There’s a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. It is a holiday about many things: family, family dysfunction, friends, togetherness, a misguided celebration of impending colonialism, and of course, food. Atlanta United fans certainly have a lot to be thankful for. This was an amazing year and next season has the potential to be even better. Before looking too far into the future, let’s think about what we’re thankful for as supporters as we sit around the Five Stripes table to celebrate.
Atlanta United fans should be thankful for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, I like to think of him as the gravy of the team. Seriously, the guy is everywhere, smothering attacks or covering the field with long passes. LGP is a genuinely good guy and I’m thankful that he succeeded in his first season in MLS.
Five Stripes supporters should give thanks for Carlos Carmona. He’s like the green bean casserole of the club. In the same way that when the dish is made well, it just works, when it isn’t, it doesn’t and a defensive midfielder who plays the position well isn’t really noticed, but he sure is when he plays it badly.
The Polar Bear, ice cold in the net, basically impenetrable. I’m thankful that Brad Guzan showed that a great goalkeeper is really, really important. Hardly anything got past him in his games this year, he was cranberry sauce, nothing was going to get through with him in the way.
The stars of the show is also what we’re thankful for. Sure there’s the turkey and other sides, but to me Thanksgiving is all about starchy, carby, excess. Supporters should be thankful for Miguel Almiron being the stuffing of the team, holding it all together and really settling into a legitimate MVP candidate as the season wore on. Be thankful for Tito Villalba, the mashed potatoes of the team - do we need a winger who is pure speed and timely goals? Of course, there’s always room on the plate for that. Then there’s Josef Martinez to be thankful for. A striker with a penchant for trying bicycle kicks, setting scoring records, and rounding the keeper is a pure luxury, he’s sweet potato casserole with marshmallows - a dessert masquerading as a main course.
What would Thanksgiving be without weird family traditions? My family eats pineapple cream cheese covered celery for Thanksgiving, it’s amazing and weird. That’d be Anton Walkes, the center back who moved outside to right back and did a surprisingly satisfying job, like that weird family tradition others dismiss but is actually excellent.
Something else to be thankful for is a youth academy that is filled with poults, ready to rise in the ranks and be the future of Atlanta United and even the USMNT.
Finally, there’s the turkey. If we’re being honest about Thanksgiving, the turkey is not the star of the show, it’s being overshadowed by the rest of the offerings. But without it, you don’t have the holiday at all. That’s Michael Parkhurst, steady, solid, there in the background being overlooked in favor of stuffing or yams, but critical to the success of the whole endeavor.
A day celebrating fellowship is a great holiday for Atlanta United. The team really came together over the course of the season. At times the Five Stripes played like 11 best friends, and they even looked like that off the field too. There’s no doubt that the players, coaches, and staff have much to be thankful for as they take a much deserved break and prepare for 2018.
As for me, I’m thankful that I get to write with such an amazing staff and that we have such great readers and commenters. Thank you all for following the site, without y’all, none of what I’ve been able to do as a writer and what we have built here at DSS would be possible. Thanks to those who visit, comment, share, and engage with our work. Being on this journey in Atlanta’s inaugural season has been magical and I’m thankful that all you have been along on this ride.