Tata Martino proud of Atlanta United's transformation from expansion team to MLS Cup finalist

HARRISON, N.J. -- A little more than two years ago, Tata Martino signed on as coach of Atlanta United. There was no team, no players, not even a training ground or a personal office for the head coach. Fast forward 26 months, and Martino led his club to an Eastern Conference Championship, beating the New York Red Bulls 3-1 on aggregate across two legs.

Both he and the team have come a long way in a short time.

"What I remember most from that [first] day was that I had the nerves from not understanding absolutely anything in English," he said "I still don't understand much more but I've progressed in some fashion.

"And then I remember working out of [United owner Arthur Blank's] office before the training ground was finished and every day writing different names on the whiteboard. Over the course of those weeks and months as we were forming the team, writing names, erasing different names, and trying to sign the players that we needed for the squad."

Atlanta is one of the most successful expansion franchises in history, just the second to reach MLS Cup in their first two seasons. Martino is proud of what he's accomplished.

"We've had the chance to work and form a team together these players in Atlanta, and I think we've done a good job over these past two years," he said. "Obviously, I think, you saw this year the growth of the team and also what we accomplished last year."

After the season, the coach is expected to move on to manage Mexico's national. But For Martino and this iteration of Atlanta United, there's one more match to play: MLS Cup on Dec. 8.