Atlanta didn’t need penalty kicks to be named the ultimate winner of the MLS All-Star game.
Though Juventus defeated the All-Stars 5-3 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw, the host city impressed almost everyone with its record crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its enthusiasm for the sport and host team Atlanta United in the days before the game.
“I was very pleasantly surprised for the entire climate and the entire impression that we got from Atlanta,” Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “You know it’s not easy to put 70,000 people in a stadium like today. We also had the opportunity to see all of the presidents of the MLS teams last night. There was a dinner with MLS, and it was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of it. There was so much enthusiasm. They were able to create good momentum in the United States, and I think this speaks well for the future in the United States.”
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Soccer journalists such as Jason Davis, host of the “United States of Soccer” radio show on SiriusXM, personalities such as former U.S. men’s national team standout Landon Donovan, and players from other MLS teams expressed continued amazement in the short All-Star break how soccer, Atlanta United and Wednesday’s game didn’t feel like something that happened to be going on in the city, but was something that the city had an active interest in.
“I mean, the atmosphere here every night is amazing,” Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen was quoted as saying on MLSSoccer.com. “The fans here in Atlanta, they’re not only just loud, they actually understand soccer, too, and it’s awesome to see, and it’s a lot of fun to play in front of, every time.”
Atlanta broke yet another MLS record with 72,317 tickets sold and distributed for the game. It was the largest attendance for an MLS All-Star game, and the second largest for any All-Star game put on by NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB or MLS.
"It's insane,” ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman said during the broadcast. “You would think I landed for an SEC football game. Atlanta is a soccer city right in the heartbeat of SEC country."
Atlanta United leads MLS in attendance for the second consecutive season. The franchise has the top-five most-attended games in MLS history, as well as the attendance records for a league playoff game and U.S. Open Cup game.
“I thought the fans were fantastic,” Atlanta United and All-Star goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We knew they would be. They always are. To be able to showcase the city of Atlanta and showcase our club and our fan base to the rest of the world, it was a great night.”