Atlanta United

ATL UTD staying focused after achieving home-field goal


Sunday was a whirlwind night that could’ve ended up several ways for Atlanta United. Win – and have other results go their way – and they finish in a remarkable second place in the Supporters Shield standings and a bye through the first round. Lose – and have results go against them – and suddenly they’re in fifth place, in the tough position of going on the road for a single-elimination knockout round. It was a tense night, one that felt like a sneak peek at playoff pressure.

“It was good preparation because Toronto is the best team in the league,” Tata Martino said through a translator after the game. “But at the same time, we wanted to win the game. That’s what we tried to do and I think we were very close.”

That’s the nature of Decision Day in a competitive Eastern Conference that had the five best records in the league. In the end, it was mission accomplished: fourth place and a home game in the first round. The players have talked all week about the importance of clinching home-field advantage, because they know what the Atlanta crowd does for them.

“Without a doubt, it gives you a lift,” league veteran Jeff Larentowicz told reporters. “You can tell. Even when we give up the goal, they get behind us. So, late in the game, it’s so important. They’ve been there all year.”

ATL UTD staying focused after achieving home-field goal -

After becoming the first expansion team since 2009 to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, earning a home playoff game is another major accomplishment for this team. But the players know as important as the fans are, they can’t win the game for them. They still need to go out and perform Thursday against Columbus.

“In this stadium, with these fans, it’s very good to get a home game,” said midfielder Kevin Kratz. “I think that’s a little bit of an advantage for us but we still have to get our performance on the field to win and go to the next round.”

“We know they are going to create an absolute unbelievable atmosphere for us when Columbus comes,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It’s not going to be an easy place for them. It’s going to be hard and we’re going to be one hundred percent ready.”

ATL UTD staying focused after achieving home-field goal -

While the team would’ve preferred to end the season with a win, going against the very best with plenty on the line is the perfect way to get the team geared up for the playoffs.

“We’re playing good teams,” Larentowicz said. “We’re playing New York who’s in the playoffs. We’re playing Toronto, the Supporter Shield winner. It’s good that we’ve played those games and now we can kind-of understand that feeling going into the playoffs.”

“There’s no tomorrow, it’s all or nothing now,” Guzan added. “I think we’ve got a good group of young guys that understand that. They understand what these games are about. And so now, it’s now our job as a collective whole – as an entire unit, as a team, whatever you want to call it – to make sure from the first guy to the last guy that we’re all ready in terms of helping each other, pushing each other. For that 90 minutes against Columbus, nothing but three points is all we’re worried about.”

Atlanta United will hope to keep their magical inaugural season alive as they host the Columbus Crew Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There are tickets available, so make sure you’re there to make that home field advantage count. Click here to get your tickets.

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