Matchweek three of the MLS (Major League Soccer) and there is plenty to talk about. The 21st season of the MLS has added two new expansion teams: Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC.
But the main team popping up on headlines all over the United States is Atlanta FC because of their impressive form thus far.
After three games, Atlanta has won two, lost one, scored 11 goals in three games and currently has the league’s leading goalscorer Josef Martínez.
Expansion teams in the MLS have a bad history of not achieving much in their inaugural season, but when Atlanta started doing business, MLS fans realized that Atlanta meant business. So why does Atlanta United look like they have been a team in the MLS for years now?
Becoming a franchise team in the MLS is a very long and grueling process, and usually the first season is the toughest. Atlanta United is showing the league that they want to defy expectations, and so far, the organization looks like it’s doing everything right.
First, they hired former Barcelona and Argentina Manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino. The club’s first big statement basically said, “We’re here to play.”
Atlanta started raising more eyebrows when they started making transfers. They brought in players such as Miguel Almirón, Héctor Villalba, Leandro González Pírez and most notably, Josef Martínez. Atlanta looks as if they are trying to break the stereotype that the MLS is not a “retirement league” anymore.
Almirón, Villalba and González Pírez all came from the Argentine Primera División, as they had proven their ability in South America. But Josef Martínez is currently on loan from Torino FC of the Calcio A (Italy’s top flight division), which was a huge move for the club.
At 23 years of age, Martínez has already proven himself as a lethal striker. The Venezuelan currently has five goals in three games, scoring a hat trick against Minnesota United (despite playing in a blizzard) in matchweek two and two goals against the Chicago Fire in matchweek three. He is currently the league’s top scorer, which is a pretty decent feat for an expansion team.
Their offense may be in form right now, but Atlanta’s defense is not getting the love it deserves. Only conceding two goals in three games is showing signs of a strong defense, especially for an expansion team.
The overall squad depth is incredible as well. The team is made up of not just players who’ve transferred here, but homegrown MLS players, drafted college players and other players brought in from other MLS clubs.
For an expansion team, Atlanta United FC is taking the MLS by storm.
Even as a fan of the New England Revolution, it’s great to see expansion teams add some more competition into this league and making it more attractive for fans to watch.
The entire organization looks like it’s heading in all the right directions, and Tata Martino seems to be getting the most out of this team and it’s players.
I really enjoy how much the MLS has progressed in recent years, and I’m very excited to see how this season unfolds and how Atlanta United progresses.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org