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By D’Mitri Chin
Josef Martinez, the sensational striker for Atlanta United, has the hometown electrified as he breaks Major League Soccer (MLS) records in exhilarating fashion. His most recent score came last week against rival Orlando FC, and Five Stripes faithfuls have shown their gratitude by breaking marks of their own. In July, the team eclipsed its single-game attendance mark at home, when 72,243 fans witnessed Martinez score one of his many goals of the season.
The accolades surrounding Martinez and Atlanta United are undoubtedly beneficial to its city. Terrible for the club’s future, though. How? Well, in sports, fan bases tend to have a short memory regarding what the players do for the organization and how many games the team wins in a season.
They want championships!
Arthur Blank’s beloved soccer team began playing for real last season, and the owner of both the Five Stripes and the Atlanta Falcons couldn’t have asked for a better start. It’s not often a professional sports team — an expansion one, specifically – becomes a title contender during each of its first two seasons. Nonetheless, I find it impossible for this club to sustain this level of success much longer. In fact, if the Five Stripes don’t win it all this year, not only will their supporters begin to vanish (as Atlanta fans often do when their teams hit a roadblock), but so will the star-studded players on the roster.
During the 2014-15 NBA season, the Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs for an eighth-consecutive season, and they even advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The next three years, they saw their home attendance significantly decrease. The Atlanta Braves won a record 14 consecutive division titles through the 2005 season, but they struggled to sellout playoff games near the end of the run. Such apathy among Atlanta fans will occur for The Five Stripes. Ultimately, winning games will become platitudinous if it does not translate into championships.
It’s debatable whether United Atlanta should have won a championship last season, given its 15-10-9 record as a first-year franchise. Not the same this season. The Five Stripes are 16-6-4, and with much help from the best striker in the MLS, they’re an offensive machine.
Nobody has more than their 55 goals.
That’s all good news for Atlanta’s current favorite team (and, no, I’m not talking about the Falcons), but it’s also bad news, and here’s just one of the reasons why: The more the players exceed expectations and produce at a high level, the more they become attractive to the likes of dominant clubs overseas such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United, just to name a few. I’m certain Miguel Almiron and Martinez already have suitors salivating, and I can assure you that if the price is right, they will be sold to another team sooner than later.
So Atlanta fans are in a bizarre predicament. Although they want the Five Stripes to keep winning and dominating this season, they’ll eventually want them to do that one thing, which is to clutch the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
Otherwise, Atlanta United will be just another team in town.
D’Mitri Chin is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in speech communication at Georgia State University. He is the former associate sports editor for The Signal, and he is currently a freelance sports reporter. He is also a contributor to The Douglas County Sentinel. In his spare time, D’Mitri enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball. You can follow D’Mitri on Twitter @1DMitriChin.