Name me a town in the USA with a thriving soccer population….. New York? Philly? Seattle? How about Atlanta?
When Atlanta were announced to the next expansion side in the 2017, many people expected a huge bust but what they got was infact the complete opposite. Atlanta went crazy for the newest MLS side. The fans went that mad, they had sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before the roster had been completed. Now that’s faith for you.
The other team that joined Atlanta were Minnesota, but ATL had a very different challenge, building a squad from scratch & the Expansion Draft has been tweaked meaning this year, both sides were only able to select 5 picks each.
Soon came the appointment of Tata Martino, an appoinment that very much came out of the blue. Several players from South America followed Miguel Almiron being one of those stand outs. So far, things have worked out for Atlanta. Sitting in 4th in the Eastern Conference, with hopes of lifting an MLS Cup, could that be possible?
Texas born, 23 Year Old, Mikey Ambrose is the latest to be interviewed by Dictate The Game. You all know we have a soft spot for America and in particular the MLS, so why not get another interview? We were delighted when Mikey agreed to the interview and very much enjoyed his response. The Left back has been making a name for himself in America and has represented the national squad at U17, U18 and U20.
It’s been quite some time since we last released an interview, that’s going to change. We have approached a number of players and coaches recently and have a number of interviews in the pipeline ready to be released. To start with we have Atlanta United’s Mikey Ambrose, please enjoy.
You were picked by Atlanta United in the 2017 Expansion Draft, how have you settled in, and do you feel like you can continue to develop at Atlanta and also playing for their USL affiliate side, Charleston Battery?
I was picked in the 2017 Expansion draft and I have loved everything about Atlanta since I got here. The team is amazing, the fans and the support here is unbelievable, and the coaching staff and organisation as a whole is second to none. I have already developed a lot this year under the coaching staff but I feel like I have a lot of room to grow and I would love to do that here in Atlanta. Having the affiliate is great because young players can go there and get games in a professional environment. Overall the setup here is outstanding.
After 20 games and a record of 10 wins, 7 losses and 3 ties, Atlanta currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference, do you believe that the team can win the MLS Cup this year, or is that too ambitious for an expansion team?
People keep saying that we are an expansion team, and we are, but the way that the organisation has built this team and the way the city supports us doesn’t feel anything like an expansion side. We have such a talented roster that the sky is the limit for this year but we are just going to continue to work hard and see if we can get some more results.
Considering Atlanta United were founded in 2014, this season has been of particular interest. Sitting 4th in the Eastern Conference at this stage of the season is fantastic, especially considering this is their first season as an expansion team in the MLS. There seems to be a really good feel good factor around the club and that has been displayed on the pitch this season.
Did you always play as left back or did you originally play in a different position?
I have been a left back for the majority of my life. I was a sweeper back in the day growing up and I played a little bit of left midfielder for about one year. Left back is my spot though and has been for a very long time.
Who’s style of play would you say your style most resembles?
I would say that I resemble Leighton Baines from Everton. By no means should I even be said in the same sentence as him but just based on style I think I play like him.
When Mikey responded to this question, saying he resembles the way Leighton Baines plays, I was quite surprised. As an Everton fan it’s always good to hear other players replicating the style Baines has. But in particular, the fact he’s been one of the best left backs in the Premier League for quite some time. A full back who can defend, get forward and contribute to all phases of play is someone you’d want in your team. Although I think Leighton Baines’ hair is cooler, only ever so slightly.
You left college early to sign a pro contract with Austin Aztecs, how tough was that decision to make?
The decision to leave college early was very hard. It was a very nontraditional path that I took to get here and everybody was telling me not to do it. But I prayed hard about it and I decided to go ahead and leave to play with the Aztex. I think it has definitely paid off and I am very grateful for every step that I have taken to get here.
Do you have dreams to play in Europe one day, if so, what would your dream club be?
I do have dreams of playing in Europe and I would love to play anywhere in Spain or England. My favourite team growing up was Chelsea so that would be the ultimate dream come true.
How did you feel when you got called up to play for America? What was your most memorable experience whilst representing your country?
Playing for the youth national teams was amazing and I am so thankful for the opportunities they gave me. My favourite moment was scoring a free kick against Ecuador. It was amazing to score while wearing the crest.
A lot of people grow up wanting to be a professional soccer (football) player, is this your dream job?
This is definitely my dream job. I have worked my whole life to get where I’m at and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.What got you in to the sport? In recent years the MLS has been growing at an enormous rate, do you think it will ever challenge the big European leagues such as La Liga, The Premier League and Ligue one?
My brother and sisters all played soccer growing up so they influenced me to get into the sport. But my mom was my first ever coach when I was 3. They told her the only way they would let me play at 3 was if she was my coach. I think the MLS will eventually catch up to the premier league or La Liga. I mean just look at the support at our games. It’s incredible and if we can get this excitement all over the country it will compete with anyone.
I have to agree with Mikey here, although it will take a long time. Football (Soccer) has grown so much, just look at the players there already. Brad Guzan is one of the notable players at Atlanta United and although he’s 32, he is still in the mix with the American National team.
The support the games get is quite remarkable, the passion is definitely there and that’s growing. The atmosphere prior to games is simply amazing too, for example 55,297 attended the opening game of the season at Atlanta United’s temporary home, Bobby Dodd Stadium.
I know you are only 23, however, like everyone, they have an idol? Who is yours?
My idol growing up was Roberto Carlos and then Patrice Evra. But more recently I would say Marcelo or Jordi Alba. I love the attacking outside left backs.
We thank Mikey Ambrose for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions, we wish you the best of luck with the remainder of the season. Everyone at Dictate The Game are excited about your future and we can’t wait to see it unveil. It was honestly a privilege to speak to Mikey, one of the nice guys in the game.
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