It didn’t take long for Atlanta to make a splash in MLS as an expansion team this season.
The team leads the league in attendance, spent a lot of money on talented young players like Miguel Almiron (who had Arsenal as a suitor) and Josef Martinez (who has Italian Serie A experience), has a very impressive training facility and just debuted in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
That has led to some people posing the question of whether Atlanta is the most successful expansion team in league history. Seattle is brought up in this discussion, which packed big crowds into CenturyLink Field, won the U.S. Open Cup and made the playoffs in its first season in 2009. However, the Fire won both the Open Cup and the MLS Cup in 1998.
Bob Bradley, who coached that Fire team, defended the Fire’s honor while appearing as a guest on the radio show/podcast Soccer Today. With Bradley now embarking on another expansion adventure in MLS, coaching Los Angeles FC when it will debut in 2018, co-host Steve Davis asked Bradley if Atlanta’s success puts more pressure on him and LAFC.
“That Chicago did team very well as an expansion team, so did Seattle in 2009,” Davis began before Bradley interrupted.
“Wait, wait, wait, Steve,” Bradley said. “Yes, Seattle did very well. Atlanta is doing very well. We won the double, Steve. So when you said we did very well, let’s cut to the chase a little bit. We won the double. As good as Atlanta is doing this year, when there was a headline early in the year that this is the greatest expansion team of all-time, somebody lost their mind.”
Most of the interview with Bradley focused on his preparation for the upcoming maiden season in LA. As a result, he referenced his experience with the expansion Fire frequently. The full interview is worth a listen for the Lubos Kubik story he tells and some other anecdotes about that team.
“That Chicago team probably never got the credit it deserved because there were those people that didn’t like the makeup of the team, or where certain guys came from,” Bradley said. “But inside the league, if you talk to players who played against those Chicago teams, I can assure you the level of respect was very, very high.”