It was announced on Tuesday that Atlanta United have had to rearrange three matches on their 2017 schedule due to the fact that Mercedes-Benz Stadium won’t be ready for use when they were projecting it would be. The big home match against Orlando City that was supposed to be the grand opening for the new stadium has been moved to Bobby Dodd Stadium with the two home matches after that being rescheduled for MBS on dates to be determined.
Obviously this news impacts fans who have bought game tickets, plane tickets, and so on. It’s an unfortunate situation for everyone affected. This post’s aim is to determine how the shake-up of potentially jamming two more home matches into an already packed second half schedule could affect the team itself.
The two matches are against Minnesota United (Aug. 13) and LA Galaxy (Aug 19). The first step would have to be trying to figure out where these two matches could be added to the back end of the schedule. Something to keep in mind, there are two international competition windows between the time MBS opens and the end of the season.
While it’s not ideal to play matches without your best players, that seems the most likely scenario to make sure the fixtures are spread out instead of lumping them into a midweek date.
August 28-September 6 is the first window. MBS is now scheduled to open on August 26 with an Atlanta Falcons preseason game. Depending on how long it takes for the arena transition from Football to Soccer takes, fitting one game in that window before the September 9 home match against FC Dallas seems feasible.
The last window is October 2-10. There’s a weekend available between league matches in the window that would fit the LA Galaxy’s schedule but not Minnesota United’s who have a match on October 7.
If playing two important late season matches without their international stars is not their preference, there’s always the possibility of finding a Tuesday or a Wednesday in September or October that is mutually open and jam the matches in there. It’s unclear who has final say in rescheduling the matches. Whether MLS has total say or all parties have a chance to agree on the circumstances isn’t known.
Playing the matches during international breaks would prevent fixture congestion, but it would put Atlanta United at a disadvantage considering all of the international talent they have. However, playing two matches a week down the stretch of a playoff run is no picnic either. No matter the option taken, it’s not an ideal situation for Atlanta if they’re fighting for a playoff spot.
That’s not the only concern with the schedule changing. Now, there’s a wide open two week gap in the middle of August where Atlanta aren’t doing anything. Back-to-back home matches have now been ripped out leaving a noticeable hole in the schedule. Is the plan to leave it there? Is there any choice in the matter? Moving fixtures up to cover up one of those dates seems to be far-fetched. So, now there’s two weeks of inactivity in the middle of the season. Depending on how the team is doing when they approach that period, is how it will affect them. If they’re struggling, it could be a blessing. If they’re on fire and scoring a bunch of goals, it could be the worst thing possible. We just don’t know because it’s not normal for any club to go two weeks without playing. There’s always a chance the club could find an opponent — possibly against an Argentine League team who start their season in late August — to schedule a friendly or two against, but it’s still not ideal in the middle of the season.
At the end of the day, when late October gets here and Atlanta United are hopefully still in the playoff race, no one will care about the stadium delays or schedule ridiculousness. But, in the present day, both are big concerns to a team still working hard to find their place in the league and work out the kinks. We’ll just have to hope that MLS and the the team can find the best solution to the scheduling issues that will affect the team’s on-field chances the least.