Sports in the ATL 2023: Atlanta United

Atlanta United was still in its infancy as the city’s new MLS soccer team when it won the championship cup in December 2018.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Atlanta United FC (@atlutd)

Since then, they spent the last few years trying to get that title back. The past four years have seen them fall short of that goal.

In 2023, the Five Stripes came the closest it has come in a while to another MLS Cup, placing sixth in the MLS Eastern Conference, up from eleventh last year, so the team has made upward progress. So much progress, they entered the playoffs this year.

But the Stripes ran into a brick wall when they struggled to beat Columbus FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They lost the first game, 2-0, won the second 4-2 in Mercedes Benz Stadium, but lost the third and decisive game, 4-2, ending their season.

The 2023 team scored 51 points, up from 40 in 2022. They successfully connected 66 total goals this year, up from 48 last year. Their biggest win was against Portland, 5-1 on March 23, and their biggest loss was against their playoff nemesis Columbus FC, a 6-1 blowout with an un-Stripes-like six goals conceded in that March 25th game.

Among individual accomplishments this year, Thiago Almada scored the most assists of anyone in a Stripes jersey, 15, Tyler Wolf became the first homegrown player in club history to hit 5 goals in a season, and Caleb Wiley played in a record 53 matches, the most for a homegrown player.

Atlanta United ended their 2023 season with 13 wins, 9 losses, and 12 ties out of 34 total games. In 2022, they had a 10-14-10 record of the same number of games. A slight improvement over last year’s performance.

They achieved this improvement despite the loss of goalkeeper Brad Guzan over the season due to a left knee injury and a torn MCL. Guzan spoke to Dirty South Soccer last November about his future with the Stripes.

“That’s something we’ll analyze and talk about,” the team captain told DSS. “That’s not something I’m thinking about now…These moments are never easy as players. You sacrifice a lot. You put a lot into the group, into the team, and when it finishes like this, it’s never easy, and we’ll certainly take a moment to reflect and have conversations and go from there.” He is under contract until 2025.

Several key players left the team this year: Alan Franco, Marcelino Moreno, Luiz Araujo, and Josef Martinez all departed. The team welcomed new stars: Wiley, Giorgos Giakoumakis, and Saba Lobjanidze.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Atlanta United FC (@atlutd)

Derrick Williams, the #1 pick in stage two of the 2023 MLS Re-Entry Draft was welcomed to the team, now including such stars as Giakoumakis (17 goals in ’23), Almada (11) and Brooks Lennon (4).

The Five Stripes made news in the front office as well as on the field in 2023. In October, the team re-hired Sarah Kate Noftsinger as VP, Chief Business Officer. She previously worked for the team in the marketing department. In August, Atlanta United paid homage to the city’s hip-hop roots with new “404” imaging and gear. The team helped Atlanta secure U.S. Soccer’s choice of Metro Atlanta as its new headquarters and training facility. They played their first-ever Leauges Cup v. Inter Miami CF, who welcomed worldwide soccer star Lionel Messi to their team. Messi has yet to play in Atlanta, however, since he bowed out of the first scheduled Miami game in MBS with him on the team.

It’s been a year of improvement and major moves for Atlanta United. They would like to bring another MLS title to Atlanta. Could 2024 be their year again?

By Brian Allen, editor and founder, Sports in the ATL

Coming Up: More on ATL Sports in 2023

Social media credit: Atlanta United/Instagram, X