MARIETTA, Ga - As Atlanta United gets ready for their sophomore season, they know they'll have a target on their backs.
"I've been on the other side of it most of my career," said defender Michael Parkhurst. "Looking at those teams, very envious, also jealous. Just, 'man, you want to be a part of that team.' Now I am."
In their first year, Atlanta set MLS attendance records including most fans at a single game, a single postseason game and for the season, the team spent big to acquire talented players, including 18-year-old Argentinian attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco. That's drawn a lot of attention, and speculation that they'll be the team to beat in 2018, despite a first round playoff exit last year.
"There's probably a few people around the league saying, 'hey, we're just as good,'" said goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Ultimately, as players and team staff pointed out, they haven't won anything big ... yet.
"We put ourselves in a good spot," said technical director Carlos Bocanegra. "We were able to strengthen with guys like [midfielder Darlington] Nagbe, Barco, [defender Franco] Escobar in the offseason. Now we want to be in the conversation every year to win the championship."
Atlanta United's first preseason match is against Nashville SC on Saturday, February 10th.