Here’s another word for you folks who mightn’t be familiar with soccer and its argot: “Result.” In this particular sport, “result” isn’t synonymous with “outcome.” In most other sports — indeed, in life — there can be good outcomes and bad outcomes. In soccer, “result” is always used in a positive light.
When someone in soccer says, “We have to get a result,” that person means, best-case, a win or, next-best, a draw. (Guessing you know that tying is drawing. Guessing you also know that a win yields three points, a draw one.) We mention this because, five games into its existence, Atlanta United is proving deft at Getting Results.
Halfway through its month of road games — because of Georgia Tech’s need for Bobby Dodd Stadium for spring football, as opposed to futbol — Atlanta United has journeyed to the Puget Sound and then to Canada and returned from both with a result. Its opponents were the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, the teams that played in the finals of the MLS Cup last year. (Seattle won on penalties.)
(About which: The MLS is different from most global soccer leagues. Example: In England, the famous FA Cup is a separate competition from the Premier League. The team that wins the Premier League — which has no postseason tournament, just 38 league games — is the champion of England. The team that wins the MLS Cup is the MLS champ. That’s a bit of an American twist. We over here like our postseason coronations.)
Atlanta United drew nil-nil in Seattle, then 2-all in Toronto. Both matches were made difficult by the absence of striker Josef Martinez, the MLS player of the month for March who was hurt on international duty for Venezuela. The Toronto affair was further compromised by the red-carding (ejection) of Yamil Asad. (Dodgy call, IMO.) Playing a man down for the final 20 minutes, Atlanta United held steady and exited with a point, which brings us back to our original, er, point.
Fans of major North American sports have been conditioned to see ties as bad things. (So bad that there are no longer ties in the college game and the NFL makes teams play 15 more minutes before letting a game end in a draw. And the NHL has its mini-overtime and shootout.) In soccer, a draw on the road almost always constitutes a Result — as in, a good thing. In soccer, the formula for success is: Win at home, draw away.
Through five games, Atlanta United has won twice and drawn twice. That’s a splendid start for an expansion team, though it must be said that this team hasn’t often acted its age. Note that ESPN’s MLS power rankings slot the local club fifth among the league’s 22 teams, just behind the two against which it drew on the road.
Twelve teams — six from each conference — make the MLS playoffs. It’s way early, but Atlanta United is third in the East despite a difficult early schedule. It’s second in the league in goals. With Martinez (five goals) and Hector Villalba (three), Atlanta United has two pacy (soccer for “fast”) strikers who can put the ball in the old onion bag (Tommy Smyth-ism for scoring a goal). There should be more results in this nascent team’s immediate future.
More soccer scribbling:
Also from the AJC: MLS power ratings.