ATLANTA — Teenagers across Atlanta will be gathering on Saturday night to see an Atlanta sports team win a championship for the first time in their lives. Some of them will be lucky enough to know one of the players on the team that will have the chance to end the city's 23-year championship drought.
Atlanta United will enter 2018 MLS Cup against the Portland Timbers on Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás; TSN, TVAS) sporting five Homegrown Players hailing from the area on their roster. While it's unlikely any of the five participate – though a couple could be in the matchday squad – they are hoping to see something they never have.
“It’s very big," 16-year-old left back George Bello told MLSsoccer.com on Friday about the experience of MLS Cup in Atlanta. "Championships don’t come around often and Atlanta has been called 'The Cursed City' with all these finals and stuff but we’re ready to make a legacy for ourselves and hopefully win it tomorrow night.”
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Bello, along with fellow Homegrowns Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin, said his friends will either be trying to get into the match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium or at watch parties taking in the action hoping the night becomes a celebration after winning a trophy.
“Personally I’m not nervous but the excitement is beyond words," Carleton told MLSsoccer.com "Being from here and knowing how much Atlanta has gotten around the team and how much it means to the fans and the city itself. I’m so excited for tomorrow and I can’t wait to be out here.”
Of course they probably gathered previous times hoping to see Atlanta's drought end. The NFL's Falcons famously coughed up a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI almost two years ago as they failed in their attempt to win their championship.
Carleton and Goslin also both referenced the University of Georgia's football team, who have a sizable fan base in the city, recent failed attempts to win a title, as they lost to Alabama twice in big games over the past year. The first in overtime in last year's national championship game, and the second coming just last week in the SEC Championship game. That game took place in the very stadium that the Five Stripes will be playing in on Saturday.
“Atlanta hasn’t won a championship since I’ve been alive so this means a lot," said Carleton. "With Georgia, for instance, a couple weeks ago there’s been too many heartbreaks for us to have another.”