Mercedes-Benz Stadium is hosting Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, but the enormous venue’s resident futbol team is on the lips of many in Atlanta this week as the hype builds up towards the NFL’s cup final.
Even those of longtime soccer hater and sports-talk radio figure Jim Rome.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan dropped in on Rome’s desk on “Radio Row,” the bank of shows set up at the Super Bowl’s media center this week, on Wednesday to chat with the outspoken pundit about a range of topics, from Josef Martinez’s new contract to the US national team’s new era under Gregg Berhalter to the Five Stripes’ place at the center of a vibrant soccer culture in the ATL.
“I was excited," said Guzan of Berhalter's hiring. “You look at his past history in terms of the clubs he's managed and the style that they play, they have a real identity, they have an understanding of what he wants.
“And as a team and as a national team program of where we were to now where we’re looking to go, you needed somebody to come in and really put their stamp on the team and say 'Listen, this is how we’re going to play, this is how we want to go about our business,’ and really take the next step as a national team. To have him leading the charge, I think it’s going to be great for the long run.”
After years of mocking and dismissing soccer on his programs, Rome changed his tune a few years back, and on Wednesday both he and Guzan marveled at Atlanta’s embrace of their MLS Cup-winning team.
“It was huge, everyone was talking about breaking the curse, in the fact that the city of Atlanta hadn’t won a title since the Braves back in 1995,” said Guzan, “so to have grown men and women coming up to you crying, thanking you to deliver a championship, it takes you by surprise for sure.”