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Three things to be optimistic about Atlanta United in 2021

Some New Year’s cheer

US-holiday-Christmas Photo by KENA BETANCUR/Afp/AFP via Getty Images

As we close in on the end of a year we all want to forget for more reasons than bear counting, we here at Dirty South Soccer thought we would say Happy New Year by listing a few things we feel optimistic about for 2021.

Of course, 2020 couldn’t end without making things as bad as possible. Of importance to all of us MLS has invoked a force majeure closing of the CBA, and of importance to me I just got a positive COVID-19 test on Tuesday. Great.

That aside, Atlanta United fans have much to look forward to in 2021.

Gabriel Heinze

Yeah, this one is pretty obvious, and has been discussed to death already. Nevertheless, the hiring of a new permanent manager was the news we all needed. Moreover, he happens to be the one many of us were hoping for. This by itself is reason enough to break out the New Year’s champagne.

Obviously, we don’t yet know how things will turn out under Heinze. What we can be sure of is that the team will have a clear vision of what it wants to be. That wasn’t really ever the case under Frank de Boer (either to the players or to the fans), and Stephen Glass as caretaker didn’t have a vision at all. At least, not beyond giving some younger players a shot.

Will we see the attacking and entertaining soccer of the Martino years? I imagine many of you are hoping so, and I think the answer will be...


Ha! Trick question. What we will see is Heinze’s own brand of Bielsa-inspired football, and it will be attacking and entertaining, but it will be in his own style, not someone else’s.

Josef Martinez 2.0

We can rebuild him, we have the technology.

Well, they do in Pittsburgh, it seems, which is is where Josef went for his surgery. That surprised me a bit, with the world-renowned Dr. James Andrews just a hop and skip away in Birmingham. But Hong Kong native Dr. Freddie Fu at the University of Pittsburgh (the leading author on orthopaedic sports medicine) and his German associate Dr. Volker Musahl are reportedly first class too. In this case, only the best is good enough.

And so, Josef will be back in 2021. A silver lining to the potential delay of the season’s start — which seems likely with the CBA back under renegotiation — is that he will have a bit more time to rehab and get back to fitness.

And unlike Heinze, we know exactly what we are going to get with him.

Butts in Seats

I, for one, am tired of empty stadiums and fake crowd noise. Heck, even being able to hear managers cussing out fourth officials is getting a bit old. Sports — especially professional sports — are as much for spectators as they are for participants. And without spectators, there is a massive energy void. That’s especially true for Atlanta United.

I know I’m looking through rose-tinted glasses here, but I am hopeful that at some stage in 2021 we will see meaningful crowds. Not just in MLS either, but at all games in all sports. Moreover, it will be a huge sign of a return to normalcy.


With that, so long 2020; don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Happy New Year, all!

P.S. Whatever you do, don’t watch Songbird.