Gar­ber wowed by big At­lanta crowd

Orlando Sentinel - - SOCCER / NASCAR / VARSITY -

The Green Bay Pack­ers and At­lanta Fal­cons will bat­tle at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium Sun­day night dur­ing an NFL game broad­cast na­tion­ally on NBC.

The field will show no signs of what hap­pened 24 hours ear­lier, when an an­nounced crowd of 70,425 packed the sta­dium for a dif­fer­ent kind of foot­ball.

At­lanta United set a Ma­jor League Soc­cer at­ten­dance record when it played Or­lando City to a 3-3 draw in front of that crowd Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Red and Black scarves filled the stands — with dots of pur­ple in be­tween — and the crowd roared when they watched re­plays on the mas­sive halo tele­vi­sion board over­head. The dome re­mained closed but it will open for the NFL game.

There still were empty seats in the new sta­dium, im­ply­ing an ac­tual at­ten­dance slightly lower than an­nounced, but the scene im­pressed many, in­clud­ing MLS com­mis­sioner who at­tended the match.

“It’s awe-in­spir­ing. It’s ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar,” Gar­ber said.

“Ya know, when I drove in from the air­port, it’s such a mas­sive struc­ture. You can see it from far away. It just is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble and it's an ex­cit­ing day for me and for the league.

“Some of the stats are just in­cred­i­ble. This team in six days will have, I think, more than 150,000 peo­ple come to three soc­cer matches. So, there's all sorts of records be­ing bro­ken.

“It’s a good mo­ment for all of us in MLS. I think it says that there are re­ally no lim­its. We never ex­pected this to hap­pen.”

Or­lando City coach shared a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment about the at­mos­phere, say­ing it was “spec­tac­u­lar” and “un­be­liev­able,” while play­ers were less im­pressed.

“I wasn't aware of it, but that's a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” cen­ter­back said of the at­ten­dance record.

“The at­mos­phere was good. It’s nice to be a part of, but it’s not re­ally that sig­nif­i­cant to me, per­son­ally, to be per­fectly hon­est.”

Striker who scored two goals in the match said the crowd was loud but not as loud as he thought it would be.

“It’s al­ways cool to play in front of a good crowd,” Dwyer said. “It was a lit­tle qui­eter than I thought, but I think that’s just be­cause we scored a cou­ple goals.”

Gar­ber went on to say he was skep­ti­cal about soc­cer work­ing in At­lanta and the south­east­ern United States in gen­eral, but Or­lando City and At­lanta United are thriv­ing. He’s hop­ing the same holds true for the com­ing Mi­ami ex­pan­sion side.

“It’s a great state­ment about what’s go­ing on in this part of the coun­try,” Gar­ber said. “These are cities that have become in­cred­i­bly di­verse, very mil­len­nial driven. There’s lots of com­pa­nies mov­ing down here. There’s just a de­mo­graphic shift hap­pen­ing and a new en­ergy that you feel in the south­east that’s ex­cit­ing.”

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