Heartbreak as Atlanta United falls out of the MLS Cup Playoffs following a 4-2 defeat in Columbus. After clawing back a win on home soil following the return of their star Thiago Almada, Atlanta United was defeated in game three of the new best-of-three playoff series.
While Atlanta’s home soccer team has been accustomed to winning since the club’s establishment in 2017, the 2023 run is now officially over. In order to obtain insight into how fans feel across the city, I polled various fans from the game one watch party in Atlanta.
A lot of similar opinions were heard from fans about the season and the new changes. Following a rather disappointing summer transfer window and a bit of a turbulent start to the season, many felt that the club did the best with what they had. That being said, fans were still underwhelmed by the fact that the team did not compete at the level that many have become accustomed to, as the team finished sixth in the east, and tenth overall in the Supporters’ Shield.
With this, it is apparent that many fans have pushed for the head coach, Gonzalo Pineada, to be replaced at different periods throughout the year, including after the two playoff defeats in Columbus.
“Tactically, Pineada has been outclassed time and time again and usually makes the wrong decisions when it comes to formations and subs,” said Arnav Agrawala, the owner of an Atlanta United fan page.
Harsh words from a die-hard supporter of the club, but he is not alone in feeling this, as a similar sentiment has been echoed by many other fans.
In the new format for the MLS Cup Playoffs, round one of the playoffs is now settled by a new best-of-three series, with the higher-seeded team given two home games. This did not play out well for Atlanta, as they lost both away games in Columbus, despite having their MLS Young Player of the Year, Thiago Almada, return from suspension for games two and three. The 22-year-old led the league in assists during the regular season and proved to be an integral piece of the Atlanta side.
From here, the majority of fans hold that the new playoff format does not belong in the sport at all and should remain in baseball, hockey, and basketball. Though the change was intended to give the higher-seeded team more of an advantage through the playoffs, many feel that it takes away from the sport and should return to the tried and true two-leg series settled by the aggregate score across the two games.
As Atlanta United reflects on their season and considers the prospect of new changes around the team, it remains clear that the passionate fanbase will continue to stand behind their team despite the disappointing year.