Eight year old Bheem Goyal had some big shoes to fill on Wednesday night. The Seattle Sounders have had two of the best in league history starting between the sticks in Kasey Keller and Stefan Frei. Bheem spent time training with the Sounders during the week after signing his official contract on July 10th, the first signing of the secondary transfer window for the Rave Green. The young man, who is bravely battling A.L.L. (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia), pulled off a shutout during his stint in goal. Watch below:
After the proud and emotional start to the game, the friendly play resumed. Both teams fielded starting XIs that would not be considered first team regulars, but there were several highlights for the Sounders.
Joevin Jones returned to the starting lineup after missing the past two games for the birth of his first child and was able to grab an assist on the home team’s only goal.
Cristian Roldan was given the captain’s armband, an act that many fans would like to see a more regular occurrence.
16 year old Danny Leyva was given another first team start. The potential is evident in the youngsters play and this is likely not the last start he’ll receive this season, especially if the Sounders front office continues to falter on making any new signings this transfer window.
Marius Wolf, Paco Alcácer and Jadon Sancho all scored for the German giants, who finished in second place in the Bundesliga last season. Dortmund definitely controlled play in the second half, but Jonathan Campbell was able to head home his first goal in Rave Green to make the final score 3-1.
The midweek showing was not only a good chance for minutes for players who don’t usually see field time, but also a very friendly exchange between two powerhouse clubs. Dortmund players and staff were in Seattle for several days leading up to the game and were able to experience and meet the community.
While the game ended in a losing score for the Sounders, the stadium and fans only showed support for newcomer, Bheem Goyal. The introduction of Goyal to the first team was a joy to witness in person and has been shared through Twitter by many major sporting outlets and athletes from around the world. There’s been no word from head coach Brian Schmetzer whether or not Bheem will push Stefan Frei for starting minutes going forward, but the kid sure put on a show.
Audi Field just turned a year old this past week, but one of D.C. United’s most ardent supporters only recently passed through the stadium’s gates for the first time. 96’er and Barra Brava elder, Rob Gillespie, finally made his way home. Affectionately known in the Black-and-Red community as ‘Big Rob’, Gillespie has been a fixture in the D.C. United community for over 20 years, his story woven into the fabric of the Club’s history.
Rob remembers the beginning of D.C. United. A gifted storyteller, he is able to transport his listener back in time with tales of Lot 8 and a young Ben Olsen on the pitch. Now, there are no more tailgates in Lot 8, and Ben Olsen has become United’s head coach who is shaping the future of the team. However, some of the original 96’ers, like Rob, remain; preserving the traditions they can and sharing the past with a new generation of supporters.
Becoming a part of the Barra Brava happened by chance, with a fight between Rob and Barra founder, Oscar Zambrana, resulting in their friendship and him joining the group.
“I actually got into the Barra Brava because Oscar Zambrana, the founder of the Barra Brava and I got into a fight over a misunderstanding.
They were getting hassled by security down at the Barra and I started yelling at the security guys. Oscar mistook me yelling at the security guys for me yelling at the Barra guys. So, he came up and you know, we were both well lubricated at that point. We ended up getting in a little scuffle, which is good on Oscar, because I’m twice his size.
Then some people pulled us apart, and were able to explain to Oscar… I was trying to explain to him while we were fighting… that I was actually on his side in this thing. Then about 10 minutes later he came and grabbed me and dragged me down into the Barra and I sort of stayed ever since.”
Despite his long relationship with the Club and testifying in front of the D.C. City Council in an effort that ultimately helped win the permission for the construction of D.C. United’s new home, Rob had never visited the Stadium at Buzzard Point. A 2012 diagnosis with a rare form of Leukemia upended Rob’s life and he was eventually forced to move out of the area due to the financial strain; leaving the District before Audi Field ever opened its gates.
After years away, Rob finally came home to D.C. and on July 12th he headed to Audi Field to see his team, D.C. United, face off against the New England Revolution.
Rob’s first reaction to seeing Audi Field was one of almost disbelief, as he saw the long-awaited new home of D.C. United. He said, “It was surreal, to turn down third street and see the stadium for the first time. Finally, it was there after all those years.”
Although happy to see a new home for D.C. United realized, Rob felt that something was missing. “I share Bruce Arena’s disappointment that there isn’t more connection with the past. That’s something I noticed right off.” Rob said.
Accompanied by his sister, Aryka, and his son, Marco (named after Bolivian and D.C. legend, Marco Etcheverry), Rob was in for a warm reception. He said, “it was just a great experience, definitely a coming home, even though we live in a new house.”
“It was amazing. It really was. I went to training on Thursday. I’ve been friends with Ben and Dave Kasper for almost 20 years, and I got a good chance to talk to them and see them. Ben made sure all the players came over and said hello. I don’t know most of them, so they introduced themselves. I went up into 130 to see Marco’s aunt and uncle, and that’s where a lot of the old time Screaming Eagles are at and people clapped when I went up there. I was completely overwhelmed by that… It was just one old friend after another.”
While Rob spent the match alongside the Barra Brava and friends he hadn’t seen in years, his family were guests of a local medical practice and D.C. United official oral surgeons, Fairfax Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (FOMS), in their suite. Prior to Rob’s homecoming, FOMS had taken to social media to auction off suite tickets in support of his treatment.
At halftime, Rob made his way to the FOMS suite to check on his son and thank those who had participated in the auction on his behalf. Dave Johnson, play-by-play announcer and legend in the D.C. sports scene, was there to greet him. Having known each other for years, Dave wanted to show his support by spending the match with Rob’s family and some of the community who had come together to support him.
“From day one he has cared about the team and he has cared about others. In short, Rob helped make D.C. United more than a club, he helped make it a family. Through good times and not so good we are always united, and it only adds to the times when we are united with Rob.”
… Dave Johnson, D.C. United play-by-play announcer
D.C. United took a draw against Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution, finishing the match 2-2. Even after dramatics on the pitch worthy of an Oscar (Quincy Amarikwa’s stunning goal, anyone?), the Black-and-Red were unable to secure three points at home.
Ben Olsen, who Gillespie has watched play (and now coach) since he was a young man, came over to greet his old friend.
“Ben came over to see me at the end of the game and, he had tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘God I wanted to get that win for you. I’m so sorry.’ I said, ‘No man, it was great. A great comeback. I’m really happy.’”
“I wasn’t happy about the unpleasant little thing that happened.” Rob said, referring to those who chose that poignant moment to begin chanting ‘Olsen out.’ “I thought it was disrespectful. Ben’s done as much if not more than anyone to build that house, that beautiful stadium that we have… That was a really special time for me and him. I would have rather they said [something] about me than about Ben.” Rob continued, “I don’t think it’s wrong to criticize somebody… There was a place and time for that kind of criticism. But that [the stadium] was not the place. Especially not for someone like Ben.”
Gillespie wasn’t alone in his criticism of those choosing that moment to voice their criticism of D.C. United’s coach. Supporters took the offenders to task on social media, calling them out for their poor timing.
“We always had a rule or a policy within the Barra Brava where we did not boo the team, we didn’t do any of these negative things in the stadium, it wasn’t the place. That was the place for 100% support, win, lose, or draw.”
‘Win Championships, Serve the Community’
Gillespie has long been a part of D.C. United’s legacy to serve the community, participating in everything from cleanups at the Anacostia River, to getting local schools ready for the new school year. He has taken to heart D.C. United’s slogan of ‘win championships, serve the community’.
Rob believes, “There is no better way to get rewards than to give.” After years of serving the community he loves, Gillespie is now the one in need of help.
“My life is a perfect example of that I always tried to give. I never thought I would need any help. Look at me now, I’m still alive in large part because of my relationship with D.C. United. I could not raise the money I need for cancer treatment without that relationship.”
With his out of pocket cancer treatment costs totaling between $3,500-5,000, plus travel, each month, Rob has come to rely on his community – his D.C. United family, to help him raise the money he needs to stay alive. “The people that support me day in and day out, week in and week out, they are D.C. United people.”
While Rob’s cancer is rare and incurable, treatment is helping to extend his life. As a single father, Gillespie is driven to continue fighting cancer to have more time with his son, Marco.
Sometimes, help comes from unexpected places. Just last year, “out of nowhere, Jozy Altidore donated $1,700. This is a player I’ve had no connection with and that just really gave me a little bit of breathing room. It really helped.” Rob said.
Of course, “the ideal situation is that you wouldn’t have to do this at all and could just focus on getting healthy.” Rob has had to conduct constant fundraising since he depleted his $900,000 savings and proceeds from the sale of his house. Gillespie calls the process, “humiliating and extremely stressful.”
Even through the hardships, Rob remains positive and committed to the D.C. United and Barra Brava family, the same family he credits with keeping him alive through their fundraising efforts and sharing his story.
“You can never go wrong by thinking about DC United or the Barra, or the Screaming Eagles, or whomever as a family. You want to show that love and respect and put in that work that you would in a family. Care for your brothers and sisters who are at your side. That’s really important.”
As Rob continues his battle with cancer, the D.C. United family remembers how much he has given to our community, and we all stand with him, united.
Author’s Note: If you would like to support Rob Gillespie’s fight against cancer and help him pay for life extending treatment so he can continue to be with his son, please donate!
PayPal/Venmo: firstname.lastname@example.org or CashApp: $MarcoDad
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Demos tudo até ao último segundo, mas não foi possível seguir em frente. Obrigado a todos pelo apoio incondicional durante toda a competição e sempre. Somos uma grande família e continuaremos, sempre, a dar tudo por Portugal! pic.twitter.com/qaJVI6JEUx
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?
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.
10th Own Goal this #worldcup. Good luck catching that Kane.
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*.
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.
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.