Unless you’re an Atlanta United fan who also happens to regularly watch Watford Academy matches, you may not have heard much about one of Atlanta United’s offseason additions. But he’s heard plenty about Atlanta United fans.
“I’m very excited to hear the fans,” he says with a smile from ear to ear.
The truth is Dion Pereira doesn’t watch much soccer on television at all aside from Barcelona games, so an MLS side wasn’t on his radar. But there was one clip on Atlanta United’s social media that caught his eye.
“The first time I saw it at all was actually a clip of Josef scoring a penalty, it was just a wild technique I had never seen before. I thought it looked interesting then the more I learned it seemed like Atlanta had a really good thing going, and it seemed like a good league as well. This was when Atlanta were winning every game, so that caught my eye as well obviously. And then it just went from there.”
Dion has spent his entire playing life in London. First, he played for Tottenham for five years, then he joined Watford’s U-14 side, where he’s risen their academy ranks ever since. But once he heard moving to Atlanta was a possibility, it was clear to him that from what he knew about the club, it was too good a chance to pass up.
“I came for a week last year and I really enjoyed it. The facilities were incredible, the quality of play was very good, and the weather was so much better than England,” he says with a laugh. “It just felt like a place that really fit me.”
Once the details got sorted out and he knew he’d be an Atlanta United player, he’s been chomping at the bit to get started ever since.
“I arrived on January 7th, I don’t think we started until the 14th. I came in to do gym work, because Watford hadn’t allowed me to train the past couple months out of fear I’d get injured. The facilities are amazing. I’ve seen the stadium, I haven’t been to a game yet, but it looks amazing as well.”
Still just 19 years old, Pereira knows that it takes patience to break into a championship-caliber team with established veterans. But he’s already shown maturity and patience, and is just focused on putting his head down and earning his spot.
“The quality of the football is so high,” he says. “You have to give respect to the players from last season, and it makes you work ten times harder than if you were first in the team already.”
But he’s still confident. Pereira knows that it’s a long season with multiple competitions for Atlanta this year. So he’s eager to put in the work at training to be ready to seize his chance, whenever it comes. And he knows he has the quality to compete.
“I’d say I bring creativity to the field,” he says. “I might not score as many goals as a striker, but on the wing I can set up a lot of goals. I can drive past defenders pretty easily, that’s a big attribute, and I can pick passes from anywhere.”
He’s taking it one day at a time, and says “earning his minutes” is his biggest goal for 2019. But he can’t help but look ahead at what the feeling could be when he takes the field for the first time.
“In England, the fans are good. But here in Atlanta, they seem to make a very big impact on the game. I’ve had so many fans reach out to me on social media already. Hopefully I can get a goal or an assist and hear them chant my name.”