Atlanta United fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday unveiled a memorable tifo.
Photo: Eric Rossitch/Photo courtesy of Atlanta United
Photo: Eric Rossitch/Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

Tifo-less Atlanta United will look within for extra energy

There won’t be the awe-factor provided by the greatest tifo that Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz said they’ve ever seen. Instead, the MLS veterans said each of their Atlanta United teammates will have to look elsewhere for the extra energy in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday against New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J.

The tifo unveiled before Sunday’s first leg at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a sight to behold: more than 70,000 shiny pieces of red, gold and black paper that were arranged according to sections of the stadium. Each person in the stadium was asked to hold up the piece that was placed on their seat before the game just before kickoff. The tifo was a supporters’ group-led effort. The idea was to unite the recognized official supporters’ groups as well as the non-affiliated Atlanta United supporters.

The effect was magical, almost like a large Christmas ornament.

The tifo, combined with the supporters’ vocal support, helped push Atlanta United to a 3-0 lead and, if things don’t go historically bad on Thursday, on the verge of playing in the MLS Cup.

“The club’s desire to do things special and differently, has been there from day one,” said Larentowicz, who has more than 400 appearances in the MLS. “It has carried the team. I think the other night was kind of this symbiotic experience of everyone pulling in one direction. That was important and something that is unique to this club in a way.”

Larentowicz said another tifo that impressed him came after Colorado won the MLS Cup in 2010. In the next season’s first home game, the Rapids hosted Portland. Colorado handed out flags to those in attendance.

“This was that on steroids,” he said.

He said the only way that Sunday’s tifo may be topped is if Atlanta United President Darren Eales figures out a way to levitate the stadium.

Parkhurst, who has more than 300 MLS appearances, described it as the best atmosphere he’s ever played in front of. He said his ears were ringing at halftime, as if he had been at a concert or club.

“They outdid themselves on that one, it was incredible,” he said. “It was special and glad that our performance on the field matched the fan support.”

But on Thursday, at Red Bull Arena, there will be, at most, just a few hundred Atlanta United supporters. They will be tough to hear. The cold temperatures may be another factor.

“We can do it without 70,000 people cheering us on,” Parkhurst said. “The support they give their team will motivate us as well. We want to keep that place as quiet as possible. If we do that we will be successful.”

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino, who was the subject of a memorable tifo in the previous game against NYCFC, gave a simple answer for where the extra motivation can be found.

“That energy, we are going to have get from within ourselves,” he said.

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