There were a few empty seats here and there, but 40,116 sure sounds like a lot when you hear it. Especially in May of 2021. Especially when the home team finds a little luck at the end of the game and turns a lackluster performance into a win that puts them joint top of the Eastern Conference table.
Atlanta United didn’t look sharp at many points. They’re still lethargic in transition. They didn’t give up many chances to a CF Montréal team that has caused teams issues defensively this year, but no one will act like Atlanta ran Montréal off the pitch tonight. If you can play like that and still win though? That can provide a much-needed boost of confidence to a team still finding its footing under a new manager.
“It’s a massive three points plain and simple,” Brad Guzan said.
“Obviously, you’re buzzing. Afterward, it’s almost a better feeling in a win like that than if we had scored in the 25th and won 1-0. It’s a morale booster and it’s a confidence booster. It certainly wasn’t our best game but sometimes you just gotta be able to get over the hump and find a result and tonight we did that.”
There were moments where the crowd understandably seemed a bit bored. No one is going to blame them for that. Once the novelty of being back in a stadium wears off the ennui of watching a counter-attack so slow you can barely call it an attack of any kind sets in. However, at the end, we got a nice refresh on what it can be like when a crowd and a team begin to feed off each other.
Toward the end of a 0-0 game, the urgency increased. The crowd got louder. The urgency ramped up even more. The crowd got louder. It finally resulted in one last burst of noise. That noise combined with the pressure of providing a show for the first full house in over a year combined to combust and create an explosion of energy from Atlanta United ... well, kind of.
At first Atlanta’s final attack seemed painfully slow. Excruciatingly slow. “Oh my god somebody move or do literally anything I’m going to explode do you not know there are only a few seconds left in the game how could you possibly not know this hurry up I need you to hurry up” slow.
The ball eventually rolled to Jake Mulraney. And thank goodness for that if you’re Atlanta. Mulraney came off the bench and instantly became a threat to Montréal by being the only player on the field to provide a bit of pace. Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze described his entrance into the game by simply saying, “The team needed a player with these characteristics.”
It’s an understatement in this case. It’s also a correct statement. He sped into space. The ball somehow found Marcelino Moreno. Moreno, cramping and entering the box on what he said were his “last legs”, found the net. 40,116 finally had something to celebrate.
“It’s beautiful to see so many people in the stadium,” Heinze said. “It’s been a long time without seeing this. Football is for the people. For the rest. I’m very happy because the players did everything to get this win.”
We expected tonight to remind us what it feels like to have a real crowd behind a team. And it did. It also became a welcome reminder that it doesn’t have to be pretty to count.