ATLANTA — A fresh beginning kicks off for Atlanta United on Saturday, as they mark a start to the new MLS season with a new coach, a string of new high-profile additions and new hope after what was by far their worst season since the team's formation.
Under the stewardship of new coach Gabriel Heinze, a lauded hiring out of Argentina, United will face Orlando City in Florida with much to be optimistic about.
The mood around the fanbase is similarly optimistic, a far cry from the 2020 season that saw United compile one of the worst records in MLS, missing the playoffs entirely after winning two trophies and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019.
- Who: Atlanta United vs. Orlando City
- What: MLS season opener
- When: 3 p.m. ET
- Where: Orlando
- How to watch: On TV on the UniMás and TUDN Spanish language channels, and online via a live stream that will be free to watch on the team's Twitter page.
The team has signed a number of promising young South American players since last season ended, recruited by the Argentina national team legend Heinze.
They include midfielder Franco Ibarra and forward Erik López, both only 19 years old, as well as 21-year-old defensive midfielder Santiago Sosa. Ibarra and Sosa, both Argentines, have already played in both Atlanta's previous two matches so far, in the Concacaf Champions League, and figure to be fixtures in the starting lineup this year.
Marcelino Moreno, a creative midfielder signed late last season, will get his first full campaign with Atlanta, and Alan Franco, a 24-year-old center back just signed from an Argentine club, will soon begin to integrate into the team.
Additionally, veteran Argentine forward Lisandro López, who's played in the past for clubs including Lyon in France and Porto in Portugal, is newly on board.
Perhaps more exciting than anything, the team's biggest star Josef Martínez has returned healthy after a lost season.
The early signs are promising, as Atlanta moved past Costa Rican club Alajuelense in the inter-North and Central America and Caribbean competition with a 2-0 aggregate victory across two matches.
Expectations for Heinze and his new roster are high, and Saturday will provide the first glimpse of whether the previous standard the club set in its first MLS seasons is back within reach.