beat the Columbus Crew on the road in order to make the playoffs. Fans and players alike were hoping to keep Atlanta’s winning traditions alive and make the playoffs to redeem their losing season. This hope rode on Atlanta beating Columbus. 

This did not happen. 

The team let in two goals and, despite one goal from the penalty spot by Marcelino Morneo, was never able to make up the deficit. This left the team out of the playoffs for the first time in club history. Roswell student Izzy Mohr said, “It is disappointing to the fans and must be to the players. After having seasons of success in the past it has been frustrating watching the games and not seeing improvements.” 

The club is now faced with many issues that need to be addressed before the 2021 season starts. A search for a permanent head coach, players that will help United return to excellency, and the style of play fans are craving are all issues the Atlanta United front office is working hard to sort out so that Atlanta has no more losing seasons.