Not all expansion teams are created equal. Atlanta’s MLS franchise is not to be confused with Minnesota’s, although both are named “United” and both have played two games.
Atlanta United has scored seven goals and won once. Minnesota United has yielded 11 goals, hasn’t won yet and mightn’t for a while. Atlanta United beat Minnesota United 6-1 in the snow — yes, the snow, with players wearing shorts and all — on Sunday. It was #ATLUTD’s first victory. The wait for a second shouldn’t be all that long.
The suspicion coming into Year 1 was that Atlanta, owing to shrewd management by Darren Eales and especially the hiring of Tata Martino as coach, was smarter and therefore better than the average startup. That belief was supported by the team’s strong effort against the New York Red Bulls in the opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Atlanta led 1-nil and could have killed the game. That it didn’t drove home a basic soccer lesson: If you have a chance to put a good team away, you’d best not flub it.
On Sunday, Atlanta put a bad team away before halftime. It was 3-nil after 27 minutes, 6-1 at the end. Striker Josef Martinez and midfielder Miguel Almiron — both of whom missed gilt-edged chances against the Red Bulls — scored five goals. Then again, Minnesota’s defending was shambolic. (That’s a British term; it means as it sounds.)
A word of slight warning: After Saturday’s match against the Chicago Fire here, #ATLUTD won’t play another home game until April 30. That’s what happens when you’re borrowing a stadium. Georgia Tech needs its facilities for spring practice in the other brand of football. Playing at home is a big deal in every sport; in soccer it’s massive.
If nothing else, Sunday’s waltz in the snow allowed Atlanta United to take a deep breath. The first three points have been secured. The first two games have passed, and results have been encouraging. Those on the inside believed this was capable of being a solid team from the get-go. We on the periphery have seen nothing to disabuse us of that notion.