It was an average day in early December for Sporting KC’s Alec Kann when he received an unexpected phone call that would spontaneously send him back to his hometown. He was selected No. 9 overall by Atlanta United in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft, and has since earned his spot as the starting goalkeeper for the Eastern Conference expansion side.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” he said. “I never expected it to happen so now that it’s here I’m just trying to soak it in. Honestly, I know it’s cliché but I live everyday like it’s the last chance I get to do this. It’s all come full circle in the past 5 or 6 months.”
The Decatur native has played all 990 minutes in goal for Atlanta United in their 11 matches thus far and currently ranks fifth in the league with 41 saves this year, a 2017 experience he couldn’t have predicted.
“I never expected to be playing here,” said Kann. “I hadn’t played a ton in my career up until this point and I knew that there was going to be a team in Atlanta, but I had no idea I was on their radar. When I got the call I was just as excited as anyone else, with family, friends here it’s cool to have that support base when people see you ply your trade in your hometown because it’s different when you’re playing away.”
A few more than just family and friends have been showing up to cheer on the city’s new club. As of now, every home match for Atlanta has been sold out at home averaging about 48,000 in attendance, the highest in MLS in 2017.
Kann says that it’s important to show gratitude and praise for the unwavering commitment of the Atlanta United faithful. The goalkeeper makes an effort to approach the stands and thank all the dedicated fans following every match. “Dedicated” would be an understatement considering after a torrential downpour and an hour rain delay on Saturday night, it seemed there wasn’t one seat left empty.
“You can tell what it meant,” he said, “I got some messages on Twitter and things like that, making kids’ days, it’s stuff that you don’t think about a ton but it means a lot to the people that come to these games and stay after, that we take the time to thank them and give them a piece of us after the games.”
The impressive home crowd has embraced the team, but it isn’t the only aspect of this inaugural season that has made the new MLS club feel ingrained in the city, “It’s nice to be settled in somewhere after kind of being nomads for a couple months.”
After spending the majority of preseason in Florida and Charleston – then splitting time between the club’s unfinished training ground and the Falcons training facility – the expansion side finally has a home at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Since officially settling in mid-April into their new world-class facility, Kann says it’s helped immensely both on and off the field.
“I mean it’s tough not to get inspired every day when you come train on fields like this and have amazing food and all the facilities and anything that you could ever ask for as a player.”
Kann and company have truly been able to take advantage of being in Atlanta recently with their second home match in a row approaching this Sunday against New York City FC. The 26-year-old goalkeeper will look to record his third clean sheet of the season in front of a fifth-straight sellout crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium.