Here are the ten things we learned from Week 21 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. Should Atlanta Stay Put?
It is extremely rare and perhaps unprecedented in the annals of MLS history that a club or its fanbase has second thoughts about moving out of a college football stadium and into new digs.
But with Atlanta United signing off at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday evening with a thoroughly entertaining 1-1 draw against Orlando, that barrier might be broken.
When next the Five Stripes take the field in Georgia, they’ll be doing so at Mercedes Benz Stadium – the new home built by Arthur Blank for both Atlanta United and the Atlanta Falcons, and it’s hard to say whether the experience of an Atlanta United match will ever be the same.
Where Bobby Dodd was outdoors, had a grass field, boasted a beautiful view of downtown, and was the perfect size for Atlanta United, Mercedes Benz is indoors, has a turf field, and a maximum capacity of over 80,000.
Though the new stadium is nice – and though it was built with soccer in mind – this feels like a pretty significant downgrade. Soccer should be played outside on grass, and the atmosphere at Bobby Dodd will be hard to replicate in a vastly bigger building.
Atlanta is confident that its success will carry over to Mercedes Benz, and there’s a good chance that it will. Fans aren’t going to stop coming to games. But there’s also a chance that it might feel in a month like the rug has been pulled out from under this club all too soon.
2. Red Bulls On A Roll
Forget the early season funk. The New York Red Bulls on a tear – all of the sudden just five points off of the Supporters’ Shield lead and marching up the Eastern Conference table.
With a 4-0 beatdown of Montreal at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, New York has now won four straight by a combined score of 15-3.
They’re rolling. Why? One reason is that Red Bulls are finally getting goalscoring production from someone other than Bradley Wright-Phillips. Daniel Royer has taken the lead on that front over the last month, but Sacha Kljestan is beginning to round into form, and the team’s fullbacks are pitching in as well.
Safe to say, Jesse Marsch’s switch to a 5-3-2 at the end of June has paid dividends. For the first time this year, the Red Bulls are playing with the kind of swagger they did in 2015 and 2016.