Thursday June 20th, 2019 5:21PM

'El Tata' thanks fans for support ahead of Atlanta farewell

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATLANTA (AP) — Tata Martino's love affair with Atlanta's soccer fans didn't have to last long to have meaning.

On Thursday, Atlanta United's coach expressed his appreciation for the fans' record-breaking support as his team prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup final against the Portland Timbers.

"First I just want to say thank you to Atlanta for letting me participate from the very beginning in the birth of this new club," Martino said through a translator.

Martino's leadership played a lead role in Atlanta's meteoric rise as an MLS power. Led by MLS MVP Josef Martinez, Atlanta United is trying to win the MLS title in only its second season as an expansion franchise.

Along the way, Atlanta has set MLS attendance records for a single game and season. Another record is expected Saturday when a crowd of more than 70,000 is expected to pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta United set a single-game attendance record of 72,243 against Seattle on July 15.

Martino was voted MLS coach of the year after announcing this would be his final season. Saturday will be his farewell to Atlanta fans, leaving behind a legacy that will be difficult for his successor to match. The former Barcelona and Argentina national coach reportedly is headed to Mexico's national team.
Veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said Martino has been the foundation of the new franchise.

"He's the leader, he's the pillar in the middle," Larentowicz said Thursday. "His message from Day 1 has been the same. When he speaks, we listen. That's really it. Without getting too technical, he's the boss. What he says goes, and we've all bought in."

Larentowicz said Martino won instant respect, even as a newcomer to the MLS, through his "knowledge of the game."

"His management and style is at times uncompromising but I think it's always best for the team," Larentowicz said. "His ability to sit down after having never coached in the MLS and to break down a team you've played against a million times and he tells you something you've never seen before."

Atlanta fans honored Martino with a towering, statue-like tribute that showed the coach in his trademark pose, his arms crossed and a sweater tied over his shoulders. "El Tata" was written on the base.

"My first reaction was to smile because I thought it was very nice and affectionate," Martino said Thursday, smiling. "I'm always someone to highlight respect. Aside from the amount of affection I've been shown from the fans, the amount of affection they have shown me and continue to show, that they always will show me, that feeling is mutual. Aside from that affection, I value respect a lot and it has always been a mutual respect ever since I came to Atlanta between myself and the fan base."

Players say Martino has not made this Cup final about him. There is ample incentive without challenging players to win one for the coach.

"For us, the most important thing is we are very excited to play this game in front of our home fans and with all the emotion and hype going into this match," Martino said. "We view it as our reward for this season but also these two years of hard work we've put in."


© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Former GHS standout Thacker hired as new Georgia Tech DC
Former Gainesville High standout Andrew Thacker was named the new defensive coordinator by new new Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins Monday...
9:28PM ( 3 months ago )
Pacers beat Hawks for 5th consecutive victory
Myles Turner scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots in less than 24 minutes Monday, helping to lead the Indiana Pacers past Atlanta 116-108 before breaking his nose midway through the third quarter...
9:17PM ( 3 months ago )
PODCAST: Hard Left Turn with Brandon Reed and Pete McCole (12-31-18)
As we get ready to throw the checkered flag on the holiday season - and on 2018 - the Around The Track crew has worked to bring a little taste of Georgia Racing History...
8:00PM ( 3 months ago )
Jones disappointed to miss playoffs, likes Falcons' future
Every year Julio Jones puts up big numbers while the Atlanta Falcons fall short of a championship. And every year he puts a positive spin on what went wrong and what looks promising heading into next season...
7:05PM ( 3 months ago )
Quinn wants Falcons focused on details entering finale
Coach Dan Quinn isn't dwelling on how desperate the Atlanta Falcons are to avoid a 6-10 record...
7:24PM ( 3 months ago )
Ryan, Falcons hand Panthers 7th straight loss, 24-10
Matt Ryan threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns as the Atlanta Falcons handed the Carolina Panthers their seventh straight loss 24-10 on Sunday...
4:08PM ( 3 months ago )
Professional Sports
Defending champs United still winless
Gyasi Zardes scored in his return from international duty to help the Columbus Crew beat Atlanta United 2-0 in a match slowed down by soggy field conditions on Saturday night...
By The Associated Press
12:08AM ( 1 week ago )
Match Preview: Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC
Atlanta United returns to action Saturday as the club travels to face Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium...
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:29AM ( 1 week ago )
Barco, Atlanta United rally for 1-1 draw with Union
Atlanta United played to a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 42,651 fans...
By AccessWDUN Staff
6:42AM ( 3 weeks ago )
Atlanta United looking to get back on track vs. Philadelphia Union
Atlanta United returns to MLS action on Sunday as the club hosts Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium...
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:05PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Mexico's Liga MX still rules in rivalry with MLS
When the final whistle blew, Atlanta United half-heatedly celebrated a moral victory.
By The Associated Press
8:50AM ( 4 weeks ago )