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4 things we learned from Atlanta United’s draw in front of MLS record crowd

Atlanta failed to take all three points, but it gave the record attendance a match to remember.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United and Orlando City SC put on a treat of a match for the MLS record attendance crowd Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. The teams split six goals between them, lending more credence to the notion that Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a goal factory. Here’s what we learned.

The result was of secondary importance

A record number of soccer fans, 70,425 to be exact, left their homes to come to this place to watch a match today. It wasn’t to see the U.S. Men’s or Women’s National Team, it wasn’t to watch Manchester United, and it wasn’t to cheer for Club America. It was to see their hometown team, Atlanta United, an expansion MLS franchise, play a regular season game against some other MLS team. It’s the most people who have ever appeared in one place to watch an MLS match, playoffs included. That is special, and before we think about what happened on the field yesterday, we should be proud of the culture we’ve built (“we” being every single soccer-loving individual in this state/region). We should also be thankful for Arthur Blank, Darren Eales and the entire AMB Group for allowing a day like this to be possible in this country, let alone in our home town.

Leandro, you da real MVP

Atlanta United clearly missed the Argetine center back. The Buenos Aires native’s performances have substantially vaulted his level of importance to the team through his defensive work, distribution and even netting his first goal for the club this week. But maybe his value to the team was even more perceptible Saturday afternoon through his absence. Without LGP in the lineup, the back line struggled to contain Orlando’s strike force of Cyle Larin and Dom Dwyer, the latter of whom netted his first two goals for the Purples since rejoining them this summer.

Jason Kries seemed keen to take advantage of Dwyer’s speed, and matched him up against Jeff Larentowicz, the older of Atlanta’s aging center back pairing Saturday. Orlando was able to find success lumping the ball up top to the pair, knowing they’d be able to create enough havoc to fashion some quality chances. LGP’s athleticism prevents this kind of thing from becoming a regular occurrence. He’s undoubtedly one of this team’s most important players.

Josef Martinez is a Golden Boot contender

There were reluctant whispers after Wednesday’s hat trick from Martinez about whether he was a legit candidate for the award given to the top goalscorer in MLS. They aren’t whispers anymore. Josef stamped his candidacy with another hat trick only 3 days after, each of which were vital goals that leveled the score against Atlanta’s biggest rival. When asked in his postgame press conference whether Josef might need to rest sometime in the coming week or so, Tata Martino replied, “No, I want him to score 10 in our next four games.”

At this rate, I wouldn’t put it past him.

Josef Martinez doesn’t GAF that he’s a Golden Boot contender

Josef Martinez said after his hat trick Wednesday against the New England Revolution that the goals weren’t important to him, but that he only wanted the team to win. Saturday evening, that very sentiment was evident, as he was apparently too frustrated to talk to reporters and declined to speak.

I freaking love that. Josef of course understands the glory that comes along with scoring goals, and the joy that doing so brings him personally. But I love that that joy doesn’t supersede the team’s success. In fact, he can’t take joy in those goals unless the team wins. This is the quality the the best competitors in team sports have. Josef loves to score goals, but that doesn’t mean his job is more important than anyone else on the pitch. Everyone has a role in helping to achieve the collective goal of winning. Josef not talking to the media, in this case, tells you everything you need to know about him.