Heading into the first home match for Atlanta United’s U18 team, a lot was expected both on and off the pitch. The team certainly delivered on the pitch with a fantastic display and a 5-1 win. However, this match was also very important because it was the first chance for the supporters’ section to show us just a small preview of what we can potentially expect next year. So, how did they fare? Here’s the breakdown.
Let’s get the bad stuff over with so we can finish on a good note. Roughly 1,000 people attended the match. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was probably less than most people expected. Perhaps it was because people are out of town due to school closures or perhaps the weather kept people away (I am very sunburned). To be fair, 1,000 people at a U18 match is still very impressive. It just didn’t necessarily meet expectations.
The most disappointing thing when it came to the crowd was the size of the supporters’ section. It was four rows deep in a high school stadium. I fully expected the supporters to fill an entire section of the bleachers, hence the term “supporters’ section”. The excuses that casual fans had to not come to the match simply don’t apply to fans that are supposedly “die-hards”. If you’re a member of one of the three Atlanta United supporter groups, one would assume this match was kind of a big deal to you. Again, I understand there is a large difference in interest between a U18 match and a senior team match, so this obviously isn’t terribly concerning for next year.
Finally, although I was generally pleased with the chants done by the supporters, I wish there were more chants specific to Atlanta. I can only recall two that mentioned the city, but perhaps they’re just saving their best stuff for next year.
Also, let’s talk about the “Iceland Clap” real quick. With a large crowd, it’s actually pretty cool and intimidating. With four rows of people, not so much. I say this because I care, understand and embrace your size.
Obviously, most of these negatives really just had to do with size. I’m sure once the inaugural season comes around, size of the section won’t be an issue. Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
Although the supporters’ section was small, they were definitely coordinated. It seemed like everyone was on the same page when it came to chants and knowing what to say. I get that it’s a lot easier to coordinate a small group of people than a large group, but this was still a step in the right direction.
The variety of chants in my opinion was pretty solid. Although there weren’t many related to Atlanta, there were a few that I could definitely visualize happening at the Benz next year. For example, a clap was done to the tune of “Shots” by LMFAO before every corner kick, with the crowd shouting “Everybody!” at the chorus. It’s simple and it gets the crowd excited for the corner, can’t go wrong with that. There was also an “A-T-L” clap that will surely be a marquee cheer for Atlanta United. The supporters showed their appreciation to every player that scored by chanting their name. Building up a players’ confidence is always good.
Drums just seem to make every chant better. Although the two drummers weren’t entirely in unison the first half, they realized that at halftime and corrected the issue. I can salute a good halftime adjustment. There were plenty of Atlanta United flags being waved which is always a cool sight, as well as smoke bombs let off after every goal.
Coaches and players had nothing but good things to say about the crowd after the match. Atlanta United Academy Director and U18 head coach Richard Money said, “I think it was a real good environment for the players to experience and I’m sure the supporters enjoyed themselves. They’ve been waiting such a long time to see an Atlanta team play and represent their city. It’s a long time coming for them.”
Patrick Okonkwo said, “I think it was phenomenal. In the back of my head, I was like, ‘I’m not going to get carried away.’ It’s all about business. It’s all about my team, and winning the game is much more important to me than anything else. I just kept my head straight and knew that after the game the fans were always going to be there.”
Overall, I thought the supporters’ section was solid. Sure, the small amount of people was a disappointment, but that won’t be an issue next year. The only cause for concern will be creating chants that are more specific to Atlanta. We want to stand out from other teams in MLS, not blend in. I think coordination and communication for the supporters’ section will also be absolutely crucial during the inaugural season. We need to make sure everyone knows what to say when chants are started. I have faith in the three Atlanta United supporter groups to organize us into the best, most cohesive supporters’ section in the world... no pressure.