Ge­or­gia Tech foot­ball play­ers at­tend the MLS soc­cer match be­tween Min­nesota United and the LA Gal­axy on Satur­day, Aug. 3, 2019, in At­lanta.

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The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry

Ge­or­gia Tech’s foot­ball team took in a dif­fer­ent kind of foot­ball Satur­day.

The Yel­low Jack­ets’ play­ers, coaches and staff at­tended the Ma­jor League Soc­cer game be­tween At­lanta United and LA Gal­axy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, stand­ing out in Sec­tion 221 in their white­and-gold T-shirts.

Most fans in the record crowd of 72,548 were adorned in red and black, which are United’s pri­mary col­ors.

New Ge­or­gia Tech coach Ge­off Collins set up the out­ing after his team’s fan day at Bobby Dodd Stadium, part of his ef­fort to make the Yel­low Jack­ets a vi­brant part of the city’s sports cul­ture.

“Prob­a­bly 90 percent of our play­ers and staff has never been to a soc­cer game,” said Collins, who was wear­ing a white cap em­bla­zoned with the city’s “404” area code in gold. “We wanted to come and em­brace ev­ery­thing that’s great about At­lanta.”

He had other mo­tives as well, giv­ing his play­ers a first­hand look at the $1.5 bil­lion stadium that is less than a mile from cam­pus and will be­gin host­ing one Ge­or­gia Tech game a sea­son in 2020 as part of a five-year deal.

“I want to max­i­mize ev­ery chance that we have to get our guys used to be­ing over here,” Collins said at half­time. “We want to let them see the venue, feel the en­vi­ron­ment.”

At­lanta United, the reign­ing MLS Cup cham­pi­ons, beat the Gal­axy 3-0 to move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Con­fer­ence. The team has set nu­mer­ous at­ten­dance records since en­ter­ing the league in 2017.

Collins is mind­ful of that, tak­ing over a pro­gram that has strug­gled to fill its 55,000-seat stadium and of­ten gets ob­scured by the city’s pro sports teams as well as ri­val Ge­or­gia.

“I’m try­ing to en­gage with the At­lanta United fan base,” he said. “Just let ‘em see Ge­or­gia Tech foot­ball is rel­e­vant. We’re hav­ing a lot of fun do­ing what we’re go­ing, putting a great prod­uct on the field, build­ing a great cul­ture and a great brand.”

To that end, Collins also plans to take his team to an At­lanta Braves base­ball game at Sun-Trust Park in two weeks, as well as a se­niors-only out­ing to an At­lanta Fal­cons NFL ex­hi­bi­tion game.

In a fit­ting touch, Collins re­vealed that he is named after Ge­off Hurst, who scored three goals in the 1966 World Cup fi­nal to lead Eng­land to a 4-2 vic­tory over West Ger­many.

“That’s why my name is spelled G-E-O-F-F,” Collins said. “My dad was a huge soc­cer fan be­fore it was in vogue to do that. So I was raised on this great game.”

aP-Paul new­berry

Ge­or­gia Tech foot­ball play­ers at­tend the MLS soc­cer match be­tween the United and the LA Gal­axy on Satur­day at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Coach Ge­off Collins set up the out­ing after his team’s fan day at Bobby Dodd Stadium, part of his ef­fort to make the Yel­low Jack­ets a vi­brant part of the city’s sports cul­ture.

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