Atlanta United’s inaugural season was one 5-Stripe fans will never forget, and the team was recognized for their excellence on and off the pitch by their local colleagues Thursday. The Atlanta Sports Awards honored the club with three of their biggest awards in a huge night for the club.
First up came Coach of the Year, and there were strong candidates. The Georgia Swarm’s Ed Comeau was listed after their title-winning season as well as the University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, who took the SEC powerhouse all the way to the National Title game. But it was Tata Martino who took home the big award.
Next up was Professional Athlete of the Year, with two Atlanta United players up for the honor. Josef Martinez and Miguel Almirón –– the red black and gold’s two members of the 2017 MLS Best XI –– joined Matt Ryan as nominees for the award. But it was Almirón who took home the trophy.
Finally, the big honor of the night, the Team of the Year, with Atlanta United nominated alongside the Georgia Swarm and the University of Georgia Football Team. Despite incredible years for both clubs, it was the Atlanta United phenomenon that turned the city red, black and gold that was given the massive honor. Club president Darren Eales accepted the award, pointing to Atlanta United’s incredible fan base that ranks alongside the elite clubs in world soccer when it comes to attendance. But he also pointed to a larger trend in the Atlanta area that is breaking all the myths about the city’s sports fandom.
“If you look at what’s happening in Atlanta at the moment: the Hawks have their new renovated arena with a new, respected coach coming in. The Braves have an exciting young team that’s top of the division and the Falcons, the only NFC team to make it to the playoffs back to back. They have a real chance to get to a Super Bowl this year and be the first to play in their home arena… So what I love the most is that we’ve put to rest this tired cliché that Atlanta is not a sporting city. It’s a load of rubbish, and to sum it up, just a tribute to Andre 3000: the South’s got something to say.”
The Atlanta Sports Awards is an annual celebration hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Other awards on the night included Collegiate Athlete of the Year, High School Athlete of the Year and the Community Spirit Award, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award.