If there was any doubt that the name of Sunday night’s event was “Ronaldinho and Friends”, it was dispelled by the cheers that went up as the Brazilian star touched the ball throughout the night, when he converted a penalty kick in the first half, or the very fact that over half of the 5,000-plus gathered at Atlanta Silverbacks Park departed when he left the field during the early stages of the second half.
Sunday won’t be confused with a world class match. And that’s fine. It was essentially a chance for Ronaldinho to showcase his skills in front of thousands of supporters that have followed him from the early stages of his career until now. For a 36-year-old, he moved pretty well. Granted, he didn’t play the whole way through (he is 36, after all), but there could be some use for him on a club back in Brazil - if nothing more than a veteran presence to teach young players the game and to help in development.
One thing that I noticed was the lack of Atlanta United presence around the grounds. This would have been a great event for AUFC to get behind in order to continue to push their brand to the Latin American community in the area. While I’m sure there was awareness of the team (I did spot an AUFC jacket among the supporters), having a booth or something to help get the word out would have been ideal for the organization on Sunday.
As for the match itself, Ronaldinho’s side won 6-4 as they converted on a penalty kick to end the contest. But, the fans in attendance were there largely for Ronaldinho. While it might not have been the same player that dazzled the soccer world a decade ago, it’s always good to have an up close and personal look at a legend of the sport.