This week marks the three-year anniversary of what might be the most legendary regular season match in Atlanta United’s short history. A 4-1 thumping of Houston after a lengthy rain delay that included a Miguel Almiron hat trick, a famous call and a fan sung national anthem after a mic malfunction among other things.
If you were there, you know already. And if you weren’t, hopefully these stories from fans and a few familiar faces help you understand.
That Houston game was nuts. I had gotten tix right on the sideline in Tech’s club section two rows back as a birthday present and was pumped. The weather turned as I was walking in and I was the first person they told to stop and go back to their car because of the weather. I was feet away from posting up in the club and pounding beers. I watched a drunk Delta pilot almost fight an old guy cuz everyone was cranky and mad they couldn’t get in. Game was just as crazy. I found a friend and tried to sneak him to where I was sitting, but not blocking anyone’s view, but some other old dude tried to fight and that’s right when Miggy scored his first. Me and the old dude hugged it out, and he got me blackout that night. Easily my favorite game experience, aside from MLS Cup.
Probably my most vivid memory was the heavens opening up and taking cover for an hour in the Georgia Tech Student Center before the match. I was pretty amazed how pretty much every seat was filled even after a rain delay.
May 20th, 2017, was such a special day. I happened to be calling my first game in Atlanta, which was also the first ever locally broadcasted Atlanta United home game. I’m glad you guys are writing about it, because it was such a magical night on many levels.
In the build up to this match against the Houston Dynamo, much of the talk was about Miguel Almiron, a player that was thrust into the goal-scoring spotlight in the absence of the injured Josef Martinez. Almiron was on an 8-match scoreless drought, and, believe it or not, there were questions about him and that lack of production. Dan Gargan and I were chatting (while sweating) as we circled Bobby Dodd stadium looking for the press entrance. Both of us were saying that he was due a breakout ‘Man of the Match’ performance, and Gargan even asked me what I’d say in that moment if he scored. I don’t like to script goal calls, but I joked and said, “Well, it most likely won’t be a tap in, and since we’re in Atlanta how about ‘a peach from the Paraguayan?’” Dan gave a cheeky smile and said, “Love it, go for it!” Sure enough, Miggy hits a worldy and I looked at Dan whilst blurting out “It’s an absolute peach from the Paraguayan!” Such a fun moment, and I can’t believe people still mention it. Miggy then hit his second, followed by a third in the second half.
A game that flirted with being cancelled due to an angry storm was now being lit up with the greatest smile in the world. Miggy couldn’t shift the grin, even leaving the field late on, subbing out for a 16-year old Andrew Carleton. Bobby Dodd was soaked, but it was better than ever. Think about this: an MLS team in it’s first season, thumping Houston, a breakout hat-trick performance for a player that is now regarded as an MLS great, a debut for a 16-year old homegrown, and even when the storm hit or the audio for the National Anthem singer failed, the crowd stepped up in emphatic fashion. It was magical.
After the game my wife set up a surprise for me. It was my 32nd birthday, and when we reached the hotel my brother and his fiance were waiting for us! They made the day complete with a trip to see live music at a dive bar followed by my first Waffle House!
I mean think about it.... Is that not the greatest day of all time?!
It was my first AUFC match with my sister. I remembered it was raining late in the day and it was delayed. We considered just going home and watching on TV, I still make fun of the guy who suggested that.
The real story of the game happened before the game. As everyone was more-or-less spread out in the parking lots around the Varsity and that BP station (that must have been absolutely RAKING on those Bobby Dodd gamedays), a storm that brought a torrential downpour, lightning (thank you Doug Roberson for keeping us updated on the latest strikes that re-started the countdown to kickoff) and insane wind gusts. Some people quickly packed up their tailgate gear and jumped in their cars, but those with nothing to lose scrambled for the Varsity parking deck.
It was a scene.
In what seemed like a matter of seconds, I had gone from drunkenly knocking a soccer ball around to a indescribable scene of debauchery. The sights. The smells. My goodness. Some random dude, who we’d later learn hailed from Pittsburgh, approached us and wasn’t even going to the game — was just there to party. At one point, I was looking down the row of cars parked in spaces. One poor guy in a Dodge Ram was trying to back out of his space (I guess he just happened to be dining), and some girl would not let him out as she was twerking directly into his backup camera.
The only thing I remember from that point on is Tata Martino getting sent off. :heart:
Tata was ejected for booting the ball to half field. Nice leg, coach. pic.twitter.com/unIxme28k4— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) May 21, 2017
This game kinda solidified for me the belief that we were about to be a real good team, and also waiting through that weird thunderstorm was nuts too.
In 2015, my wife was not interested in soccer. I grew up watching my dad play in the 80’s. So, when the time came to get season tickets, I got 2. One was mine, one was dad’s. Dad travels a lot for work, so when this game came around, dad was once again out of town. My wife went to the previous home match against DC and immediately fell in love. So when the Houston match came around, it was decided that she would go with me. On top of that, we decided to take our son, who was 9 months old at the time. In those days, we parked at Emory Midtown and walked to Bobby Dodd ($6 parking!). As we were crossing the North Avenue overpass, we looked out towards Williams Street. We saw and heard a wall of water moving our direction with incredible pace. We immediately turn and sprinted back to The Varsity. The intensity of the rain made it obvious that we would be there for a while, so we made a meal of it. Once the rain stopped, and all of the alerts telling us that the start of the match was pushed back, we made our way to the stadium. To see my son’s eyes, taking in all of the stimulation and wonder that comes along with an Atlanta United match, was one of those moments that I assume every parent has, and will remember for the rest of their lives.
Then came the National Anthem. It was obvious that something was wrong from the first few words. What followed was the greatest display of unity I’ve seen in the city of Atlanta since the Olympics. We knew at that point that this night would be special. The game was a blur. So much emotion, so much noise. I don’t think I was able to process it at the time. It was the first of what I would assume to be many more Miggy hat tricks. Sadly, I was wrong about that. We drove home that night, still a little damp from all the rain. None of that mattered, though. It was the first time our little family of 3 had attended a match together. My son is 3 years-old now, and still regularly attends matches. So much so that we have added a third seat to our season tickets (he’s too big to be free these days).
I remember “tailgating” inside a parking deck while we waited out the thunderstorm and hoped that the game would be played. Once we received word that the storm would pass and the game would be played, I experienced one of my favorite ATLUTD memories (and something I wish the club would allow for once a season). That memory of course is the mic failure that allowed the 17s to sing the national anthem. This was one of those moments where I felt like we as fans would help out the team however we could. Details of the game after that are a little fuzzy now, but I remember the domination of Houston, Miggy’s hat trick, and Carelton’s debut.
I got to meet Greg Garza the following day and I asked him what he thought about the anthem and he said it was one of the coolest things he’d seen.
What’s there not to remember about that game? There was the flooding in the tunnel under 75-85 on the way to the stadium, the weather delay and being diverted to a parking deck to wait out the storm, the best national anthem in Atlanta United history (note to the FO: we don’t need anthem singers, we do it better), Joe Willis getting heckled mercilessly for holding on to the ball for far too long far too many times, and most importantly a glorious hat trick by Miggy. The footwork, the moves, everything. He was on that night and we all benefitted.
This is the story of our favorite OG big ass flag.
We started off in Varsity parking lot, per usual. Lotta beers were had. We were 3-4 games in at Bobby Dodd at that point if I recall, so we had at least established somewhat of our rhythm of the march lining up towards the south end of the lot and starting to hype up from there.
I was on the big 5Stripe flag that night. That was the original big ass flag we had in the supporter section along with the A-Town Down flag we made in my garage. Loved that 5Stripe flag to death. Jacob Austin [see below] and I were usually the ones that had it in the Bobby Dodd days.
Something noteworthy about that flag. It was made of regular fabric we had gotten from Michaels. That fabric is MUCH thicker than the stuff we’re flying now with all of our big flags (made of ripstop nylon)
So I remember us lining up for the march, probably did some chants, but we couldn’t leave yet.. the ATLUTD security dude wouldn’t really let us go because we were all waiting to hear about what’s going on with the storm.
I believe this might have been where the “We need more beer” chant originated (to the tune of sha la la la). We were already heavily buzzed, forced to wait, and were out of beer. Very weird energy.
Rain started and we’re still stuck... but we all embraced the chaos and kept cheering in that holding spot. I remember the wind just keeping that flag waving by my just holding it.. no waving need it.
Remember how I mentioned that flag was thick? It was already heavy to wave.. and now it started to soak with water.
The sky cracked with a loud thunder and the skies opened up.. pouring buckets.
I remember the ATLUTD security dude on his walkie in desperation trying to get direction and see the look on his face of “Screw it” - “GET TO THE TUNNEL”
There was no march at that point. It was just hundreds of drunk supporters racing towards the 3rd street tunnel. My ears still suffer from it, but goodness I miss that tunnel.
Fast forward 3 mins, and you’ve got hundreds of supporters packing into this tunnel and more trying to get in from behind us. We’re again looking to this security dude who is desperately trying to hold it together and getting no answers on his walkie.
MEANWHILE... this tunnel is starting to flood a bit and if you’ll recall, the stairs going into it started to turn into a little bit of waterfall.
When we heard that at the front, our security dude made the best call of the day and told us to run towards a parking garage down the street.
Here’s my favorite moment of the day. I’m running out with our big heavy flag, supporters are sprinting around me, and I I’m feeling the pure adrenaline of the moment and did what I thought would be glorious.. I unfurled the flag and just start waving that thing sopping weight running down 3rd avenue with what felt like a hurricane coming down on us.
I haven’t seen any photos of video of the moment (everyone was running and trying to keep their phones dry), but in my mind’s eye it was glorious and felt like it meant something. We were defying the weather gods.
I’m sure you’ll hear more about the hour or so spent in the parking garage. There were chants, beer snuck in, and a lot of “bouncing” of the concrete floor, which really made a bunch of us uneasy.
But what I remember leaving that evening is a feeling of unity and defiance all of us supporters had for the weather and getting to our match. When we had gotten into Bobby Dodd, we were all so thankful that there were still so many of us still there.
We had Carleton’s debut. I remember him square up with Damarcus Beasley and just laughing my butt off about this kid going toe to toe with one of the league’s legend.
Went to the tailgate to the Houston game without having purchased ticket. I was in the Peter’s parking deck when the rain delay hit and all the supporters came flooding in. I hopped on StubHub and got a front-row ticket for $40 not knowing if the have would be played at that point. Best money I spent while in college.
I was supposed to bring a date to this but my friend who said he had an extra ticket didn’t actually. Shawna, if you read this, call me.
Anyway, may have been a good thing. I ended up soaking wet and in the tunnel with everyone else. Then in the parking garage where a group of people worried about the structural integrity of an on campus building for the first time in the history of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Three years later, I put together a fanstory on the game. Shawna. Call me.
I took my old childhood friend to that game. We went to taco Mac before and caught up. We headed to Bobby Dodd and went to our second row seats right where the players entered. No one sat in the bleachers directly in front of us so we thought we’d take them over :) it rained for a second and the delay almost ruined the night but the clouds cleared and the fans cheered. The players came out, we had a blast. Witnessed the Miggy Hattrick and the Gressel “never-give-up-goal”. What a spectacular night. Carleton made his debut to a louder roar than ever. On par with Asad’s first goal, US open cup final last year, MLS cup, and a few others. What a fun night
There have been numerous memorable matches in Atlanta United’s short history, but the Tunnel Flood Game is definitely among my top few.
That afternoon was when Atlanta United tailgating became a big thing. We had been to a couple of previous Footie Mob tailgates, but the parking lot at The Varsity was considerably more crowded that day, as word of mouth had started to get around about how much fun the Supporters Groups tailgates were. Also, for any Footie Mob members, that was the epic Shay Lavi tailgates with his amazing pitas, tahini and hummus that live on in glory to this day.
It was an incredibly hot and muggy afternoon, which was only made worse by standing on the scorching blacktop for several hours in the midday sun. As we tailgated, you could see the incredibly dark wall of clouds moving in from the southwest toward Georgia Tech’s campus. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees in 20 minutes, and everyone knew that crazy stuff was about to go down as this massive thunderstorm barreled toward us. What no one realized then, though, is what a completely unique and memorable experience it was going to turn out to be.
When the wind picked up and the rain started falling, everyone who was lined up for the march started funneling into the tunnel for protection. Despite the temperature having dropped rapidly to near 70 degrees as the storm rolled in, it felt like it was about 100 degrees and close to 100 percent humidity in the tunnel. But even with bodies crammed in like sardines, everyone started singing and chanting and having a big ol’ time ... until the flood began.
What started as a slight trickle of water underfoot and mild movement of moisture from the east end of the tunnel to the west end quickly started building up into a stream and then a creek and then a full-on river. In a matter of moments, we were ankle deep in lovely run-off water that would leave everyone’s shoes and sock soaked for the duration of the match.
Despite the lengthy weather delay, the atmosphere once inside Bobby Dodd Stadium was incredible, too — from the crowd taking over for Chinua Hawk when his mic failed for the anthem to Miggy’s legendary hat trick to Andrew Carleton’s debut. We sat across the aisle from Carleton’s family, and seeing them react to his first MLS appearance was touching, I walked over and shook their hands afterward. And my two boys stood down by the field next to his sister and his brother Alan after the game while waiting for Andrew to come over and say hello.
So, as all our favorite memories always are, mine will be particularly personal. Watching my brother play high school soccer, and then hanging out with my classmates on the team playing FIFA, is what matured my level of admiration for soccer from “world cup and champions league enjoyer” to “I’ve flown across an ocean to see a game and have season tickets to local teams.” And part of what makes that Houston game special for me was that it was the first ATLUTD game my brother made it to. I also had a friend who is not at all a sports guy (I know him from the film world and he DM’s a DnD game I played until some of us started having kids) who accepted an invite to give it a try.
My brother isn’t big on the tailgate scene, so he’d actually gone to the gate ahead of time and was updating me via text about what’s going on in the stadium. He said they let him in, and then cleared out right as we are meeting for the march. We’re texting, confused because we don’t feel rain, there’s clouds but nothing crazy. So we’re standing at the beginning point of the march, same as always, getting hype, getting ready to go, we move about 10 yards, and security stops us. I’m trying to talk to the dude, have the WSB weather app open on my phone, looking at the doppler, trying to let us get inside cause that seems better than standing out in the open. Then the heavens open and he says “move to the tunnel” and we get everyone we can in there, soaking wet.
Fun side note about concrete tunnels approximately ten feet wide, 120 feet long with stairs directly at one end, and filled with like hundreds of people: There’s ZERO air circulation. I wear glasses, as you can see in the screengrabs, and instantly I couldn’t see because of the fog. If Brad Nitz was in there he prolly woulda told us the real feel temperature was 115. It was a sauna. We lasted in there for about 4 minutes before they released us, sprinting down into the parking deck north of Bobby Dodd. It was still pretty rough in there, but at least there was space and air moving through. Those videos of the car bouncing up and down always tickled me, but admittedly standing in there was a tiny bit disconcerting. While we were in the garage, that’s when my friend James arrived, and that dude walked off Marta with no idea what he was walking into. Similarly, I walked out of the garage and didn’t expect to see what I did, all the umbrellas. What I believe to now be the beginning core of La12 was out there, singing and banging away with umbrellas dancing above their heads like the most hyped ballet ever performed. Every time I think about that game that’s the thing I wish I would have captured on video.
From there they finally let us in, and we got settled in for the game, and for tifo time. Because I was running point with the company the team brought in, I had to wear this big old radio headset to communicate with them, presumably because they thought we were too stupid to do what we told them we were going to do on our own? They had me up there on the capo stand looking like a Nascar crew cheif. I’m up on the stand, the teams come out, the crowd seems a little light, but whatever, sure, that game ended up delayed like almost a full hour and a half if I remember correctly. Then the real viral moment happened. Chinua Hawk steps up with a mic, and they introduce him as doing the anthem. Again, I’m wearing a big old radio, and basically can’t hear jack in it, up on the capo stand at Bobby Dodd, where they specifically don’t have PA speakers because it’s where the band is supposed to be. So they introduce him, I’m looking at the video board, and start singing because I normally do, I look around me and people are kinda looking around, and I realize what’s happening. So I start singing a little louder and wave my arms, other people singing start getting louder, and others start singing. I didn’t think anything of it, but the next morning that video was getting spread by like Bleacher Report and you guys at DSS and all. That was neat. And let me be clear, I’m not taking credit for that moment, but it was neat to be a part of like that.
Something I think we saw that night during the game itself was the beginning of the lesson we’ve learned with midweek games at the Benz and games up in Kennesaw: the folks that stuck around that night were the diehards. That crowd was primed in a different sort of way. We came to see Atlanta United, we stuck out through the weather and the delays and the technical difficulties, and we wanted to see some soccer dammit. And damn, we were treated to it. I think that’s the icing on the cake, that might have been the best single performance they had at home that year. The Miggy hat trick (coming off of public comments from him and Tata both about him needing to find the net more, especially while Josef was out hurt), including that bunny hop goal, and the ways he celebrated them only served to feed into the frenzy of the night. By the time Carleton came on and ran at Beasley, it was essentially pure euphoria.
And I think looking back at it, now certainly but even in the week after, this game felt like the real turning point. And I think that gets into why this game is the one that everyone references, and you singled out for this sort of “oral history” idea. This was clearly more than a fad. These were the people that cared, and by God did we care. The crowd, the players, the coaches, all of it. And we were in it together at that point. It felt like a community and a club for the first time, and I say that as someone that was at the announcement presser above Centennial Park, I was at the name reveal event, I was at that first set of academy games at Pace, I was at the first games, all that, but that night against Houston is when I knew there was more to this than even I realized there was, and frankly more than I hoped. I knew Atlanta and ATLUTD could get to that point, but I thought it was take 5 years. It took 4 games.
And I got to share it with three of my best friends. And so did the people in the suites. And in section 234. And the ones that missed the first two goals trying to buy beers at those horrible concession stands.
Those are the moments that keep us coming back. And that night was really kinda the first of those moments we got.