The Herd with Colin Cowherd
Weekdays 9am - Noon

Local: 503.250.1080
    Toll Free: 866.358.1080
| More

Atlanta United aims for playoffs in MLS expansion season

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By CHARLES ODUM

AP Sports Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Gerardo "Tata" Martino isn't backing down from the high expectations that go with being the MLS expansion Atlanta United coach.

As the former coach of the Argentina and Paraguay national teams, Martino knows more than a little about trying to satisfy a demanding fan base. Atlanta's soccer-starved fans have bought more than 27,000 season tickets.

Six MLS expansion teams have failed to make the postseason since Seattle lost in the first round of the playoffs in its 2009 inaugural season.

"I can't comment on the other teams, but we're excited to try to be the second team to make the playoffs," Martino said Thursday through an interpreter.

Atlanta has been called the league's "Seattle of the South" due to the strong ticket sales. Seattle led the MLS with its average attendance of 42,636 last season while winning the MLS Cup.

More than 40,000 tickets have been sold for Atlanta's March 5 opening game against the New York Red Bulls at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium. Atlanta could rank near the top of this season's attendance leaders.

"It's great that the reception has been what it has been," Martino said. "I hope the team can meet the expectations of the city."

Atlanta's roster includes a mix of young players from South America and veterans with MLS experience, including defender Michael Parkhurst, who served as the Columbus captain the last three years.

Parkhurst, 33, says this isn't a normal expansion team. The four-time MLS All-Star said he had "no apprehension" about joining the expansion team, even though history shows it has been difficult for new teams to win immediately.

"I think you know what you're getting involved with the predecessors of other expansion teams and their success early on, but that being said I don't think Atlanta United is like any other expansion team," Parkhurst said. "The way that they've set themselves up on and off the field is just a lot different than their predecessors. I think the expectations for us on the field are different as well."

Parkhurst credited the team's technical director, Carlos Bocanegra, a former captain of the U.S. national team, for Atlanta's "very organized" front office.

"I think Atlanta has really set us up to have success, and that's the most important thing," Parkhurst said.

Atlanta actually has a championship in its pro soccer history. The Atlanta Chiefs won the 1968 North American Soccer League championship. That NASL title was the city's biggest pro sports championship until the Braves won the 1995 World Series.

Atlanta's new MLS franchise is still setting its foundation. A new training facility in suburban Marietta is not complete, so the team has juggled its practice sites. This week's work has been held at the NFL Atlanta Falcons' practice facility.

The team's new stadium also is not yet complete, making it necessary to make temporary use of the Georgia Tech facility.

Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, also owns Atlanta United and the teams will share the $1.5 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium. Atlanta United's debut in the new stadium is scheduled for July 30 against Orlando City.

Martino says there have been "all positive thoughts so far" as brings his fast-paced, attacking style to the MLS.

"He's been great for us," Parkhurst said. "He's really been open with his communication. He's made it clear he wants it to be physical, he wants it to be intense on the field. But off the field he's very approachable. He's working on his English and we're all working on our Spanish and we're making it work."

Updated February 17, 2017

Sports Data Powered by STATS © 2017 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

The Fan's Top Stories

Morris has 37, Pistons top Blazers in OT


 (AP) . . . Marcus Morris scored a career-high 37 points, including Detroit's first seven in overtime, and the Pistons rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers . . . more.

Adrian Peterson a free agent after 10 years with Vikings


(AP) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's all-time leading rusher and a first-team All-Pro pick in four of his 10 seasons with the Vikings, will be an unrestricted free agent when the market . . . more.

Lawmaker wants Rangers to probe Baylor


(AP) A Texas lawmaker wants the state's top law enforcement agency to look into Baylor's sexual assault scandal and whether school officials worked to cover up crimes. More.

LA Chargers place franchise tag on LB Melvin Ingram


(AP) The Los Angeles Chargers placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram on Monday night. Ingram is a pass-rushing dynamo with . . . more.

Steelers give Brown 5-yr. deal, tag Bell


(AP) Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stressed earlier this month one of the team's biggest goals during the offseason was to make wide receiver Antonio Brown . . . more.

Fowler's win keeps youth movement going


(AP) Golf's youngest and biggest stars keep winning. Rickie Fowler has mostly been watching. He wasn't in Hawaii when Justin Thomas swept the Aloha State by a combined . . . more.

The FAN's NFL Page


Between combine news, draft evaluations, transactions and injuries, there is no off-season in the NFL. For pro football news, The FAN's NFL Page gives it all to you, here.

The FAN's College Football Page


(AP) With attention turning to recruiting, spring football, off-season stories and personnel moves, The Fan's College Football Page is your one-stop shop for the latest. More.

The FAN's Soccer Page


For preseason Timbers news, Team USA and futbol news from around the globe, head to The FAN's Soccer Page. You'll get headlines, previews, recaps and real time gamecasts, here.

The FAN's MLB Page


While teams train for the coming season in the sunshine of Florida and Arizona, get the AP's preseason news and schedules for every team on The FAN's Baseball Page.