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The Dark Horse of Los Dos

LA Galaxy Contributor

By Debbie Haar // @GalaxySoccerMom

In a tiny authentic Mexican restaurant in Hermosa Beach I sat down with Abraham Romero, goalkeeper for L.A. Galaxy II, and talked over enchiladas and french toast. He engaged in polite conversation in Spanish with the restaurant staff and rerouted the conversation when our server asked if he was a professional athlete. Romero, who is 6’2″,  has been described by Galaxy General Manager Dennis te Kloese as “a hard-working kid that has a big presence and is very fast for a big guy”. I sat down to find out more about who Romero is.

Debbie Haar: Off the soccer field, what is something you are really good at?

Abraham Romero: I’m a decent bowler, I can play ping pong but I’m bad at pool.

DH: What were you like as a child?

AR: I was a fat baby!! (laughs) I was 10 pounds when I was born. I was a cry baby when I was little but I was raised in a very loving household.

DH: When you are traveling, what is something you can’t live without?

AR: My phone charger and I have this little teddy bear dressed in a bomber jacket and goggles I got in France. I don’t know why but he’s my sidekick.

DH: Does pineapple belong on pizza?

AR: oh no! (shakes head)

DH: Tell me something else food related you don’t like.

AR: butter!

DH: Do you play video games?

AR: no, don’t play them. I don’t enjoy them. I like reading?

DH: What’s your favorite book?

AR: I like Brida. I have a quote from that book tattooed on my ribs.

DH: So what is a typical Saturday night for you? What are you doing after this interview?

AR: I might meet up with some friends or stay home and drink some tea. Just depends.

DH: Do you have any pets?

AR: (smiles big) I have two pit bulls, Bubba is a big blue nose and Hope is brown. He tells on her when she is doing something bad. He barks at her.

DH: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.

AR: I take a nap every day.

Romero Image 1

DH: What would you say is your spirit animal?

AR: I’d say a king penguin, awkward and elegant. Or the turtle in Finding Nemo! Fin! Noggin!

DH: What is the best advice you’ve received during your soccer career?

AR: I remember Marco Garces, the Director at Pachuca, telling me that I am not as good as I think I am, I need to just work to get better.

DH: What are your bad habits?

AR: (laughs) I do not pick up my clothes. I just drop them where ever.

DH: Who picks them up?

AR: My Mom, I live at home with my family.

DH: What household chore do you hate the most?

AR: I will mop floors, take out the trash, wash clothes but I HATE doing the dishes.

DH: What is something your mom cooks that you love?

AR: She makes this pasta with tomato sauce…

DH: Is it like spaghetti?

AR: Ya, it’s a lot like spaghetti. Chili Relleno or she makes this squash with meat and cheese that’s really good.

DH: Has there been a person who has mentored you, really invested in you?

AR: My Dad first and foremost. Other than him is my goalkeeper coach Ruben Messina. I started training with him when I was 8 and I still train with him now. He built me. The first time I trained with him was terrible! I didn’t want to go back, (laughs) but he has made me an overall decent goalkeeper in all areas.

DH: What’s one of your goals in life that’s not soccer related?

AR: Write a book, a romance.

DH: What’s your favorite movie?

AR: The Godfather. I wear a ring with a Godfather quote, “You can do anything. But never go against the family.”

Bill Reno of Everybody Soccer had this to say about Romero when asked who he sees as the young front-runner who could supplant the old guard.

Some dark horse candidates could be Abraham Romero, who is a very good Mexican-American goalkeeper”

If you get a chance to watch Romero play you’ll see a promising young talent with a passion and determination for the game. What you may not notice is his wisdom beyond his years and his kind soul.

Featured image: Etzel Espinosa

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @GalaxySoccerMom

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

We’re Here For The Soccer

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter,
MLSFemale.com

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Women are here for soccer, representing an influential 42% of Major League Soccer’s fanbase. We attend matches, we are season ticket holders, we are leaders in our supporters’ groups; we promote and share the sport we love.

‘We Fan’

‘We Fan’

Recently, SeatGeek, Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer, developed and released a research report entitled, ‘We Fan’. In cooperation with MLS, the ticketing company sent a survey to 300,000 fans to better understand both their ticket purchasing behavior and how to improve their fan experience. From a diverse group of 1,200 respondents, SeatGeek identified a few of the ways female fans want MLS to recognize their presence. 

According to the ‘We Fan’ study, female fans #1 request is to be featured in advertising, representing their legitimate status as soccer fans. One of SeatGeek’s respondents said, “Market to us not as moms or wives, but as fans.” In response, SeatGeek will be turning the spotlight on female fans through a ‘We Fan’ advertising campaign, created by an all-female crew.

Female fans who participated in the ‘We Fan’ survey also wanted MLS to recognize their purchasing preferences. Female fans want more choice. They want merchandise that fits their personality and unique style. Respondents also requested varied concession options at stadiums.

SeatGeek’s ‘We Fan’ study is an important step in amplifying the voices of female fans and celebrating their presence in soccer culture, but the work is far from over.

We Wanted to Ask… You

Our passion for soccer runs deep at MLSFemale. We are a group of all female journalists, who are first and foremost supporters of our teams and the vibrant communities surrounding them. We asked our readers, followers, and staff to share their experiences as female fans with us. 

It is a privilege to share their insightful responses with you, as they discuss assumptions, representation, inclusivity, community, and why we need women’s cut authentic jerseys.

On Assumptions: We’re Here Because We Want to Be

“I just want to be a fan; not a “female fan.” And D.C. United does a good job of making me feel that way.”

Laura Kakuk, D.C. United supporter

“Treat me with the assumption that I am there because of my own decision. Often, people assume that you are there with a boyfriend, husband, significant other, kid who plays soccer, etc. There isn’t this acceptance, still, that a female loves the sport enough to show up on her own will.”

Bailey Brown, FC Dallas supporter and ISC Representative

“I haven’t had a problem as a female who’s a fan, though most people think my husband got the tickets and I tag along (I got him into the team).”

Willow Dalton, NYCFC supporter, STH, and founding member

On Why Representation Matters

“When we say we want more representation, I think we’re talking about a lot more than putting women in ads. The way you treat the women and women-presenting folks working for you is far more convincing than an ad campaign could ever be.”

Hope, Seattle Sounders supporter

“I think it’s important to highlight that many MLS fans are women and we support this league just as many men do. I have never given up on the team and I never will.”

Julia Sepe, NE Revolution supporter and STH

“I personally think that D.C. United does a great job of knowing their fans are not just men, and have a wide variety of merchandise, advertisers, and I’ve always felt welcome at the games.”

Emily, D.C. United supporter

“League wide, I think they should focus on having more female coaches, trainers, and commentators. As we all always say… representation matters.”

Dayna O’Gorman, Sporting KC supporter

“I think one thing that could really improve the experience is if the local broadcast teams had more female pundits. When you are watching a sport and everyone who is commenting on it are men, and then you try to have a conversation with someone… I feel like I get taken less seriously because of my gender. The biggest thing for me that I think the MLS can do, is to hire more females, have them be more visible, and that would make the fan experience better.”

Halles Serres, Portland Timbers supporter

“I feel that Minnesota United and the Dark Clouds are very welcoming, and my experience has been overall really positive. I can speak for myself when I say that a few years ago I couldn’t see myself being as heavily involved with Dark Clouds as I am now. I think it helps that there are quite a few women that are in prominent roles in the Dark Clouds, like capo.”

Helen, MNUFC supporter, Dark Clouds SG member

“There definitely could be more representation in marketing at the fan level. By this, I mean, let’s show solo females. I don’t want to always see a female with family or with a male in a marketing sense. Instead, celebrate the women who work in your front office, celebrate the fans, and make this about females who are contributing to the soccer culture in your community in a positive way.”

Bailey Brown, FC Dallas supporter and ISC Representative

About Those Jerseys… 

“It seems pretty clear that MLS is marketed to men as a primary audience and women as a secondary audience. One example: It’s been challenging to find a women’s jersey that doesn’t have a deep V-neck cut. Like, I don’t want to be a sexy Timbers supporter. I just want a shirt that fits.”

Kelly Hall, Portland Timbers supporter, 107ist member

“One gripe I have is that the “fun” merch is always in men’s cut. So-called “unisex” t-shirts look awful on me, but all the merch that’s more amusing (like the pigeon shirts) tend to only be in men’s cut.”

Willow Dalton, NYCFC supporter, STH, and founding member

“There is something I’ve been saying from Day 1:  CAN WE PLEASE HAVE AUTHENTIC FEMALE CUT KITS?!  I get that they would be naturally less “authentic” because the players wearing them are males, so the authentic kit will be the male cut.  But I’d love a female cut kit with the special touches – the 4 stars denoting our championships and the button-down neckline.”

Laura Kakuk, D.C. United supporter

“I think they should change the marketing and fit of their women’s jerseys. Not everyone wants a deep neckline.”

Dayna O’Gorman, Sporting KC supporter

On Inclusivity 

“Orlando City as a club are very inclusive of female fans in my experience. Kay Rawlins who is the co-founder of Orlando City is the pioneer and epitome of female inclusion within the team. She is a well-respected part of Orlando from both myself, male and female fans alike. Kay has a very hands on approach and is very visible to the fanbase, interacting with fans on social media and outside of games.”

“Kay is also very supportive of inclusion of [those with] disabilities and LGBT [community] as well. I feel like having a founder with her way of thinking and views, has created the feeling of inclusiveness regardless of your gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability, which is why I love this club.”

Charlotte, Orlando City SC supporter from the UK

“The best part about my supporters’ group and my team is they don’t see gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, or age. We all bleed black and red, and that’s all that matters.”

Karen DiFederico, D.C. United supporter, La Barra Brava member

“The stadium has an indoor fan area with…TVs showing the match. It was always used as a room for breastfeeding babies.  That’s a great example of inclusivity for women. I didn’t have to choose between being a mom or a supporter because there was space for me to be both.”

Kelly Hall, Portland Timbers supporter, 107ist member

“It was a Pride Night match. There were rainbows everywhere and I mean everywhere! They were handing out rainbow flags to every single fan. And nobody was declining them or using derogatory language about them. The second I saw our (then) captain Brad Evans step out onto the pitch with a rainbow armband I felt like I had finally, after years of being a sports fan and always leaving because of homophobia, finally, found a team and possibly an entire professional sports organization where I could actually feel welcomed and belong.”

Kara Dannenhold, Seattle Sounders supporter

“I appreciate that the Sounders not only didn’t balk at partnering with a “feminine” sponsor like Zulily but have embraced it. I appreciate the no-nonsense approach to handling complaints about pink kits and players wearing ‘sports bras’ for analytics. The more they treat this stuff as normal the less stigma there is in being ‘girly’.”

Hope, Seattle Sounders supporter and STH

On Building a Community

“What I would like to see as a woman, are more women looking to connect with other women. I seriously don’t know any women that go to games alone like I do most of the time and I end up connecting with the guys. It would be cool to have content that connects us in some way.”

Sara Phillips, D.C. United Supporter and STH

“I’ve actually connected more with the team and the fans because of the away games that I’ve been able to go to; specifically speaking, Angel City Brigade, one of the Galaxy’s SGs, have welcomed me with open arms. I would’ve called myself a lone die-hard fan that traveled to games, but now I’ve found that I’ve made so many friends through traveling to these games.”

Pamela Garcia, LA Galaxy supporter

Author’s note: I would like to thank every reader, follower, and staff member that took the time to respond when I asked for your thoughts. Your insight, strength, and willingness to share has me in awe. This is truly your article, and I am proud to share your story.

Featured image: @SeatGeek

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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A Deficiency in WWC Radio Coverage: A Salty Rant

By Kirsten Hoogstraten // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Hello fellow soccer watching friends! I hope you are all enjoying the 2019 version of the FIFA Women’s World Cup! I know that I am!

Since I am part of working America, I have been doing a lot of my World Cup consumption through the radio when I am driving to and from my job. Thank goodness for satellite radio, am I right? So far everything had worked out well. There has been plenty of coverage for every game and I have been extremely pleased. Until today.

Backstory: I’m driving home from work on Saturday June 22nd listening to the first half of Norway vs Australia during the first day of the knock-out round. I stopped off by my house to do some stuff and made it back into my car for extra time. I got to listen to a good chunk of extra time before I had to run to Target and get a birthday card for my boyfriend’s sister and a wine for me. I got back into the car to soccer playing on the radio but it was not women’s soccer nor was it a shootout.

My satellite radio had betrayed me! It was now playing the beginning of the Guyana vs Panama Gold Cup game. So the CONCACAF Gold Cup is also an important competition but it also happens once every two years and only includes North and Central America. The World Cup, men or women’s, only happens once every four years and includes…the world…or at least the world that qualified.

Now this probably has to do with broadcasting contracts or something but it sure feels like the WWC is getting the slight for a second level men’s competition that happens twice as often. If it was the USMNT game, it might make a little more sense, but it wasn’t!

Two games, where none of the participants were US teams, which one should get precedence? Probably the more important competition. If you don’t agree, that’s okay because we are all entitled to our own opinions (these are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of MLSFemale as a whole). It is common practice in both college and professional sports to finish a game then move to a game in progress. This would be a completely acceptable thing to do in this situation. But this leans to the already open can of worms that women’s sports being seen as second rate to men’s sports.

Frankly, I think that we can do better. Fox Sports Radio satellite affiliate, we can do better. Am I going to keep listening to your WWC coverage, yes, but am I going to be wary as we get into the quarterfinals or semifinals when games go up against the Gold Cup? Absolutely. This is an easy fix, guys. So maybe we should fix it.

Again, all of my opinions are my own and do not reflect upon MLSFemale as a whole. If you agree, disagree, or want to chat about it, you can drop a comment or tweet me.

Featured image: SDictionary’s YouTube channel

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Kirsten_Hoogs

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLS players and their superhero equivalents: Avengers Edition

Feature Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Avengers: Endgame finally hits theaters tonight!

But what if instead of superheroes, this band of misfits was populated with MLS’ best players? Voted by the staff of MLSFemale, here are our top picks of who could fill in for Cap, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers*:

Iron Man – Samuel Piette

Genius playboy billionaire philanthropist – this is how Tony Stark describes himself. Piette is the Iron Man of Montreal. That’s it.

Piette is a young defensive midfielder with a strong work ethic and desire to help the team. Like Stark, when on the defense, he is aggressive, strong and physical. But offensively, he is simple and effective with his passing and keeps the team in possession.

However, Piette is genuine, unlike his superhero counterpart.


Captain America – Aaron Long

Cap has a shield, a good piece of defense. Aaron Long is a great defender – so much so that he won the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year and has captained the USMNT.

The main difference between them is that one is scientifically enhanced to achieve peak human perfection – the other just thinks he is.


Thor – Johnny Russell

Because he’s basically a god now.

The Norse god of thunder and Scottish forward do have similar features. Similar to how Thor wields his mighty hammer to create thunder and lighting – Russell’s thunderous strikes can dismantle an enemy.


The Incredible Hulk – Nick Rimando

Nick Rimando’s physique is so similar to the rampant superhero Hulk that his fans nicknamed him Hulk itself – a name by which he is better known.

The footballer Hulk has a lot of similarities with our Gamma-ray affected superhero. Both Hulks are quite normal human beings when they aren’t angry. But when they are angry, which doesn’t happen very often, they dismantle everything that lies in their path – and, on a lot of occasions, that even ends up hurting their own team.


Hawkeye – Carlos Vela

Master archer Clint Barton can hit basically any target with his incredible pin-point accuracy. Vela can do the same with a crossfield pass. Just look at his stats.


Loki – Diego Valeri

Valeri is an enigmatic figure, sometimes the hero, sometimes the villain. Like Loki, he can do magical things, but maybe his greatest skill is being a master manipulator, playing five-dimensional chess with his own image rights.


Ant-Man – Latif Blessing

Modern footballers, not unlike a lot of superheroes, can be a solemn and humorless bunch sometimes.

So just like how Ant-Man was a breath of fresh air in the MCU, Latif Blessing is truly a blessing in disguise. The forward loves to goof around and showing off his dancing skills. But like Scott Lang, he gets focused when called into duty.

He probably got excited about meeting world-renowned footballers the same way Ant-Man did with Cap.


Black Panther – Alberth Elis

Do I need more proof?

I can already hear Shuri telling her big brother, “what are those?”


Doctor Strange – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Has Zlatan ever been snapped wearing a cloak? I can totally imagine him swanning around in a massive cloak. He’s already got both the dodgy facial hair and the ability to manipulate reality to create space and time around him – all he needs is the cloak to truly become the Sorcerer Supreme of the football world.

And like Doctor Strange, no one is sure exactly what he does.


Spider-Man – Maxi Moralez

With great power comes great responsibility.

Maximiliano Moralez or better known as “Maxi,” is well-known for his web-slinging celebrations. And similar to his superhero counterpart, he uses his spidey senses to pick out certain players in tight situations and spins the ball around opponents to catch them in his web.


Star-Lord – Dom Dwyer

Their personalities. Enough said.

Dom could be the hero sometimes but his ego can get the best of him costing the whole team in the end. Right, Quill?


Groot – Roman Torres

The resemblance is uncanny.


The Vision – Wayne Rooney

Neither is the most powerful on the roster. But they still manage to help the team with their superhuman abilities.

Plus, Rooney is basically Paul Bettany’s doppelgänger.

*Writer’s note: For the purpose of this article, we have condensed the list of Marvel characters greatly.

Featured image of Avengers: Endgame poster from Forbes.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

All-Stars and MLS: From the sidelines

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The MLS All-Star Game is the third biggest, yet most controversial event in Major League Soccer’s arsenal of annual festivities.  In the grand scheme of things, a midseason friendly, no matter the opponent, has very little to no clout and offers more risks than reward. However, this is America, and an All-Star exhibition game is about as American as you can get.

#tishajuvdossantos
Juventus player, Alex Sandro toe-pokes the ball away from MLS All-Star, Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy). Image: Tisha Gale

This year, the midseason clash between the MLS All-Stars and the Italian bigwigs, Juventus, led us to a showdown in rainy Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. In the weeks leading up to the match, the topic on everyone’s minds was the overall significance of the All-Star Game. I asked a few friends and colleagues to weigh-in with their opinions of the All-Star Game and here’s what they had to say:

“I’m of two minds when it comes to the MLS All-Star Game. On one hand, pitting our best players against a well-known European powerhouse draws more fans to our league, and ideally shows that we’re progressing in ability and quality with how we acquit ourselves in the friendly. The continued growth in fandom and support make MLS more viable as a major sport with key younger demographic groups. If you’re a fan of the league, you really have to appreciate that.”

“On the other hand, it’s a meaningless friendly in the middle of the season, where the players selected have little time to prepare and gel as a squad, making the possibility of a cohesive, well-drilled game plan difficult to realize and execute. There’s very little upside for selected players and greater risk of injury, especially when the game is played on turf. The game is held midweek during a brutal part of the schedule which doesn’t incentivize participation (so much so that a rule was created to punish those who skip it, even due to injury).”

“If I had a vote, I’d push for . . . a return to East vs. West [format] and make the outcome meaningful (e.g. home field advantage in MLS Cup Finals, or decide which leg to host in MLS Cup playoffs).”  Dave K. (@kilsey on Twitter)

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLS All-Star captain, Carlos Vela, wins a 50/50 battle with Juventus star, Emre Can. Image: Tisha Gale

The last time Major League Soccer hosted an East vs West All-Star showdown was at the 2004 game in which the East defeated the West in a 3-2 match at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. In fact, there have been six “East vs West” All-Star games to date, with the East holding an impressive 4-1-1 record. As a proud supporter of one of the best teams in the East, New York City FC, I would be happy to see the return of East vs West format.

My MLSFemale colleague, Keira, echoed Dave’s opinions. However, her biggest complaint has not to do with the game itself, but with one of the rules surrounding it.

“A change must happen to the rules regarding missing the All-Star Game (ASG) for a documented injury. If you miss at least two games prior to the ASG due to injury, you should not be suspended from the next regular season game due to missing the ASG. It’s a punishment to players and their teams. The ASG should be a celebration of excellence in MLS, not a burden.” –Keira M.S. (@keiramunsmith on Twitter)

This ASG rule sparked some outrage in New York when it was announced that David Villa would have to miss the NYCYC’s regular season match versus Vancouver Whitecaps because he had to bow out of the All-Star game. Villa was coming off a six-game injury spell.

There is clearly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the way the ASG is executed. While some people think a little restructuring would do the trick, others believe that a completely new blueprint might be the best option.

“I mean, All-Star games really are an American thing overall. The idea of this one kinda comes from MLB’s mid-summer classic . . . Personally, I think trying to Americanize soccer hurts it here; from scheduling to roster limits . . . What they should do is create an American Super Cup that pits the MLS Cup winners and the Open Cup winners together to start the season. Like the rest of the world does with their league winners and domestic Cup winners.” –Jeff W. (@J_Weisinger on Twitter)

For the players selected to represent MLS, the All-Star Game is the ultimate pick-up game. It is a chance for them to get together with their friends across the league, to set rivalries aside and enjoy a night of the beautiful game.

When Dudes in Blue co-host, Anthony Scarcello, asked Alex Ring what it was like to attend his first All-Star game, the New York City FC midfielder stated, “I think it was a nice couple of days seeing the guys from the other teams in the league. Playing a little bit, having some fun.” All in all, the game provides “a good opportunity to enjoy yourself a little midweek.”

#tishaalexring
Alex Ring, the only player to represent New York City FC at the 2018 All-Star Game, after Villa’s injury ruled him out of the lineup. Image: Tisha Gale

With the debate seeming to end in a stalemate, at least until things undoubtedly heat up again next year, on what side of the coin do you land?  Should the powers that be package the MLS ASG in maple and drape it in the stars and stripes, or will a simple restructuring make it a more appealing event for players and fans alike?

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Sami Khedira aerial challenge. Image: Tisha Gale

As for me, this was my first year attending an MLS All-Star game, and I was fortunate enough to do so while representing MLSFemale. The All-Stars also presented a unique opportunity for me to network with other fans, photographers, reporters and podcasters from across the league, including a few of my MLSFemale colleagues.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Cooligans Crew: Robyn (ATL), Jess (COL), Eve (IMFC), Aya (ATL), Tisha (NYCFC) 🙂

ATL All-Star 18 - Tisha - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Pointless or not, the atmosphere inside the stadium was electrifying; all my senses were heightened. The thrill of flashing my “Photographer” media credentials to security as I roamed the belly of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was enough to give me the best heart palpitations. By the time the game started, I was already on cloud 9. The photographer sitting next to me who kept quietly chanting, “This is boring,” could do nothing to lull me out of my perpetual state of bliss, and neither could the star whose bulb blew at the absolute wrong time.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Image: Tisha Gale

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Another type of pro in Dallas: Alan Avila

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Bailey Brown // @baileystaysposi

It may seem like it has been awhile, but it was only in April that we saw our first MLS Cup winner of the year… an eMLS Cup winner. The buzz and hype around the eMLS Cup in Boston this past year was just something I couldn’t get enough of. Seeing supporters of all clubs actively backing their professional gamers to defeat opponents game after game was awesome.

I couldn’t help but be curious as to this notion of signing a professional gamer to MLS clubs and how people even got there. As a teacher, I see middle school students trying to play video games in class. I’m actually pretty sure if I brought in my XBox and allowed them to play FIFA in class, we would have an all-out tournament. However, according to Forbes.com, esports is on track to bring in $900 million in revenue this year. You guys… $900 million.

It’s no wonder that MLS has started signing their own eMLS players as this is a huge market that any business would be crazy to not touch.. So, my next challenge? Talk to the FC Dallas eMLS player who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, Alan Avila.

 

Check out my interview – with former FC Dallas youth player turned eMLS star!

Okay so, let’s start with a little bit about your soccer background. You played for the FC Dallas youth system as a midfielder in high school. When did you start playing soccer and can you tell MLSFemale readers a little bit more about your soccer background?

I started playing soccer ever since I was four. My dad made a local team and coached me all the way up until my club soccer years. My first club team was the Dallas Texans. I started traveling 5 hours to Dallas and Frisco just to play my league games on the weekends, so it was a sacrifice I had to make, but it was all worth it. 1-2 years later, I joined FC Dallas’ Youth system and played in the Classic League. I played at Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas. I was on Varsity since my Freshman year. Unfortunately, my sophomore year of High School I tore my left ACL and had to miss most of the season. I then went on to play my junior year. My senior year, I tore my right ACL and unfortunately had to sit out my entire senior year. I had surgery again and recovered just in time for collegiate soccer at the University of Texas of The Permian Basin. During preseason I re-tore my right ACL. I had surgery, recovered, but then started focusing more on FIFA and YouTube.

I read in your interview with FC Dallas that you started playing FIFA after your third ACL injury. Surely to be as good as you are, you were playing the game before you decided to start competitively. Was playing video games always a hobby of yours?

Playing FIFA was definitely a hobby of mine ever since I was in elementary school. My soccer mates and friends would always get together and play against each other and have tournaments. It was something I really enjoyed to play whenever I was not playing actual soccer because I just love soccer so much. FIFA, the video game, helped me learn more about the game of soccer. I would always try out new moves or passes that I would see in FIFA on the field. FIFA was a nice hobby to have as a soccer player because during the offseason or whenever I wasn’t playing actual soccer, I would start up FIFA and start playing. I believe many soccer players love to play FIFA.

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Image: emlscup.us

With that, how did you decide to become a professional FIFA player? What is the process for those who didn’t know this e-world existed?

I got very fortunate with timing because, during my third ACL surgery recover, FIFA 17 introduced a new competitive game mode called “FUT Champions”. It is a competitive game mode where you play 40 games a weekend against the best players on your continent and compete with everyone from around the world. I started finishing in the Top 100 in the World leaderboard by winning 38, 39, or even 40 games out of the 40 we were required to play. It was no easy task by any means and it still continues to be very difficult. I then started qualifying for FIFA tournaments through FUT Champions and that’s how I made a name for myself. I posted YouTube videos and people started subscribing and really enjoying the content. In FIFA 18, the current FIFA, I did the same thing. The eMLS was introduced and luckily FC Dallas was able to scout me as a local Elite FIFA player and that’s how I signed my first professional contract. I stayed ranked among the best 100 players in the world. I qualified to the biggest tournament in Amsterdam hosted by EA Sports FIFA. It’s a continuous craft that I need to keep practicing and mastering.

When you saw other teams in MLS start to sign eMLS players, what were your thoughts? Did you initially reach out to FC Dallas about playing for them? How did the actual signing for you happen?

I have always brainstormed the idea of the eMLS becoming a thing long before it actually became an official thing. I saw other leagues around the world have their own FIFA leagues and it was something that I wanted to see in the USA and Canada with the MLS. When I found out about the eMLS actually becoming a thing, I was super excited because I knew that it would attract many people and that it was a great thing for competitive FIFA and the league. Like I stated in the previous question, FC Dallas did their scouting and found out about me through media sources and all of the FIFA rankings there are. They found out that I was a part of the actual FC Dallas youth program so it was just a great match for their program. I was invited to come down to Toyota Stadium and talk to everyone involved with FC Dallas and that’s where it all began.

Tell us more about the first eMLS Cup. I saw online that only current MLS players are available for teams. What were the other guidelines? How did you decide what squad to field? As a general fan, I didn’t know that you weren’t playing with the full FC Dallas squad. Tell us more about what goes into choosing the team you play with. How does your knowledge of playing soccer give you an advantage while playing people who maybe never have touched a ball in their life?

The first eMLS Cup was a success and a great experience. The guidelines were that we had to have three MLS players on the field at all times, two of which had to be from the MLS club you were representing. When I found out about this, I knew that I had to plan correctly and make a squad that would most benefit me. There is a lot that goes into making a squad to play with on FIFA. Many people want the fastest and most technical players.

In FIFA, there are 6 different categories that distinguish a player. There is Pace, Shooting, Passing, Dribbling, Defending, and Physical. As you can probably tell, everyone competing wants the players with the best overall attributes. FIFA has done a great job in making the game very realistic. This means that the players seem to perform as they would in real life.

Ronaldo, Messi, and Sergio Ramos are players that mostly everyone had on their squad in the eMLS. So if you are knowledgeable in soccer, making a squad in FIFA would become much easier because you will know what you are working with and how to use the players in each position to their best possible potential. I decided to use Kellyn Acosta and Urruti from FC Dallas because Kellyn had the physical and defending aspect of a midfielder and Urruti had the goal scoring ability. My third MLS player was Alessandrini because of his speed and ability to score. Many competitors selected Alessandrini for that exact reason.

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Image: mlssoccer.com

How was the first eMLS Cup? What were the vibes like? Did you previously know any of the other eMLS players from the gaming community and your previous competitions?

The first eMLS cup was a great experience even though I was eliminated in the Western Conference Final. I definitely learned a lot and cannot wait for the next one. The vibes were great. Everyone was excited to get the first eMLS cup underway. It was an honor to be representing the club. Many players including myself played with immense passion for the club and wanted nothing but the best for all the fans and club. The vibes were honestly everywhere. Excitement, curiosity, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, thrill, and a whole lot of adrenaline was seen by everyone throughout the eMLS cup.

I did know most of the players from the online leaderboards, previous tournaments, or even social media. It was nice to be able to actually meet up with them in person and share a great experience. Some of them even knew me from watching my videos on YouTube so it was really nice being able to meet everyone that I hadn’t before.

So now that this tournament is over, what’s next for you? How long are you in a contract with FC Dallas in this position? What are your overall goals?

Now that the eMLS Cup is over, I need to focus on any major EA Sports tournaments I have. I also need to focus on being more active on social media whether it is via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat to build a close community of great people. I also need to continue practicing a bit for whatever tournament is next. Most tournaments are over with for FIFA 18 so now I can take a little break and focus on starting strong in FIFA 19 in September.

I am in a contract with FC Dallas for a year but I’m hoping to sign again for the FIFA 19 season. There are many goals that I wish to accomplish. I want to win the eMLS Cup and any other major global tournaments. I also want to really build a community on YouTube and social media as a whole to help others in FIFA, their life, or whatever the case may be. Someone that they can look up to and enjoy being a part of the experiences.

For all of the aspiring eMLS players out there, what is one piece of advice you would give so that they could be the next eMLS player for their team?

One piece of advice that I would give to aspiring eMLS players is to never give up and learn from every loss. That is how you not only grow as a player but as a person as well.

And finally, if you could field your perfect 11 (not within the confines of eMLS Cup), who would your lineup be?

My perfect eleven would have to start off with David De Gea in goal. Marcelo at left back. Sergio Ramos and David Luiz at the center back positions. Kyle Walker at right back. Modric, Pogba, and Iniesta in the midfield. Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar up top.

You can follow Alan Avila on Twitter at @AlanAvi_ to see everything he’s up to and keep an eye on his gaming!

Featured image courtesy: Alan Avila

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Portugal Fails to Advance After Loss to Uruguay

Shae Beaudoin - Orlando City SC/mlsfemale
Official Orlando City Reporter

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

For all of us Portugal fans, our 2018 FIFA World Cup chances are over. After finishing second in the Group stages, Portugal faced Uruguay in the second match of the Round of 16. Unfortunately, once we hit Round of 16, there are no second chances. A win sends you forward and a loss sends you home.

This was definitely a rough game. We Portugal fans had to start worrying just 7 minutes in when Edinson Cavani put Uruguay on the score board. Yeah, I was a little worried at this point, but I also know our team, and I knew that Portugal wasn’t out of the running just because they were trailing by one goal.

This was overall a pretty fair game. The referee didn’t pull out yellow cards like they were trick-or-treats on Halloween. In fact, the card only left his pocket once during the whole match. Considering how the rest of the matches have gone so far in this World Cup, I’m counting that as an improvement.

Other than that first goal, there isn’t too much to share about the first half. These teams both played well and most importantly, the match was extremely even. It could have gone either way at any point in time.

Second half is when Portugal seemed to get their heads in the game.

In the 55th minute, Pepe tied things up and breathed new life into the Portugal fans. We could breathe a little easier. Ten minutes, at least, before Cavani made his second goal. Before he could go for his hat trick, Cavani ended up injured and came off the field.

If you weren’t able to tune in for this game, we really need to highlight this for a second because of the extremely touching moment between Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. As Cavani limped off the field, Ronaldo came over and lended the striker a shoulder to lean on and helped him off the field.

That is the A+ sportsmanship I love to see. Even though this man is the reason Portugal was about to go home, Ronaldo didn’t let that stop him from being a good person. Whether it was for the spotlight or not you have to commend him. If I was in that situation, with my whole nation’s chances of advancing on my shoulders, I highly doubt I would have even thought about helping the other team out in any capacity.

But back to the match. Closing out second half, the score stood Uruguay 2, Portugal 1. And then the fourth official gifted us with six whole minutes of added stress time. I don’t think I’ve ever wished so hard for an equalizer in my life. (Though, spoiler alert, after the stress of Sunday’s Spain/Russian tiebreaker shootout, I realize that maybe it’s better I didn’t get my wish.)

Of course, you’ve read this far, you know Portugal didn’t get the equalizer and they are in fact, eliminated from the competition. It’s been a rough weekend for me. Three L’s with all the teams I support and the only solace is that Argentina and Lionel Messi were also eliminated on Saturday, thanks to the French.

That wraps up my coverage of the 2018 World Cup now that both my teams have been eliminated. I haven’t decided who I’m rooting for next. France? Brazil? I guess we’ll see. Who do you still have in the competition?

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Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @ShaeEliz

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Here’s to our World Cup hosts, Russia

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter, Russia Correspondent

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Okay, quick disclaimer: I don’t get to watch much of the World Cup. This is the first year I’ve had a job that runs through the summer. I fondly remember my first (and only) year teaching at an inner city high school and watching the 2014 tournament with a lot of Portuguese-American students. This year, I’ve had my phone streaming games at my cubicle, and have been able to watch at least one half of a given game on the TV at my job. (Don’t worry– the productivity hasn’t suffered.)

But I will tell you I watched last summer’s Confederations Cup. And I hope you don’t mind when I say… Russia was a total snoozefest. I was not really looking forward to seeing them in Group A. It was the ultimate, ‘you own the pool, so we’ll come to your party’ kind of moment. The world would smile and nod, let the team have their time in the group stage, and then we’d all watch the Germanys and the Portugals and the Argentinas take the real stage.

Well… it would seem the Russian FA said, “hold my vodka” and put together one heck of a product.

Opening Day: Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0

Sure. This is cool. They trounced the 67th-ranked team (Russia is ranked 70th). But they did so with fourteen shots altogether, and half of them on target. And here’s the kicker (so to speak): Russia only had 38% possession. This is not a team that was desperate to keep the ball. They were content to capitalize on chances and did so convincingly. FIFA president Gianni Infantino looked on alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman. Maybe… just maybe… Russia was going to give the world a show.

Group A Matchday 2: Russia 3, Egypt 1

Whoa. The Pharaohs. Mohammad Salah. Group A favorites (alongside Uruguay, obviously). Ranked 45th in the world by FIFA. Not so fast. Much more even in shots and possession, this was a real exercise for the host nation. Salah was neutralized in the attacking end of the field, held to a penalty kick (73′). And while the Own Goal spectre was the first scorer (and definitely on track to get the Golden Boot this year), Denis Cheryshev (59′) and Artem Dzyuba (62′) sewed up the game.

Group A Matchday 3: Uruguay 3, Russia 0

It wasn’t hard to imagine Uruguay (ranked 14th) topping the group. Despite three of their five group stage goals coming from this game alone, they dominated Group A overall. They didn’t drop a point. Add to that Russia being down a man for the majority of the game (Igor Smolnikov, straight red 36′), and the result is another day at the office. But it was enough for Russia to finish the group stage in second place. On to the Knockout Round.

Round of 16: Spain 1, Russia 1 (3-4 PK shootout)

As I used to say in high school: Ish about to get real here. Spain is ranked TENTH. They have won the freaking World Cup. They have some of the greatest players in the world today. Ain’t no shame in this game if Russia bows out now. This is the furthest they’ve ever gone*.

And of course Spain scores first. Well… kinda.

Like it or not, the ball was inside the net after a set piece. Russia was down, but not out. Then came the other error. The one that would ultimately shift the momentum of the game.

I don’t claim to know everything about soccer, but I do know this: put your daggone arms down. Dzyuba stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty kick to level the game.

We were then treated to the most boring second half of the tournament thus far. I guess both teams were content to wear each other out. But they could have tried to get something going in Added Extra Time. But no Golden Goal meant they could just keep trudging and send the game to the penalty shootout. That’s where anything could happen.

Even this:

And so it is Russia who advances. They will face Croatia in the Quarterfinals. The Germanys, the Portugals, and the Argentinas will watch from home. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep enjoying this ride, however long it lasts.

* Russia advanced to the World Cup Quarterfinals in 1970, when they were the Soviet Union.

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Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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Brazil Snap, Crackle, and Pop into the Round of 16

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

June 29, 2018: World Cup

Brazil did Brazil things to break out of the group stage even though they didn’t look as threatening as their reputation implied.

The Squad:

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr – forward
Philippe Coutinho – midfielder
Marcelo Viera – defender
Alisson Becker – goalkeeper
José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Jr known as Paulinho – midfielder
Gabriel Jesus – forward
Thiago Silva – defender
Willian Borges la Silva commonly known as Willian – forward
Roberto Firmino – forward
Douglas Costa – midfielder
João Miranda de Souza Filho better known as Miranda – defender
Carlos Henrique Casemiro – midfielder
Filipe Luís – defender
Frederico Chaves Guedes aka Fred – midfielder
Fagner Conserva Lemos – defender

Saturday, June 17th

Brazil faced off against Switzerland in their World Cup Opener. The squad didn’t seem prepared for Switzerland’s defense and ended with a 1-1 draw. Neymar da Silva Santos Jr was fouled 10 times, the most of any player in the last 20 years. Brazil’s only goal was from Philippe Coutinho.

Friday, June 22

Brazil’s next opponent was Costa Rica. They didn’t get too CONCACAFed as they won 2-0. Brazil didn’t look like they were going to draw again despite outshooting the Ticos, but the ball just didn’t want to go into the net. The two late goals were finally scored by Philippe Coutinho and Neymar Jr in extra time.

Wednesday, June 27

Their last opponent in Group E was Serbia. In this scenario, Brazil needed to win and goal differential could’ve put them in second place, but since Switzerland drew with Costa Rica, they came out on top of their group. Serbia put up a good fight with several shots with a final score of 2-0. Both had a chance to advance. Goals were scored by Paulinho and Thiago Silva.

The next match is July 2nd versus Mexico. Kickoff is at 7AM PST. My bet would be on Brazil to win because Mexico didn’t look strong after their major finish defeating Germany in their opening match.

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Moving on: Round of 16 for Denmark

Liz Panucci - Co-Founder/mlsfemale
Editor

By Liz Panucci // @PanucciLiz

They’ve done it! Denmark has advanced to the Round of 16 in the World Cup!!

Their best FIFA World Cup result to date was achieved in 1998, where they narrowly lost 3–2 in a quarter-final against Brazil. Denmark also made the second round in 2002. Check out these amazing stats comparing then and now…hmmmmm, makes you wonder.

Advancing to this next round was not clinched until the final day of Group C games on June 26th. France was already set to move on and that’s who the opponent was for Denmark. Australia was hosting Peru at the same time. With a Denmark loss and an Australia win, both teams would be tied at 4 points each. Tournament rules would then go into effect.

As the tweet below states, there was lots of huffing and puffing but not lots of scoring. The match with France ended in a scoreless draw. Kudos to keeper Kasper Schmeichel once again. Peru defeated Australia 0-2 in an exciting match to clinch it for Denmark.

France and Denmark were tops in Group C and both moved on to the knockout phase – Round of 16.

June 29th was a day of rest for the World Cup in Russia. Teams who did not advance packed up their bags, collected their memories and hopped a plane home. It will be another four years before they can try again.

Round of 16

France kicked it off versus the favored Argentina. Many say it was the match of all matches, and almost everyone agrees it was exciting to watch, even for new fans of soccer. The final score was 4-3, for France. Uruguay knocked out Portugal with a score of 2 -1. Sunday, July 1 has Spain and Russia playing the early game.

In the later game, Croatia and Denmark play. Croatia was in a competitive group with Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria who all played well during tournament play. They are coming in strong. Here is a quote from Crotia midfielder Filip Bradaric as we look forward to the match:

Denmark has some similar features to Iceland. Croatia will be well-prepared for this encounter.

Competitors in the football (soccer) world know Denmark to be a solid competitor. It will be an exciting match between these two intense teams as this is a win-or-go-home situation. Here’s what Denmark’s official team reporter for 2018 FIFA World Cup had to say:

See you there!

Croatia v Denmark. Sunday, July 1. #CRODEN

Update: Denmark was defeated in the knockout match against Croatia. It was a very exciting game, going into shootout penalty kicks, with the eventual loss. Kudos to all the Danish players on a successful World Cup!

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Follow and chat with me on twitter // @PanucciLiz

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