ATLANTA - Atlanta United players took to the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium and, before starting warm-ups for their franchise's opening game, they nearly all turned to applaud the crowd.
"I was expecting a lot less," said United defender Greg Garza. "They have definitely surprised us."
Players heard, of course, about the sellout crowd for their game against the New York Red Bulls. They said all week leading up to the game that, of course, they didn't know what to expect.
"The crowd was unbelievable," said midfielder Julian Gressel "It was electric. Probably one of the best in the country, to be honest."
That was the chorus inside the team's dressing room, though muted after a 2-1 loss to New York that saw Atlanta allow two second half goals.
It's the type of place you want to play in front of," said Atlanta defender and team captain Michael Parkhurst. "It's special. The performance on the field has to match that."
Fans were, of course, disappointed about the result. The crowd was rowdy at times, including supporters with some choice messages for the match's referee. Still, the franchise's first game left many feeling good about what's to come.
"I love seeing our guys play," said Gail Carr, a supporter from Atlanta. "We have an MLS team in Atlanta. It's been a dream of mine since I was in middle school. I love my team!"
Supporters also got a taste of the great potential presented by this first year team. The Atlanta United's speed was on full display, creating plenty of chances, though they were only able to get one into the back of the net.
"We have the quality here in the dressing room," said defender Tyrone Mears, "but it's a wake-up call that even though we have the quality, we have to put in the work. we'll bounce back."