Atlanta United carry expectations: "The pieces are in place"

Will 2024 be the season Atlanta United regain their elite status in Major League Soccer?

Five years removed from their last Audi MLS Cup Playoffs series win, the 2018 champions have all the makings of a team that can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best and compete for silverware.

Even after losing their MLS is Back visit to current champs Columbus Crew, the Five Stripes will truly get to show what they're made of Saturday night in their home opener against the New England Revolution (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

As MLS Season Pass analyst Taylor Twellman explained on This is MLS: "I think they’ve gotta be better at home. Everyone who watches this league week-in and week-out knows home-field advantage has to return at Atlanta United."

More specifically, Twellman name-dropped the legendary 2018 Atlanta side that lifted MLS Cup that year while turning their venue into a virtual fortress.

"They’ve gotta own Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they’ve gotta own that building the way Tata Martino, Josef Martínez and Miguel Almirón in those early stages of Atlanta United owned it," Twellman said. "If they do that, then I think they’re going to have something to say."

Putting the pieces together

The foundations for success are already firmly in place, particularly on offense. The Five Stripes scored the second-most goals in MLS last season (66) behind All-Stars Thiago Almada (30 goal contributions in 2023) and Giorgos Giakoumakis (17 non-penalty goals in 2023).

The Garth Lagerwey-led front office made several key midfield additions over the summer and stayed active during the winter market to further solidify Gonzalo Pineda’s squad, even with the departure of USMNT center back Miles Robinson.

"It feels like a complete roster that has been put together thoughtfully in a way that we frankly haven’t seen from Atlanta United since about 2019," said Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle. "The pieces that they got last summer – Saba Lobjanidze, Xande Silva and Tristan Muyumba in midfield – they all fit perfectly.

"And from what we saw in that first game, while they weren’t great against Columbus, the new additions – Bartosz Slisz and \[Stian\] Gregerson at center back – looked the part. Gregersen looked a like-for-like replacement with Miles Robinson,” Doyle added.

"… The pieces are in place for this team to be really good, and it’s been a long time since we have said that about Atlanta United."

Revs come to town

However, the Five Stripes shouldn't take anything for granted against a Revolution side that's coming off a massive mid-week rout of Costa Rica's Alajuelense in Concacaf Champions Cup. Plus, they'll have a fully rested Carles Gil, who spoiled the Mercedes-Benz Stadium party during New England's most recent visit to Atlanta.

"I would be stunned if Atlanta United's not on the front foot," Twellman said. "But last time I said that, it turned out to be a 3-3 game, with Carles Gil scoring a tying goal with his right foot in the 93rd minute."

All that said, Twellman still has a clear favorite: "I'd be stunned if Atlanta United doesn't dominate this game this weekend."