¡Vamos, vamos, vamos A-T-L! Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground was filled with energy on Sunday morning as more than 120 supporters joined the 5-Stripes at training. Drums, flags and chants filled the air as members of the Official Supporter Groups cheered their team on. For their part, the 5-Stripes came out to training with a little extra excitement as they greeted the 17s right before getting down to business.
The training ground transformed into the supporter section as the team came on the pitch. Training did not differ much from any other day as head coach Gonzalo Pineda and his coaching staff carried on as usual. As soon as the players hit the pitch they began to work on drills. Early on, Josef Martínez got the ball and the supporters erupted into the ‘Josef Martínez’ chant which brought a smile to the Venezuelan striker’s face.
The team participated in various drills and later moved on to intersquad games. During the intersquad game, Atlanta United showed off some great skills. Luiz Araújo wowed the supporters with his speed and quick passes. Midway through training the day only got hotter, but the supporters and the team kept their spirits high.
Members from the six Original Supporter Groups were present on the sidelines cheering on the 5-Stripes. Footie Mob, Resurgence, The Faction, Terminus Legion, All Stripes and La 12. All six Original Supporter Groups banded together to transform the training ground into the Gulch.
“It’s very clear that Atlanta United cares about their fans,” Amy Edgar from Footie Mob said. “We have the best fan experience in the league, bar none. It’s just amazing. Just look at our player. We just have such a great team and we’re always behind them.”
Last year, Pineda started the tradition of having supporters join training. Pineda remarked how the energy and passion the supporters bring makes them an integral part of the club. Their support motivates the players and when they hear the cheers and chants, they are pushed to return that love and appreciation through their time on the pitch.
“It’s made a difference, we feel connected to the team,” Sam Cook from Terminus Legion said. “We see the energy; we see what he’s [Pineda] bringing to the club that we wanted to see. You see the effect he’s had on the club. You see that the effect that the club has had with these kinds of events with us, and it’s been a wonderful experience.”
After training was over, Pineda greeted the supporters and thanked them for coming out to practice. As the second year in this Pineda tradition, he took the time to talk to the supporters and invite them to join in on some skill challenges.
“We’re really happy having you here,” Pineda said. “Everything we do is thinking of you, everything the club does is thinking of you because we want you to feel proud of these guys. We want you to feel proud to be represented by these guys and the way they play. Thank you very much for always being there.”
Two members of every OSG took part in various skills tests including a crossbar challenge, a station where they had to head the ball into a bucket, keeping the ball in the air and more. Each team was partnered with a couple of players to provide support and cheer them on – a bit of a role reversal.
The skills challenge was just that, a challenge. Between the heat, the pressure of winning for your group and performing these tasks in front of the team, the groups played their best. On the sidelines, supporters cheered on their teams, drums, chants and even came up with remix versions of classic songs to motivate and poke fun at their members as well.
The winners were announced at the end of the challenges. Gabriel Pereyra and Gabriel Díaz from La 12 won along with Franco Ibarra, Alan Franco, Mikey Ambrose and Ronaldo Cisneros. After the announcement the team celebrated by jumping around and cheering.
“It was a challenge for our group.” Gabriel Pereyra from La 12 said. “It was a challenge for my friend Gabriel here and it was a challenge for myself because I haven’t played soccer for a while.”
Before heading back into the locker room, the players spent some time talking and greeting the supporters. The team lined up and signed kits, drums, and took selfies with the 17s. It was a personal moment that meant a lot to all who attended.
“It was fun doing all the little different exercises that they had us doing,” Brooks Lennon said. “But just the camaraderie with the fans and getting to know them.”
The day was filled with so much emotion and love on both sides. The relationship between team and supporters is something that the club has emphasized. Atlanta United has always stated ‘One Team, One Club’ and that motto includes the people who support the team on and off the pitch.
“It was very nice,” Santiago Sosa shared. “We all experienced beautiful moments, happy moments, the supporters as well as the team. It’s great that they can come and watch us train, be close to us. We owe it all to them, and I hope they had a wonderful day.”
The team will carry the energy and support that was present on Sunday throughout the rest of the season. Tomorrow the supporters return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to cheer on the 5-Stripes as they face CF Pachuca for the first annual American Family Insurance Cup.