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Atlanta’s best soccer teams, Georgia State and Atlanta United have comparable seasons so far

Photo by Julian Pineda | The Signal

Georgia State is looking sharp heading into final stretch of the regular season. The Panthers have amassed a handful of shutouts, and even defeated #2 Wake Forest.

Atlanta’s MLS expansion team, Atlanta United FC has been the hottest and most interesting club in the MLS in 2017. Atlanta forever changed expectations for expansion teams when they sent three players to the MLS All-Star game, and positioned themselves for a top-three finish in the playoff picture.

“It’s cool man. I grew up a soccer fan. Seeing that professional culture come to Atlanta is really special. It gives you a sense of pride in the city,” forward Rashid Alarpe said, one of the nation’s top goal scorers.

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Atlanta achieved their early success despite playing outside of their traditional home pitch, the new $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They played home games for the first six months of the season at Georgia Tech’s football stadium, Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Senior Rashid Alarape caught games at both facilities, but has a more traditional preference of the a soccer match’s atmosphere.

“I like the Bobby Dodd Stadium a little more because it was outside, and it just felt more compact,” Alarape said, after debating with himself for a short moment.

Bobby Dodd Stadium to Atlanta, is what The LakePoint Sporting Community was to Georgia State soccer. Games against Belmont and #11 Louisville, were moved from the GSU Soccer Complex due to undesirable field conditions.

Atlanta finished 7-2-1 at the Georgia Tech gridiron, but the LakePoint digs were not very kind to Georgia State, falling 1-0 in both matches. At a normal home setting in Decatur’s Panthersville neighborhood, the Panthers are undefeated.

“At home home, at Panthersville, we’ve been pretty good,” said a chuckling Head Coach Brett Surrency. “And we traditionally have.”

Atlanta United won their first six games at “The Benz”, and hosted some of the most impressive crowd appearances in MLS history. United and their fans broke the MLS regular season single-game attendance record, when 70,425 fans attended a match against Orlando City SC.

“They’ve been phenomenal particularly with their crowds and the way that they’ve performed,” Surrency said.

Regardless of how many guests show up for a game, coaches want their teams to be the best version of themselves, rather than playing their opponents style of game.

When a team falls down a point or two in the game of soccer, advancing the ball too aggressively can be a death sentence.

“We just have to continue to go and do us,” spoke Surrency, of his team’s focus.

On the contrary, high-scoring Atlanta United licked their chops to get inside of “The Benz”, and play on one of the MLS’ quickest turfs, after spending months on Boddy Dodd’s natural grass surface.

The aggressive strategies that Atlanta United lives by wouldn’t work as well for Georgia State, whose defense has been a major strength this season.

“As of late, they’ve got some shutouts, which is similar to us. They’re in really good form right now. We’re in pretty good form,” Surrency said. “Hopefully we can continue to ascend like they have and I think we’ll be all right.”

Georgia State’s next match is Saturday, Oct. 14 against Sun Belt Conference soccer member Howard. The game will begin at 7:00 pm at the GSU Soccer Complex.

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