Josef Martínez and Atlanta United look to write closing chapter in opening novel
The most treasured and valued diamonds are the ones which are hardest to find. The ones in which miners dig deep for are the most prized ones. But those diamonds don’t just appear. They’ve always been there, waiting to be found.
This principle is true for everything, though more so symbolically rather than literally. The same applies to every single one of us and to those that make up our lives. In my case, I’m referring to the city which is currently my home, the city where I’ve been raised: Atlanta.
But if not a physical diamond, then what is the gem of a city? For Atlanta, football. Alright, before you lose value in what I am trying to say, I am not referring to the Falcons, the NFL or our deep roots in the college game. I’m referring to football. Real football. The football in which billions around the world put the values of their lives into. The football in which I actually had dreams at night of winning the World Cup. Football in which my friends became my brothers every evening by just kicking a circle-shaped ball around. Soccer.
Soccer is Atlanta’s gem. Today, it’s the most treasured diamond here in the South. Remember at the beginning when I said the most valuable diamonds are the hardest ones to find, yet they have always been there? Soccer has always been a part of Atlanta. The blend of cultures Atlanta has welcomed over the last few decades is so distinct and different, yet have the greatest commonality. Soccer. However, for the longest period of time, there was just no way to show that to the world. Today there is: Atlanta United.
And already, we have shown the world. The diamond of soccer is the brightest gem in Atlanta, but was just covered in the ground. Now, the diamond shines the brightest of all in Atlanta, and look how much it’s worth. In simply two years, the Five Stripes (Atlanta United) have won the Eastern Conference and made it to the MLS Cup Finals. Last season was no different. Atlanta United made it to the playoffs in their inaugural season, only to become heart-broken on penalties against Colombus Crew FC.
Not only does this diamond shine alone, it has given light to the faces of Atlanta. Without second questioning, 70,000+ people flock to watch eleven men wearing the colors of Atlanta. And the success has been glorifying.
Going into the climax of the end of this first chapter in Atlanta’s soccer journey, it is impossible to disassociate one man from all this: Venezuelan forward Josef Martínez. In his first season in the MLS, he was a star. He boasted a strong season in 2017, scoring 19 goals from just 21 matches. However, unlike physical diamonds, Martínez must be one which gets brighter and brighter with time, as the following season, he’s scored a record-breaking 34 goals in 38 matches. As a result, in his second year in the MLS, Martínez has won the MVP Award for the MLS this season, but the rewards do not stop here.
According to Atlanta United & Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a parade has already been planned for the Cup, despite the Finals not happening until Saturday. But why does the MLS Cup mean so much for the people of Atlanta? To put it into words for those who aren’t from Atlanta, Blank said in an interview that he was “As excited about this as I was for the Super Bowl.” The Super Bowl. That’s how big soccer is in Georgia. The Super Bowl, being America’s most followed event, is on the same level as the MLS Cup. To add on, it’s been 23 years since Atlanta has won any major sporting title, and what an opportunity this is!
“However, unlike physical diamonds, Martínez must be one which gets brighter and brighter with time.”
The specialty does not end there. The reason this is being seen as the closing of a chapter is not that of the ending of the MLS Season, but because it’s coming to the end of Manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino in Atlanta. Without the magic of “Tata” Martino, it would be difficult to see Atlanta in the position they are right now.
Of all the gems to be found in Atlanta, the diamond of soccer was the one which made hearts rich. No other sport has been able to deliver what Atlanta’s needed for 23 years now. Although this might be a somewhat hyped-up soccer game for the rest of the country, for Atlanta, this is our Super Bowl. Winning on Saturday will not just be the victory of eleven men on the pitch, but rather the aching hearts of a beautiful and united Atlanta.