Feb 24, 2023 - Sports

Atlanta United kicks off 2023 season this weekend

Soccer players wearing red and black kits celebrate after a player scores a goal

This season's goal: less losing, more hugging. Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a lackluster 2022 season, Atlanta United is returning to the field with new players, new uniforms, new head honcho. And no Josef Martínez.

  • Here's what you need to know before the season opener.

What's happening: Saturday night, the team takes the field against the San Jose Earthquakes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first official MLS game of the season.

Catch up quick: 2022 wasn't pretty in Five Stripes land. For the second time in three seasons, the injury-plagued team failed to make the playoffs, ending 11th out of 14 teams in the Eastern Conference — a far cry from the trophy-filled glory of yore.

  • In January, Josef Martínez, Atlanta United's all-time leading scorer and a beloved figure since the team’s early days, signed with Miami FC. It also lost two players who accounted for 20 goals last season, the AJC notes.

State of play: Over the winter, the team signed striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who racked up 55 goals over 90 games at Scottish and Dutch clubs.

  • And winger Derrick Etienne Jr., most recently at Columbus Crew, will work with attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, the World Cup champion who’s back on the roster.
  • Overseeing this new activity is Garth Lagerwey, a former Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake executive who succeeded Darren Eales late last year to become Atlanta United’s president.

The other side: San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference last year. Let's do this.

What we're watching: Who will step up to become the team's new face in a post-Martínez world? Goalkeeper Brad Guzan's a leader and mentor, yes — but a forward-playing goal machine creates moments that fans will remember.

What’s next: The game kicks off at 7:30pm Saturday. Watch it on Apple TV.

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