It’s been 23 years since a professional sports team from Atlanta won a championship.
Thanks to Atlanta United, the wait is finally over.
Atlanta United defeated the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Saturday to secure the 2018 MLS Cup, giving the city it’s first professional sports champion since the ’95 Braves.
Atlanta struck first in the 39th minute when MLS MVP Josef Martinez pounced on a loose ball in the Portland box, dribbled past the goalkeeper and scored the opening goal of the match.
United put the game away in the second half with a Franco Escobar goal after a pass from Martinez, finalizing the Atlanta lead at 2-0.
Rain and blustering winds didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the Atlanta crowd inside Mercedes Benz Stadium
Between the Atlanta United faithful and the traveling contingent of Portland supporters, 73,019 fans were on hand at MLS CUP 2018, which sets a new benchmark for the event.
Hours before the players even began their warmups, fans were packing the stands in anxious anticipation.
Patrick Rafferty, a season ticket holder since the team’s foundation, says the win is a tribute to United’s large and diverse fan base.
“I think Atlanta United has everyone from Atlanta, all different people all come together for these games and represent all of Atlanta. I think it means a lot to the entire city to have something like this.”
It’s unclear how different Saturday’s championship team will look in the future.
Rumors are swirling that Miguel Almiron, the runner up to Martinez in the MVP vote, is headed to the Premier League in England for a hefty transfer sum.
And Tata Martino, the only manager the team has ever known, has reportedly accepted a position with the Mexican national team.
Regardless of what the future might bring, Atlanta can finally celebrate for the first time in over two decades.
And after years of near-misses, close calls, and last second failures, the city is ready to embrace the mostly unfamiliar role of ‘champion.’
A victory parade is scheduled for Monday.