I would like to start this article by urge everyone to shame fellow Dirty South Soccer writer Brendan Joseph, Game of Thrones style, for writing this article saying Atlanta United will not make the playoffs in 2017.
Shame. (Bell ring) Shame. (Bell ring) Shame. (Bell ring)
All while naked, of course.
First of all, (and this should be obvious) it’ll be hard for opponents to play the game on the field while distracted by Carlos Bocanegra’s beautifulness in the suites. But I digress. Let us dissect the blasphemy that is Mr. Joseph’s claim: Atlanta United is not making the playoffs in 2017.
Sure, recent history has shown a lack of playoff berths for new expansion teams going back to 2010. However, let’s not act like Orlando City and NYCFC were dead last in the standings. OCSC were still in contention for playoff spots come the final game of the season. NYCFC ended just below OCSC in the standings, but probably would’ve fared better without the infusion of brand new players to MLS who had no business playing on a ridiculously small field, inside a baseball stadium.
I believe Atlanta United (and Minnesota FC) will not be subjected to the expansion draft like previous expansion teams. This changes things for Atlanta United, as Darren Eales and Bocanegra will be able to handpick their players to best suit their needs. In the past, MLS has appropriated unprotected players from its teams through the expansion draft. Typically, they haven’t been the best players. Eliminating this process gives Atlanta United a leg up on history and other recent expansion teams like OCSC and NYCFC. When you can pick and sign players from anywhere in the world, statistically, your team should be much better than those formulated through the expansion draft.
We should also consider that making predictions in MLS is just plain stupid. Nothing ever goes as planned and parity runs rampant through the league. Teams overcome overwhelming odds all the time in MLS, and scenarios much like OCSC’s in week one fail to surprise MLS fans. Down two goals in added time, OCSC nets two goals to steal a point from what seemed to be a sure loss to start the season. Obviously that’s just one game, but it only takes one game to spark a winning streak. A winning streak sparked at the right time can lead to an MLS Cup Championship. Just ask the Portland Timbers. The great thing is, I’m not even that greedy. I’d settle for a great run that sparks a modest playoff run.
Lastly, I’ll just add that an expansion team earning a playoff spot has to happen sometime. Why not Atlanta United?
While it may be harder for Atlanta United to make the playoffs in 2017 with the infusion of more teams and a set amount of post-season berths, the climate of MLS and how teams are built will be different. The Atlanta United front office is smart and constantly learning from the year-one experiences of OCSC and NYCFC. They surely know what has and hasn’t worked for expansion teams in the past, and have repeatedly said they plan to be competitive right from first kick in 2017.
With all that said, I believe Atlanta United will be the first expansion team to make the playoffs. And you should too. Money, philosophy and timing will all be play their role in ensuring Atlanta United is different from all other expansion teams.
So take that Brendan!