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Atlanta United and Orlando City: Rivals? Not so fast

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Tata Martino and Yamil Asad kill my hot-take

MLS: Orlando City SC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United to travel to Orlando City for the first Southern Derby!” I wanted to write. “Major League Soccer set to add Atlanta United vs. OCSC to the pantheon of rivalry matches like the California Classico, Cascadia Cup, or whatever they call the game between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo,” this humble blogger was all set to bellow. I was even going to say something so hyperbolic that the heat from the take would melt my computer as I typed like, “Tata Martino brings El Classico mentality to match with Orlando,” but that sure isn’t going to happen now (Don’t worry, the Morning Rekrap tomorrow will be a hottake, trash talking bonanza, but for now I’m wallowing in self pity reaching to the heavens with hands outstretched crying out: “MY LEDE!”).

Why am I telling our loyal readers this? Because, Tata Martino and Yamil Asad say that the match between Atlanta United is not (spelled N-O-T) a rivalry. In fact, Tata wasn’t having it at all, dismissing the idea out of hand saying, “I don’t think this is a rivalry, at least not yet because this is the first game that there’s ever been between Atlanta and Orlando.”

When I say he wasn’t having it, I mean he was incredulous that he was being asked about a rivalry in the first match between two teams saying that in Argentina, “usually there are rivalries that are formed over a long history of important games between the two teams.” For his part, Yamil Asad offered up a practical and focused answer about the game. Asked if he thought it was a rivalry, Asad said, “no but its a good opportunity to reevaluate the things we’ve been working on in our home form.” Did you get that? The player who has elbows that “need to be addressed” according to some, didn’t say anything about pounding the purple kits of OCSC into baba ganoush - rather, he was stoic and talked about trying to maintain Atlanta United’s home form on the road.

Honestly, what am I supposed to do with this? Ah, I know - I’ll appeal to their sense of nationalism against that most hated of foes: Brazil. The roots of the rivalry are there, for fans, hating on a team from up north is one thing but Southerners love despising our neighbors and Florida is as despicable of a place as there is. For Tata and Asad, I figure, Brazil is clearly their Florida.

I mean look, there are even Brazilians in Orlando for them to direct their displeasure towards. Orlando City is heavily connected to Brazil from part-owner Flavio Augusto to star player Kaka, and the large Brazilian immigrant community in the city. Surely, Tata and Yamil would cop to wanting to beat OCSC and fan the flames of a rivalry because they hate Brazil, right?

WRONG.

Neither coach Martino nor Yamil Asad would take the bait of national pride filling them with the love of flag and country to express a desire to beat their Brazilian neighbors. Asad acknowledged the footballing discord between his country and Brazil saying, “there’s always a big rivalry between Argentina and Brazil” but then crushed my hopes that he would say the rivalry motivated him to win in some way by concluding that, “on this team I’ve got teammates from England, and from everywhere so really it’s just another statistic.” A STATISTIC? Seriously? I mean, this is Brazil the country that says Pele is better than Maradona and deploys the revolutionary tactic known as “Kick Messi” every time the teams meet on the field.

For his part, Tata reminded everyone that the sporting culture in the U.S. and Argentina is just different (I mean, he’s right criminal gangs have taken root in the game there and over more than 100 years rivalries resemble blood feuds) and told everyone, “In the U.S. the way people experience futbol is different, so it’s nothing like in Argentina, and I’m not the one who wants to change how futbol here is experienced.” If that wasn’t a complete, outright, and unequivocal “no” to the question of a rivalry existing between Atlanta United and OCSC, he joked that he would go as far as leaving the country if soccer in the U.S. began to resemble the game in Argentina saying, “if futbol [in the U.S.] changes, I’m going to have to look for somewhere else to coach.”

So there you have it, for Tata Martino and Yamil Asad, this is another game on the schedule and another tough away match that the team will look to a positive result as the season enters the home stretch. After all that, someone ought to tell the Atlanta United marketing people that their coach and star winger don’t think this game is a rivalry, because someone went and did this: