Former Wigan Athletic star Chris McCann goes for MLS glory

Chris McCann
Chris McCann

Like most ex-pats, former Wigan Athletic star Chris McCann will be coming home for Christmas.

He should have already been home by now...but work got in the way.

But when ‘work’ is the small matter of this weekend’s Major League Soccer Cup final, it’s perhaps understandable!

Especially when, just two years into existence, Atlanta United have the opportunity to bring home the first silverware to a sports-mad city for over two decades...with only the Portland Timbers standing in the way of history.

“Obviously getting to the final delayed me coming home for a bit,” laughed McCann, taking a break from a hectic week to speak to the Wigan Post.

“But I’ve got a flight booked for Wednesday so I’ll be back home in time for Christmas.

“My wife, my son and my brother have come back across for the final, and I’ve been going to and fro picking everyone up!”

No-one can argue that McCann, who left Latics in the summer of 2016 for a new adventure Stateside, won’t be deserving of a bit of downtime.

“It’s been a long old year,” he reflects. “I came back in on January 14 this year, so it’s been nearly a year of football including the trial games.

“It’s been enjoyable year for sure, but it’ll be worth it if we get the win this weekend.

“Someone told me the last time this city won a championship was back in 1995 (when the Atlanta Braves won the third World Series of their 147-year existence).

“Nobody could possibly have imagined soccer could have taken off in the way it has over here, being such an American Football, and basketball and baseball city.

“We’ve been in existence now for two seasons, and this is closest the city’s come to winning something in 20 years – which is incredible.

“And not only that, it’s the crowds we’ve been getting. I think the average is getting on for 50,000, and it has been up to 75,000-ish when it’s sold-out – which it will be on Saturday (Atlanta have home advantage, on account of having accrued more regular-season points thanPortland).

“It would be like playing at Wembley or Old Trafford every week – it’s just nuts to see the support we have.

“It’s mind-blowing to be involved in something like this, and sometimes you have to pinch yourself.

“I for one certainly didn’t expect the reaction to be anything like this when I moved over. It’s surpassed everything I thought it would be.”

And can Atlanta go the final step, and bring home the silverware at only the second time of asking (by contrast NFL team, the Falcons, have never won a title in their 52-year history)?

“Having home advantage will be a real plus for us, with the atmosphere being so good inside the stadium,” McCann assessed.

“It’s obviously a massive advantage to be playing a final on your home ground rather than at a neutral venue, and we need to make it count.

“We’ll be more familiar with how the pitch plays – because it’s not grass, it’s astro-turf – and we’ve been strong at home all year.

“But it won’t be easy because we know what a good side Portland are – they have a real threat going forwards.

“We’ve only played them once this season and it was a draw, so that shows how well-matched the sides are.

“But I look at our team, and it’s no wonder so many of our players have been linked with big-money moves overseas.

“It will be a tough game, every final is, but it would be amazing for us to bring it home, just two years after being formed.

“Another Wigan old-boy, Liam Ridgewell, will be playing for them, and we’ve text each other, wishing each other well. But once the whistle goes it’s all about the win, and fingers crossed we can do it.”