Josef Martinez, the star striker for United has lit the MLS on fire this year. When Almiron was traded to Newcastle United in the EPL, many Atlanta fans thought it was an absurd idea to trade our best player. I will admit I was one of them. I bought the Almiron jersey, and thought that management would do what all the other professional clubs do; keep players that have world class talent. A friend of mine who I have a tremendous amount of respect for both his writing ability and football mind summed it up, “The model is not to keep them, it’s to win championships and then sell them for large profits.”
After some thought the conclusion reached was that there is nothing wrong with doing business that way. After all, any sport is really just a business and entertainment venture, isn't it? What about loyalty to the fans? That too was a ponderous question. Championships have a way of giving fans amnesia about star players. Winning is the ultimate goal of any team. The players understand that, but it can be difficult for fans to grasp the concept.
This is something I have seen firsthand just in a different sport. When Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno left UGA after their junior seasons, many UGA fans criticized them for not being “loyal.” Those people should ask themselves one question: “What is the point of going to college?” Well, it’s so you can make money and provide for yourself and your family. So if someone offers you hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases to reach the pinnacle of everything you have worked for your entire life, would you say no because of loyalty? Of course not, but this is the logical thought, and many do not look at sports teams logically.
The Atlanta United staff clearly knows what they are doing. Martinez has been the ace in the hole Atlanta needed after losing Almiron, but he hasn't done it on his own. This proves that a team is not ever made up of one star player, but rather a group of players that play as one unit. That seems to be what United have created again this year. The style is drastically different than what we saw under Martino, but the team has taken the change in stride, and come together. That is not an easy feat to accomplish with any squad given all the personalities, egos, and abilities.
Somehow the Atlanta players have been able to do that under coaching and player changes that were massive choices in hindsight. Dominance in any sport is difficult, but continued dominance is almost unattainable. Very few teams come out of the blocks like Atlanta United have in the first 3 years of playing. Rarely do expansion teams have such success after only a few years of operation. Everything amounts to a strong leadership, along with talented yet smart players who all have one common goal, winning.