Atlanta United and Charlotte FC meet for the primary time on Sunday afternoon in a match that ought to mark the beginning of a brand new thrilling rivalry in Major League Soccer.
But that is the query on everybody’s lips straight away: is that this actually rivalry in any respect?
Away from the pitch, the followers have achieved their half to pace issues up for the large day. On the Atlanta aspect, common reminders have been despatched to the upstarts that they’re the “Kings of the South”. And on Charlotte’s aspect, they make it clear that they’re right here to take the crown.
Just final week, Charlotte additionally broke Atlanta’s seemingly unassailable MLS diet report once they packed 74,479 at Bank of America Stadium for his or her first ever dwelling recreation towards LA Galaxy. And boy, has the membership and its followers made plenty of noise to have fun the achievement.
Battle Royale, I-85 Derby, Game of Thrones. There are a number of names to present to this match, and ultimately it can be the supporters who outline the tradition, the hostility and the depth round it.
“Atlanta and Charlotte can be a rivalry, because fans already seem to have a certain share in it. There are staff from Atlanta in Charlotte as well,” Atlanta United fan TV host AJ informed 90min.
“Maybe there is extra competitive juice to beat a regional neighbor and have the right to brag. But it seems unlikely that the players on the pitch still feel it. It could be more of a friendly rivalry between the fans rather than a hatred à la Atlanta and Orlando. City. “
David Gussler, chairman of the Charlotte FC fan group Mint City Collective, believes that the rivalry can be shaped organically with supporters of the cities’ different sports activities groups already setting the stage.
“Atlanta is a nearby southern city that Charlotte is often compared to,” he stated. You have already got the rivalry between the 2 cities with different sports activities, which helps promote familiarity and the sense of “rivalry” for most individuals in Charlotte and Atlanta. While I hear folks say that rivalries have to be natural, I really feel that Atlanta will to try this and are already changing into one earlier than we even play towards one another. “
On the pitch, it seems to be a little calmer. Atlanta United captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan takes something of a professional approach and does not see the value in trying to force a rivalry.
“It cannot be made, there have to be actual substance within the recreation,” he told reporters after training on Friday. “Until we step on the pitch, it may possibly not be one thing that’s made up. It should really feel actual.”
Head coach Gonzalo Pineda added: “When this new franchise comes, how shut we’re to Charlotte, and that they break the viewers report. Hopefully, over time, it may possibly really feel like a rivalry in an excellent and aggressive method.
“But at the moment it is false to say that it is a rivalry because we have never met them. But hopefully in time it can become something like that.”
All that stated, Atlanta United couldn’t assist however fireplace the primary shot on the membership’s web site:
“page not found on atlutd dot com” pic.twitter.com/dOfM9XX8GO
– J. Sam Jones (@J_SamJones) March 11, 2022
Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez has by no means taken his phrase for it, has despatched a warning shot to Atlanta United and divulges that he desires the membership’s first MLS win ever to come back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I was the first to talk about it with my players,” the Spaniard stated at a information convention. “I said, ‘I want my first win against Atlanta in Atlanta’s house.’ I told them it will never motivate me more than having our first win in Atlanta’s house.”
Although Don Garber just lately stated he has expanded into the realm, the southeast has been a reasonably profitable hotbed for MLS.
Atlanta United received the MLS Cup, US Open Cup and Campeones Cup inside three years of existence. Orlando City now appears to be catching up and the matches between the 2 are at all times sizzling. And Nashville SC has been secure and very aggressive. Adding one other membership to the combination can solely be good and possibly a rivalry with a number of groups just like the Cascadia Cup will emerge over time.
In the approaching years, supporters will outline how this match-up appears to be like, sounds and feels. But to have the opportunity to name it a rivalry, video games have to be performed. We want a Josef Martinez aim, a terrific deal with from Christian Fuchs. Maybe a gathering between the native boys Caleb Wiley and Jaylin Lindsey.
A significant downside that MLS nonetheless faces is the way it tries to create fan tradition and rivalry. The Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders are so good as a result of it is natural. Despite the title, El Trafico by no means had to jot down the script as a result of the plot on the pitch was unbelievable from day one.
Charlotte FC supporters will journey in giant numbers on Sunday and they’re going to make it. Atlanta United is not going to need to present an inch on their dwelling turf, anxious to remind their neighbors who’s in control of these components. It can be colourful, vibrant and actual.
And that is the important thing. Football is at its finest when it’s spontaneous and from the guts. We don’t have to decorate it up or pressure followers and gamers to behave in a particular method. They will outline what this recreation means to themselves.
They already are.