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Atlanta United players understand fans’ frustrations

Atlanta United players huddle before their game against the Columbus Crew at Mapfre Stadium on March 20, 2019.
Atlanta United players huddle before their game against the Columbus Crew at Mapfre Stadium on March 20, 2019.

MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United fans are frustrated, and Atlanta United players get it. With a 2-0 loss at the Columbus Crew March 30, the Five Stripes have two draws and two defeats through four league games. Their two points are good for last place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.

Supporters have not held back in making their feelings known. They booed Atlanta off the field following a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati in the MLS home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Peruse the ATLUTD corners of Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, and the boiling negativity may bum out even the brightest optimist.

“It’s tough as a fan,” Darlington Nagbe said after training Thursday. “I’m a fan of other sports as well, so I think when you care about a team and you watch them and you root for them as hard as you do, you always want them to start off well and win every single game.”

Thirty games remain in the regular season — 88 percent of the campaign — and the team believes it is making progress toward positive results. Nevertheless, Nagbe does not fault fans for their early angst.

“I understand their frustration,” the midfielder said, “so I can’t tell them to relax, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Speaking with reporters after participating in a cross-promotional NASCAR public-relations stunt, in which he attempted to kick soccer balls through a race car tire hanging in the center of a goal, centerback Leandro González-Pírez agreed with Nagbe. He asked that supporters, who experienced few moments of adversity in Atlanta’s first two seasons, not give up on the team.

The only thing I can say to the fans is that we understand, but we really appreciate your support and we definitely need that support, especially in these difficult moments,” González-Pírez said through an interpreter. “It’s when we need the support of the fans the most.”

González-Pírez was in a jovial mood thanks to the fun and games after training — he was winning the free-kick contest. The Argentine spoke with more sobriety on the subject of support. Once his comments were relayed to English-language reporters, González-Pírez closed out the media session with an addendum.

“We’re all a team,” he said. “We perform on the field, but we need the fans in the stadium to support us as well.”  

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