It was a calcio caravan, rolling up Interstate 75 from metro Atlanta to Chattanooga. The cars were filled with those travelling to see Atlanta United play its first exhibition game in its first season. The opponent Chattanooga at Finley Stadium.
“I’ve been waiting for this since I moved to the United State 17 years ago,” Jorge Alonso, wearing an Atlanta United jersey said.
Most of the fans and supporters groups gathered at First Tennessee Pavilion at the west end of the stadium. Smells of hamburgers, hotdogs and adult beverages filled the air as fans gathered to talk about expectations for the game, the season and to watch Liverpool play Tottenham on a TV built into a trailer. Some activities usually seen at football could also be found at futbol: cornhole games, beer pong, etc.
Three of Atlanta United’s supporter’s groups planted their flags: Terminus Legion, Footie Mob and Faction. Their members are a few of the more than 9,000 members of the team’s Founder Club who have purchased more than 27,000 season tickets.
Curtis Jenkins, who grew up in East Point and now lives in Highlands, estimated that of 125-130 members of Footie Mob, 30 were at the game.
Kevin Kinley, who moved to Atlanta 20 years ago to play for the Ruckus and who now lives in Decatur, estimated that his group has 150 members and hopes to reach 300 by the season’s first game on March 5 against New York Red Bulls at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“When I put on that jersey this morning I got butterflies and I wasn’t even playing,” Kinley said. “I know every fan has that. That’s what symbolizes what we have right now.
“We are rookies. But we are coming with something no other MLS club has seen before. I have high expectations but I don’t want to sell it. A great chance to make the playoffs.”
Terminus Legion had the largest presence, with Alonso estimating that at least 80 of the 464 members were at the game. The group has grown by almost 100 members in the past month as the season draws closer.
“It’s only going to get bigger,” Alonso said of all the support the team is receiving.