ATLANTA — Championship trophies lead to celebrations. Those celebrations usually last all the way through the victory parade a few days later.
On Wednesday Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank let it spill that Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms texted him to say that "she already planned on a parade." This might have put a shiver in the spine of some Atlanta sports fans after Blank's other team, the Atlanta Falcons, famously blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. No major Atlanta sports team has won a championship since the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995.
The Portland Timbers, who are Atlanta's opponent in 2018 MLS Cup on Saturday night (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS), arrived into town late Wednesday night and had not been made aware of the plans in process.
“I didn’t know they were planning a parade. I hope they don’t do it and I don’t know what they are going to do with all the people standing on the streets," said left back Jorge Villafaña, who has been a part of two championship teams over the past couple of years, including the Timbers' MLS Cup-winning squad in 2015.
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Of course it is entirely understandable that a city would begin plans for a large event days or even weeks in advance. It's possible that the Portland mayor is making similar plans in case the Timbers win their second MLS Cup. Portland center back Liam Ridgewell, who was part of that Cup-winning team, understands Bottoms' forward thinking but was quick to point out that his own team will have the parade "when we win, it’s fine.”
Many of the current Timbers were part of that 2015 team that were able to take part in a victory parade after capturing a trophy. One who didn't was 21-year-old forward Jeremy Ebobisse, as he was drafted No. 4 overall in the 2017 SuperDraft. The former Duke standout was quick to point out that the Timbers have been the underdogs in each round of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs so far.
“We didn’t see [the quote]," he said. "To be fair, each round of the playoffs we’ve been the underdog. People have been writing us off. [Saturday] is no different. Obviously they are at home, they’re favored to win but we relish that. We’ve shown that we can do it before and there’s no reason why [Saturday] can’t be different."
Jason Lind contributed to this report.