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A homegrown dream comes true

Fans and players can be homegrown

Dave Williamson Photography

I grew up in a rural area about 40 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Well… it was rural in the 80s! The only schools that had soccer were the more affluent and larger areas. Me… small town and small school, all the money went into the football team.

This was great for my brother who played and my dad who coached. My mom is the biggest Braves fan I know, we are an Atlanta sports family! Although it was strained a bit when my brother decided to go to Georgia Tech, my dad is an avid Bulldog fan. We were a house divided.

Me? I loved soccer. The Atlanta Chiefs had come and gone by the time I was old enough to pay attention. (I was 2 when they dissolved). But I read all about them and longed for a local team I could cheer for. I followed MLS as best as I could since they were rarely televised in the early days. It was hard to settle on a team when they were all so far away. So, I helped start a petition to get a soccer team at my high school when I was a sophomore. My junior year, we finally got a team! I was over the moon, but devastated at the same time. I had knee surgery that year and was not able to play. But the coaches knew my passion for the game and made me the coach’s assistant. I was able to letter in soccer! It has been a growing passion for me ever since.

Still not having a local team to call my own, I was introduced to the English Premier League. I instantly became a Liverpool fan. That proved difficult as they were also rarely televised, but I never gave up following them and now that they are easier to watch, I am even more of a fan. YNWA! But, I still longed for a home team. In 1995, the Atlanta Ruckus came on the scene and I was overjoyed. They eventually became the Atlanta Silverbacks and anyone who knows me knows I am a diehard fan. About three years ago, I heard rumblings about a hashtag #ATLwantsMLS. (credit to Matt Stigall) Could it be? Have we finally grown into enough of a soccer city to get a MLS team?

The momentum of this hashtag was undeniable. Then came the announcement… April 16, 2014. Atlanta is getting a major league team! Thank you Uncle Arthur! I could hardly believe it. The momentum grew leading up to the name announcement. Thousands attended the event to reveal the name, Atlanta United. I loved that Darren Eales took the time to learn about Atlanta and its history before deciding on a name. The kit reveal was even more impressive. The club has stopped at nothing to let everyone know, Atlanta United is here. They have focused on every aspect, even starting an Academy. Promoting homegrown players hold a special place for me as a native. I have never been a part of an experience like this one. It has been and I’m sure will continue to be an emotional ride!

I was fortunate enough to be present when Andrew Carleton signed for Atlanta United. I got a bit emotional during this event. He is our first homegrown player. I flash back to high school and the fight we had to go thru just to use a field for practice. Now here, standing before me, is a kid from Powder Springs… 15 minutes from where I grew up (many years ago)… signing for our MLS team… in Atlanta! (tears come to my eyes). I have never been more proud of and for my city. This is going to be big.

Carleton didn’t disappoint when he took the field for the first time in a pre-season friendly against Chattanooga FC. In the second half, he scored his first goal for Atlanta United and immediately ran to the fans! He kissed his badge and pointed to us…the fans. I was standing right behind the net and saw it happen. It’s a memory I will never forget. Thank you Andrew for making this homegrown girls dream come true.

Being a lifelong supporter of Atlanta sports has not been easy… I take that back… it’s always been easy, just not always gratifying. We are often tagged as lazy fans or bandwagon fans when one happens to make the playoffs. Well… that’s all about to change. There is nothing more passionate than a soccer fan cheering on their home team. Get ready, Atlanta Untied has arrived!