Atlanta United have enjoyed a thrilling first season in Major League Soccer and accomplished more than anyone could have dreamed, breaking attendance records, raising the bar for expansion teams and clinching playoffs in year one. It’s hard to believe there are only two regular season matches remaining, but the Five Stripes have plenty to play for in the final month and Atlanta fans should make sure to catch every moment.
There’s not an Atlanta fan who has forgotten a detail about their inaugural game back on March 5th in Bobby Dodd Stadium: the atmosphere, the attendance, the walkout, the first goal and of course the opponent, the New York Red Bulls. The gut wrenching 2-1 loss still lingers in the minds of Atlanta United and its members, and the expansion club will hope to redeem themselves as they travel to Red Bull Arena on October 15th. The game also holds vital post season implications as Atlanta hopes to lock up a home playoff match with a win and take one step closer to finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference, a position that would offer the club a first round bye.
The Record Breaker
Atlanta United closes out their final match of their inaugural MLS Regular Season with a home match against recently crowned Supporters’ Shield Champions, Toronto FC. Not only will this be essential in the playoff picture, but the club recently announced that it has already sold more tickets for this match than their previous MLS single-game attendance record-breaker on September 16th. More than 70,426 will be present in Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch the Five Stripes battle it out with one of the best teams the league has ever seen. A special twist for everyone there on October 22nd will be the opening of the building’s roof, the first time ever for an Atlanta United match (weather permitting). Make sure to secure your ticket for that here.
Golden Boot Race
Despite missing nearly half of the season with injury, Atlanta forward Josef Martinez is still right in the mix for this year’s Golden Boot race. After earning the MLS Player of the Month award for September in a stretch where he scored nine goals, the Venezuelan international now has 18 goals on the season, just three behind current Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic. Martinez is finding the back of the net 1.19 times per 90 minutes played and also has three hat tricks on the season, becoming the third player in MLS history to do so. With two matches left, there’s no doubt the prolific scorer has a chance to win the first Golden Boot in Atlanta United history.
Depending on the results of the final two matches of the season and the destiny of other teams in the table, Atlanta could find themselves in three different scenarios at the end of October. If the club finishes in 5th, Atlanta will have to play their first-round match on the road; if 3rd or 4th, they will host. If they manage to finish 2nd, they will earn a first round bye. Anything is possible at this point, but one thing is for certain, Atlanta United will appear in their first playoff appearance in year one of existence, the first time an expansion side has done so since 2009.