Over the next month I will be putting out a series of previews for MLS (not The) this season. I know you are all wondering why should I care about MLS, however here are a couple facts to get you going.
- Since 2007 the league has gone from 13 to 24 teams (and counting)
- Last year MLS added a new team in LA owned by Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mia Hamm!
- Soccer has the longest run time of the 4 major sports in 90 minutes, however because there’s no commercials the game only lasts 2 hours.
- Great players such as Josef Martinez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela, and many many more come to a tv near you every week!
- ESPN+ has made it very easy to find each game every week.
I am starting my 2019 preview with the defending champs Atlanta United. This team has changed the league already in only 2 years. They have revolutionized the style of play and the marketability of the league. They routinely average over 60,000 fans to home games and have the best player in the history of the league. I am going to dive in and try and outlook how 2019 will be for the champs.
Owner: Arthur Blank
Coach: Frank De Boer
Previous Season Record: 21-6-7 2nd in East (Playoff Champions)
U.S. Open Cup 2018: Round of 16
Top Scorer: Josef Martinez 31 goals (MLS Record)
Stadium: Mercedes Benz Stadium
If you follow MLS at all you have seen Atlanta United’s rise over the last two seasons. They came into the league as an enigma, because owner Arthur Blank was hiring high profile names such as Tata Martino and Carlos Bocanegra, but no one knew how they would do. The first season was a rousing success in terms of stats and attendance, no one could have predicted what happened in this second season.
The team decided to be unstoppable most of the season behind their superstars Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron. They played a fast pace, and free flowing style that garnered jealousy from pretty much every other team in the league. Josef Martinez broke all the scoring records and established himself as the best performing MLS player maybe in history.
Beyond that the attendance levels rose to a place where MLS has not been before. Atlanta broke every attendance record in existence for the league. They averaged around 53,000 fans a game for the entire season and had 73,000 people in the stadium for the MLS Cup Final. Atlanta won that game 2-0 and finished one of the greatest MLS seasons in history.
Off Season Transactions
*A couple things to highlight here:
- Miguel Almiron was sold to Newcastle United after this was written.
- This does not include the departure of Tata Martino as coach.
- Brek Shea is always a valuable piece running the wings in MLS.
This team should still be one of the top in the Eastern Conference in the coming year, despite losing coach Tata Martino to the Mexican National Team. They brought in Frank de Boer who has coached at Ajax, Inter, and Crystal Palace so he is clearly experienced. He should be able to keep the momentum moving forward for this franchise.
The biggest move in the off season was re signing Josef Martinez to a 5 year deal when everyone thought he would go to Europe after his record breaking year. Losing Almiron cannot be understated though. No matter how much Josef Martinez did, none of it would have happened with Almiron playing point guard for them (read it in Josef’s words). They still have studs such as Julian Gressel, Darlington Nagbe, Michael Parkhurst, and Jeff Larentowicz, and hopeful Almiron replacement Pity Martinez. Longtime backstop Brad Guzan is still holding down the net, which means they are very talented all over the field. Defense may be the Achilles heel for the team though, because of the lack of depth.
I still believe this team will have an incredible shot at going back to back.