Category Archives: Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United FC

All the Fun is in the A

 

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, May 20: 4-1 Win

This weekend was SO. MUCH. FUN. The Atlanta United game on Saturday night was obviously a huge part of that, but the annual fundraising event I attended on Sunday is one of my favorite events to be a part of. More on that in a minute – first, the game!

The day started out well enough. I checked the weather report as soon as I woke up and saw 30-40% chance of rain in the afternoon, but it didn’t look serious….Until about 4pm when we saw some clouds rolling in. Still, no rain, so we assumed it was going to skirt by us. Until it didn’t. Fortunately for me, I jumped into the van I had rented to bring all the tailgate equipment in just seconds before the deluge.

The march to the match was already well on its way, though. Because of the lightning, the stadium gates were closed and everyone who wasn’t inside yet was sent to a parking deck to wait it out. The game ended up being delayed about an hour, but fortunately, once the storm passed, we didn’t have any more weather issues. Well, except for one minor malfunction during the national anthem. The hired singer’s microphone didn’t work, but the crowd realized it quickly and belted out the anthem for him and it was a beautiful thing:

And then…holy cow. After missing so many chances last week in Portland because he kept passing the ball, Miguel Almiron was asked by the coaches to take the shots this week. They didn’t have to tell him twice. Almiron is the second ATLUTD player to get a hat trick this season – and ATLUTD is the first expansion team to have two players with a hat trick in their first season.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for two days now. You’re welcome for the ear worm.

Julian Gressel also got his second goal in a week. I watched this on replay a few times last night and it gets funnier each time. He gets the ball, loses the ball, gets mad that he lost the ball, and then “hey! There it is!” and into the back of the net it goes.

Almiron’s third goal was Atlanta’s very first penalty kick this season after Tito Villalba was taken down in the box.

A little earlier in the game, Villalba appeared to take a bit of a knock to the face in the box in the middle of the second half, but no foul was called. The Houston keeper kicked the ball out of bounds right at the ATL coach, Tata Martino, who kicked it right back on the field…maybe with a bit more enthusiasm than he should have…and the ref ran over and ejected him from the game. Chants of “we want Tata” were heard a couple of times after that.

We also witnessed the debut appearance of one of ATL’s homegrown players – and a huge fan favorite – Andrew Carleton. The 16-year-old came in for Almiron in the last few minutes of the game. He didn’t have a whole lot to do, but the crowd went absolutely INSANE when he stepped on the pitch.

The atmosphere at this game was incredible – it was very close to the same feeling we all had at the season opener, only better because we walked out of there with three points. I am hopeful that it will carry over to this Sunday’s game vs NYCFC – our second game against them in 4 weeks, but this time at home.

As I mentioned previously, this past Sunday was the major annual fundraiser for Soccer in the Streets, the local Atlanta charity that my supporters group has been working with for over three years. Every May, they host the ATL Champions League, where co-ed teams play 7v7 games in a round-robin tournament.

This year was the largest yet, with 16 teams (all named after actual European teams from EPL, La Liga and Serie A, except for the ATLUTD team). This year’s tournament was held at the ATLUTD training center. For the third year, Terminus Legion attended the tournament to support the ATLUTD team composed of front office staff – including club president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra. TL brings water, Gatorade, and orange slices (because you can’t have a soccer tournament without orange slices, right?!).

The ATLUTD team were defending the trophy they won in 2016 and went undefeated through the first round and semi-finals, but lost in the final game 1-0 vs the Manchester United team (who were wearing green jerseys because several of the Soccer in the Streets board members are Liverpool fans).

The total amount raised by the players and teams was over $130,000. Terminus Legion raised $1200 with raffles at watch parties and donation buckets at tailgates for the last two months, and a footgolf tournament.

We’ll be at it again in a couple of months to raise more money for the Black Tie Soccer Game, which is usually hilarious. People in gowns and tuxedos playing soccer (or Carlos Bocanegra in a kilt!), or like last year, when the event fell the weekend before Halloween and each team had a theme (Smurfs, the Addams Family – Darren Eales was Gomez).

It really was a great weekend. Looking forward to doing it again this weekend!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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GRESSELMANIA!

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Full disclosure: I haven’t rewatched the game from Sunday against Portland Timbers, so I’m going to just gloss over the finer details of it and talk about a few observations I noted while watching on Sunday. For another perspective of the game, you can read my MLSFemale counterpart, Sheba’s article here.

I have to agree with Sheba about the ball Yamil Asad took to the head and the possibility of him having a concussion and yet continuing to play. I know Atlanta United takes these injuries seriously – Jeff Larentowicz just returned from being out for two games because of a hit he took a few weeks ago. Not sure if Yamil took it seriously, though.

And I don’t disagree that the tackle that Carlos Carmona got a yellow for was far more dangerous than it needed to be. I don’t want to see him get suspended, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is.

Things we learned this week:

  • Miguel Almiron has no right foot – he had a couple of chances for goals, but either passed to someone else who missed or had a shot saved or shot with his left foot and missed.
  • Asad can do more than throw ‘bows – scroll down to #1 in Matt Doyle’s weekly recap to see Asad’s backheel nutmeg pass to Almiron.
  • Rookies can score goals! Julian Gressel was picked 8th in the MLS SuperDraft this year and has been having such a great start to the season that he’s already gotten a catchy nickname (Gresselmania) and his own fan-made t-shirt. On Sunday in Portland, he scored his first goal – and it was lovely.

And, in case you haven’t seen the shirt yet, here’s the tweet I sent out after the game (that Gressel liked!):

And finally:

  • Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is probably the best CB in MLS right now – totally my opinion, but I’m not the only one who thinks so:

It was a much better game for us with Tito Villalba up top instead of Kenwyne Jones. Much love for Kenwyne, but he’s just not fast and this team was built for speed. The boys still need to work a bit on finishing their chances, but these numbers tell me we’ll be ok:

For the first time ever in ATLUTD’s short history, we have back to back home games!! This Saturday, we are hosting Houston Dynamo and May 28th we host NYCFC on a correctly sized field. 😉

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Tales From A Tiny Field

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, May 7: 3-1 Loss

I don’t even know where to start with this one. It was not our best game. In fact, it was probably the worst. And the first time we’ve had back to back losses – although I’m sure it won’t be the last. Something is not clicking with the team lately. I have an idea what it could be, but really, I’d just like to blame it on the teeny tiny field in Yankee Stadium.

The one good thing that happened during this game was that Carlos Carmona got his first MLS goal. And it was a stunner.

So many not so good things, though. I wonder if they’re just struggling because of the lineup changes every week. Between injuries and suspensions, I don’t think we’ve had the same lineup two weeks in a row yet. It’s mostly the same, but with Yamil Asad out suspended (again!) this week, Miguel Almiron was pushed out to the left to cover for him. Almiron is pretty much amazing wherever he plays, but I think the general consensus in ATL is that he’s more natural in the middle.

We did manage to make it out of another game without a single red card – or questionable play that ended in a suspension – but the boys came back from NYC with four yellow cards (Gressel, Parkhurst, Larentowicz, and Mears).

Other than the lineup and fouls, the only other factor was that field. It’s so small. The players just look like they’re tripping over each other. All the games I’ve watched at NYC have seemed that way. They really do have a heck of a home field advantage.

Next Sunday, ATL is away again at Portland. With Portland coming off a terrible loss and having home field advantage, I’m not sure I’m feeling so confident going into this game. I can only hope that with Asad back on the left and Almiron in the middle, the boys will be back on their game. And maybe we’ll have Martinez back from injury????? *Fingers and toes and arms and legs and eyes crossed* Is it sad that I’m really hoping the Timbers Army has a kick-ass tifo for us this weekend, too?

In other news, our Academy boys are killing it for the US teams! Andrew Carleton (aka “Frosted Orange” by his fans) and Zyen Jones tallied a few goals to help the U-17 team qualify for the U-17 World Cup in India. Here’s one of Carleton’s goals:

A few other tidbits:

  • Academy player Lagos Kunga was called up to the US U-20 World Cup roster.
  • The next home game (vs Houston) on 5/20 is the fourth consecutive sell out game for ATLUTD.
  • If you live in the South and/or have Fox Sports South, make sure to watch the ATLUTD Match Week this week; Brittany Arnold did a great interview with Tito Villalba (heart eyes emoji).

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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ATLvDC

 

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, April 30: 1-3 Loss

I am really struggling to find something to write about. There wasn’t much good that came out of Sunday’s game. We scored two goals, but one was an own goal… We dominated the game, stats-wise, but we still lost… No red cards, but we ended up having a player suspended anyway.

Sunday morning started out cloudy and a little rainy. Shortly after noon, the sun came out and brought the humidity with it. I’m not sure it affected the players, but it did affect the crowd a little. Drinking adult beverages for 4 hours at the tailgate + temperatures over 85 degrees (in April!?) made things a bit uncomfortable in the stands. I heard that several people had to be treated for possible dehydration. I drank two bottles of water in the second half alone.

I was, however, really excited about this game because my favorite soccer store set up a tent at the Terminus Legion tailgate and I finally got my training jersey personalized with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez‘s name and number on it, completing my Argentinean trio of jerseys.

The game itself started off pretty well for Atlanta United. We controlled the game for about the first 25 minutes before it all went to hell. Tito Villalba had two shots in less than two minutes – both of which were saved by Bill Hamid. In the 9th minute, Miguel Almiron snagged the ball just outside the box and passed to Greg Garza, who tapped the ball to Yamil Asad. Asad slid to his right to get around a DC United defender and lifted a cross right into the path of Kenwyne Jones, who headed the ball into the back of the net. A few minutes later, Jones had another chance, but the ball went wide of the net.

In the 25th minute, DC got their first goal by way of an unfortunate own goal by Michael Parkhurst. Parky was probably a half step too late to touch that ball and ended up deflecting it past Alec Kann into the net. This was about when the game started to go downhill for Atlanta.

While we still managed to dominate the game (see the graphic below), Atlanta couldn’t manage to get the ball past Hamid. We had 26 shots. TWENTY SIX. And 74% possession. How about that passing accuracy, too? I still don’t know how we didn’t win this game.

Yamil Asad was shown a yellow card in the second half for raising his elbow while going in to take the ball away from Lloyd Sam. I’ve watched the clip a few times and it doesn’t look like any contact was actually made, but DisCo reviewed the tape and ended up suspending Asad for a game anyway. That kid really needs to learn to keep his elbows down (no more listening to Ludacris’ “Southern Hospitality” before games, I guess). I’m considering bringing duct tape to the next home game for him.

I feel like there was something off about our defense this week. Was it because Jeff Larentowicz was out (concussion protocol)? I can’t put my finger on it, but I hope they work out the kinks in practice this week and get it together for NYCFC next weekend.

Our next two games are away – in two of the trickiest stadiums to play in. Yankee Stadium because of it’s weird dimensions and the following week in Portland because of Timbers Army. With any luck, the slightly odd dimensions of Bobby Dodd and the crazy ATL crowd will have prepared the boys for what they’re about to face.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Rookie Goals FTW

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 22: 1-3 Win

In their fourth road game in as many weeks, Atlanta United finally got the win we’ve all been waiting for in Salt Lake this weekend. They managed to get through an entire game with no red cards for either side (but a few yellows), and one of the teenagers scored his first MLS goal.

First things first, though: earlier this week, ATLUTD successfully appealed the red card given to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in last week’s game with Montreal Impact (I did say it was questionable last week, and the independent panel agreed). We also got Yamil Asad back from his red card suspension and Tyrone Mears back from his ankle injury. Unfortunately, Josef Martinez is still out with his quad injury and there have been no comments on when he will be back yet.

ATLUTD trotted out yet another lineup this week at Rio Tinto. Kenwyne Jones was back for his second start, Asad was back in the left midfield, Miguel Almiron in center mid, with Carlos Carmona and Jeff Larentowicz behind him. Julian Gressel was on the bench, which was weird (he came in in the 78th minute for Tito Villalba). Also of note, rookies Brandon Vazquez and Miles Robinson were in the 18 for this game and brought in late, but more about Vazquez later.

The game got off to an awkward start for ATLUTD. Sloppy passing and bad giveaways were way too abundant in the first 20 minutes. Tito did manage to get a ball past Nick Rimando for ATL’s first goal in the 9th minute, though. Almiron tried first, but his shot was saved, then Tito followed up and Rimando saved it, but it bounced right back to Tito, who launched it into the back of the net.

Once the boys got their first goal, things started to fall into place a little easier. The first half ended with ATL up a goal on the hosts, and the second half saw Yamil Asad getting his second goal of the season in the 46th minute.

Real Salt Lake pulled to within one with a goal by Rusnak in the 69th minute.

While we managed to get out of this game with no red cards (on either side, for a change), ATL still managed to bring home four yellow cards with those three points. Carmona was shown a yellow in the first half for a hard tackle on Kyle Beckerman. In the second half, Greg Garza was shown yellow for a hard challenge and a few minutes later, Almiron was awarded a free kick from a hard challenge, missed his shot and got a yellow for wasting time on the corner kick. The final yellow was shown to goalie Alec Kann for wasting time as well – something ATL’s commentator Kevin Egan mentioned would probably happen early on in the game.

The big story of the night was 19-year-old Brandon Vazquez scoring his very first MLS goal three minutes into his professional debut for ATLUTD. And he made it look so effortless, too:

All in all, not the best performance from ATL – I think they played better last week, but Almiron made the MLS Team of the Week for the third time already this season, so that’s pretty good, right? I was quite sad to see that Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was yet again left off the Team of the Week. He’s been so amazing on the field so far and it’s rather disappointing that he’s not been recognized for that yet. My friends at Dirty South Soccer feel the same way:

Other notes from this week:

  • We heard this week that the opening of Mercedes Benz Stadium has once again been delayed because of construction complications with the roof. This time, though, it means that an ATLUTD game will not be the first event in the new stadium. The first ATLUTD game scheduled to play at the Benz now is vs FC Dallas on 9/9.
  • This also means that a few games have been rescheduled. Our first home game vs Orlando City was shifted up a day to 7/29 and will be played at Bobby Dodd, which has been our temporary home since the beginning of the season. Two more games (vs MNUFC and LA Galaxy) that were scheduled to be played at the Benz in August are being moved, likely to October since our schedule in September is already pretty crowded.
  • Our next game is FINALLY at home vs DC United this Sunday, 4/30. It was announced earlier today that the game is the third consecutive sell out. Not bad, Atlanta, not bad at all.
  • Another interesting tidbit that my pals at Dirty South Soccer calculated this weekend was that ATLUTD have only trailed for 19 minutes this season. Details here.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Red Cards, Fouls and No-Calls, Oh My!

Robyn Saghini - Atlanta United FC/mlsfemale
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

For our third road game in as many weeks, Atlanta United traveled back up to Canada to meet up with Montreal Impact. Everyone and their brother expected ATL to come out of this one with three points, but due to a couple of questionable calls – and maybe some fouls that weren’t called – ATL ended up with their second loss of the season. It was also the first loss that actually felt like a loss.

The first loss happened in week one, another 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but because it was the first game and the atmosphere was amazing, everyone was still smiling and laughing leaving the stadium. We may not have gotten any points out of that game, but we had a team and that trumped whatever the final result was.

This loss, though…this one hurt. All the indicators before the game said that ATL would come out of this one with a win. Montreal hadn’t won a game yet this season and early on in the week, their player Nacho Piatti was still questionable for Saturday’s game, but when the lineups came out around noon on Saturday, there he was.

The lineups also showed some changes for Atlanta. With Yamil Asad out on a red card, coach Tata Martino moved Miguel Almiron out to the left and brought in Kenwyne Jones up top for his first start. Ty Mears was a late scratch due to an ankle injury, so Mark Bloom got his first start at right back.

For Atlanta, the two top stories out of this game were Kenwyne’s first MLS goal and the (rather questionable) red card for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, both of which happened late in the first half.

Carlos Carmona intercepted a Montreal goal kick at mid-field and passed to Tito Villalba, who got in a cross to Kenwyne for his first goal in MLS. It was a great shot that was perfectly executed and the celebration afterwards deserved five stars.

The bigger story, though, was the red card to Pirez. The Argentinean defender has been nothing short of amazing in the first five games. In about the 45th minute, both Pirez and Montreal’s Matteo Mancosu were in the box, trying to recover a pass. Arms and legs were tangled and it ended with Mancosu on the ground, a penalty called, and a red card for Pirez. Below are a couple of different angles of the play. You judge for yourself.

And then there was this play where a foul was called, but only a yellow card was given to Montreal:

And for a full report on the fouls called (or not) during the game, skip to 7:12 in Simon Borg’s Instant Replay. At least Simon didn’t think it should be a red card. In a nutshell, ATLUTD got MLS’d this weekend. PROReferees have been inconsistent at best and that’s disturbing. But that’s a story for another day.

ATLUTD’s front office says it is their policy to not comment on whether they will appeal the red card, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Pirez is exonerated or not. *Fingers crossed*

The second goal for Montreal came in stoppage time of the second half and was maybe one of the weirdest “how the heck did that happen” goals I’ve seen yet.

HOW?!

Next week is the final away game in this stretch and it’s out to Salt Lake City to take on the new and improved Real Salt Lake under new coach Mike Petke and his famous sweater collection. (If you want some laughs, follow @PetkesSweater on Twitter) Here’s to hoping we can hand my former favorite coach his first loss next Saturday.

In other (happier) ATLUTD news, lots of other things have happened this week:

  • ATLUTD held the grand opening of their $60 million training facility and I was there! Check out that story here.
  • Homegrown players Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin and Academy player Zyen Jones have been called up to the U-17 Men’s National team to compete in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama. While this means we’ll lose Carleton and Goslin as options for the next month, we are SUPER proud of them!
  • Sunday, April 16th marked the third anniversary of the MLS Atlanta announcement. Happy 3rd birthday, ATLUTD!
  • Charleston Battery player and ATLUTD loanee Romario Williams had a pretty good game on Saturday:

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Home Sweet Home

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Tuesday, April 11 – Marietta, GA

On a beautiful, sunny spring Tuesday, Atlanta United FC had a housewarming party. A handful of fans (and lots of media folks) were invited to attend the grand opening of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Facility in Marietta, GA, just northwest of Atlanta.

This training center has been in the works for almost two years now. First, it was going to be in Dekalb County, just down the street from the location of the very first Home Depot ever (a nod to Arthur Blank‘s former career). Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that the site that was chosen was not an ideal location. From what I remember, the site was previously a landfill and the ground wasn’t suitable for building on.

After what I’m sure was a bit of a scramble for the ATLUTD front office, a second site was located, just off of I-75 in Marietta. Construction began about 14 months ago at the new site and today was the ceremonial grand opening. The team has actually been practicing at their new home for about a week already and seem to be settling in pretty well.

The facility is gorgeous. There are floor to ceiling windows everywhere and the entire building feels really open and bright. There is a main entrance, which is the door all of the players, from U12s through the first team will walk through. To the right of the lobby are the team offices and to the left are the locker rooms and gym.

Just off the lobby, which overlooks two of the training fields, is the Tactics Room, where the team can study game tapes. This room also holds the trophy case, which already holds a few treasures like the first game ball, Josef Martinez‘s hat trick game ball, signed by the team, and the Soccer in the Streets ATL Champions League trophy that the ATLUTD staff won last year (more on this event in May, when the staff will field another team and I’ll be there with orange slices cheering them on!).

Nearly the entire facility was open for us to explore, so of course we started with the dining hall. They even had food for us to sample – which was great because I skipped lunch to get there on time. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember hearing Darren Eales (ATLUTD President) and Carlos Bocanegra (Technical Director) talk about nutritionists and something or other before. All I know is that the food is delicious and the views of the fields were incredible.

Next, we headed downstairs to the gym, where I nearly fell flat on my face because the first person I saw was Tito Villalba (insert heart eyes emoji here). It must have been a conditioning day for a few of the guys. Tito was on a bike, Ty Mears was running on a treadmill and a few others were working with weights while the rest of the team was out on the field. I managed to get a pic of Tito talking to one of the coaches and Martinez before I was told not to take pictures. Whoops! 😉

We also ran into Josef again in the locker room, where I gave him the Terminus Legion scarf I was wearing. 🙂 Have I mentioned yet how adorable and sweet all of the guys have been? Because they are.

After the first team locker room, we quickly checked out the academy teams’ locker rooms, which are basically giant walk-in closets with cubby holes for the players’ stuff. No fancy round room with 22-foot high ceilings and windows at the top. Just gray and boring. The idea is to make each locker room a little nicer than the next so that the players want to keep moving up until they get to the first team.

We walked around outside for a while and talked to some of the front office staff. We did get to meet the Fox Sports South reporter, Brittany Arnold, who hung out and talked to us for a good 20 minutes.

IMG_3035
Hanging out with Brittany Arnold from Fox Sports South

On a side note, we are still waiting on construction updates on Mercedes Benz Stadium. During his speech, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said something like “when we get into Mercedes Benz Stadium in September,” which caused a bit of gossip later. And as I was writing this, I saw the helpful tweet below pop up. So that’s that, I guess.

All in all, it was a pretty great day. The boys have their home now. Things can only go up from here, right? On to Montreal this Saturday! How do you say “A-T-L” in French?

Images courtesy: Robyn Saghini

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A Point in The 6

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

Saturday, April 8: 2-2 Draw

Atlanta United FC have earned themselves some serious respect around the league these last two games. Splitting points with both of last year’s MLS Cup finalists is pretty impressive. Tito Villalba found his fire, Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona were back in the starting lineup to fuel that fire, and Decatur-native goalkeeper Alec Kann had a hell of a game.

I’m happy to say that Tito is working really hard to prove me wrong. Last week, I said I didn’t think he was a natural forward – and I’m sticking by what I said, but he certainly improved this week. Tito was ATLUTD’s Man of the Match last night with a brace – and what golazos they were! The first goal of the game came in the 15th minute on a perfect through pass from Miguel Almiron to Tito on the right. Tito’s shot went right through Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono‘s hands and into the net. His second goal came a little over a minute into the second half. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sent a pass that Tito grabbed and then fought his way into the 18 with Chris Mavinga, ending with a shot that went right through Bono’s legs.

It was great to see “La Banda” (almost) completely back together on the field last night. We’re still missing Josef Martinez (two weeks down; 2-4 weeks to go), but in the meantime, it’s great to see Almiron and Carmona back in the starting lineup. Almiron had a couple of shots last night, including an amazing one that should have gone into the upper 90, but was deflected by Bono’s fingertips.

Unfortunately, Yamil Asad got sent off for getting an elbow to the back of Eriq Zavaleta‘s head in the 75th minute. I thought it was unintentional (and maybe embellished a bit by Zavaleta?), but it is what it is. We’ll just have to wait and see what DisCo says about it later this week. On a sidenote, I was wearing my away jersey with Asad’s name and number on it last night at our watch party and felt like I should have gone home when he was sent off.

While watching the replay today, I also heard (it was too loud to actually hear anything last night) that one of the ATLUTD assistant coaches was sent off in place of Tata Martino. From what I understand, Tata was arguing with someone about Toronto’s head coach Greg Vanney talking to Asad before he was sent off. Haven’t heard any more about it since then, so I’m not sure what actually happened.

ATLUTD managed to hang on, despite a couple of close calls, thanks to goalkeeper Alec Kann, who has been fantastic in goal so far this year. So much so that many fans in Atlanta are wondering why we’re even bothering to bring in Brad Guzan this summer. How that fight for starting position goes remains to be seen, but it’s something we’ll revisit in July when Guzan gets to town.

Last night saw the first goal against ATLUTD in over 260 minutes, which only proves how good of a job our defense has been doing already this season – a bit of a happy surprise for the fans here. Up until a few weeks ago, we thought we’d be scoring tons of goals and letting almost as many in, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. At this point, ATLUTD has scored 13 goals, and has let in only 5. A goal differential of +8 is quite a nice cushion, but some more Ws would be preferred.

Additional observations:

  • I love Jozy Altidore when he plays for the USMNT, but he’s so frustrating. Seems to have the same issues at his club team a lot, but that little back heel pass to Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto’s first goal was so pretty.
  • Atlanta’s first homegrown player, Andrew Carleton, was on the bench for last night’s game, which caused quite the stir here at home. We cannot wait for the Frosted Orange (if you’re from ATL, you’ll get that reference) to get on the field for the first time. Personally, I’m hoping it’s at home, but we shall see.
  • Kenwyne Jones needs some more minutes on the field. He came in at the 84th minute for Villalba last night and did a great job, managing to get a couple of chances.

We are currently sitting tied with Chicago Fire for 2nd place in the East with 8 points. That could change, depending on the results from this afternoon’s ORLvNY game – a win for either of them would put them in 2nd. I can’t say I’d complain about either spot – I certainly didn’t expect to be this high up in the standings at this point in the season. It’s a great feeling and I hope it lasts well into the summer.

At this point, though, I’d settle for having the boys home for a game for a change, but we’ve got two away games before that. Next week, ATLUTD remains on the road, and back to Canada to take on Montreal Impact and the following week, they’ll be out in Utah to take on Real Salt Lake. Three weeks till ATLvDC at home, but it can’t come soon enough!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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Oh, what a relief!

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

Atlanta United fans have a few things to be relieved about after Friday night’s 0-0 draw at Seattle. First, we got out of there with a point. Second, despite definitely missing our regular starters due to injury (Josef Martinez) and international play earlier in the week (Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona, Kenwyne Jones), we didn’t falter. And finally, no new injuries…that we know of.

As anyone who knows soccer knows, a 0-0 game can be really good or really bad. This one was really good. Possession was almost literally 50-50 (50.2% for Seattle Sounders to 49.8% for Atlanta, I believe), so there was a lot of back and forth. A few chances for both teams to get a goal, most notably Clint Dempsey‘s header that ricocheted off the post (I could kiss that post!) and Kenwyne Jones’ shot that was blocked by Cristian Roldan (dang it!), both in the second half.

Honestly, lots of us were very nervous about how this game would go. With Martinez injured and Almiron and Carmona not in the starting lineup, we didn’t know what to expect. Tito Villalba was the lone forward with Jacob Peterson and Chris McCann in the midfield to start. As much as I love Tito, I don’t think he’s a natural forward. Maybe it was because Seattle’s defense was all over him, but other than one run early in the game that was stopped by Stefan Frei, he didn’t really have any clear chances at goal.

Our defense, however, did an incredible job. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was a brick wall. There wasn’t much that got by him, which is why he was this week’s Man of the Match (from ATLUTD’s perspective). He’s really been outstanding so far this season. Local ATL guy Alec Kann made us nervous a couple of times, but managed to come out of this game with his second shutout.

Oh, and LGP did this, too:

I watched Friday’s game at a bar with about a hundred other faithful ATLUTD fans who made it to Buckhead despite the *minor* traffic rerouting on Friday. The first time Julian Gressel touched the ball, a huge roar of “GRESSELMANIA”  filled the bar. And when Almiron was subbed in, he got a huge ovation from the crowd at Fado. Chris McCann’s wife was there with us, and she told a friend of mine that she enjoyed it and is planning to come back for other away games to watch with us, which was pretty awesome.

As far as injuries go, Greg Garza went down late in the game clutching his hip, which was distressing to many people who know his history. Fortunately, he did get back up and continue in the game, but it remains to be seen if he will be healthy enough to play next weekend in Toronto.

Other notes:

  • ATLUTD fans don’t know what to do with themselves when the boys don’t score within the first 10 minutes of a game. We may be spoiled.
  •  The ATL players seemed a bit frustrated this week, I hope just because they were still adjusting to the new lineup. I haven’t looked back to compare, but the foul count seems rather high for us this game (18 for ATL, 7 for SEA).
  • Two yellow cards were given to ATL players; to Gressel in the 20th minute for a studs up slide on Roldan (that could have been a red, so phew!) and to Yamil Asad in the 43rd minute for a foul on Lodiero.
  • Interesting note: this was ATL’s first game on turf. Right now, at Bobby Dodd Stadium, they are playing on grass, but when we move to Mercedes Benz Stadium in July, they’ll be playing on turf.
  • The boys will be getting a better look at that turf this week when they finally move to the official training ground! I’m hoping for an open practice soon so I can check it out for myself.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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International Breaks are No Fun

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

March 25: International Break

It’s week 4 of the 2017 MLS season and Atlanta United FC isn’t playing. *sad face*

Lucky for us here in Atlanta, there was an event to help us quell our thirst for soccer while a handful of our boys are on international duty. ATLSoccerCon held its second annual event today on the west side of town. Set up in an indoor soccer facility, there were supporter groups of ATLUTD and international teams, vendors, Subbueto games, and some jersey, scarf and memorabilia collections. Outside, there was the ever-present beer trailer, a food truck, and a giant foot darts game.

ATLSoccerCon was started by a few of my friends who are massive soccer nerds – and I mean that in the best way. Austin Long is a self-labeled kit nerd and regular podcaster, both on his own (check out his Soccer Nomad podcast here) and also hosts the Terminus Legion podcast (you can find those on Soundcloud and iTunes). Jason Longshore is an editor for the Atlanta United blog, Dirty South Soccer (my favorite source of ATLUTD news), runs soccerdownhere.com, and also happens to be a commentator for the ATLUTD game broadcasts on local radio station 92.9 The Game. He kind of knows his stuff, especially when it comes to Atlanta soccer. JR Francis is a marketing and design guru – he’s the designer behind the Terminus Legion logo (along with tons of other designs). He’s also got the most massive collection of jerseys I’ve ever seen.

A good time was had by all in attendance at ATLSoccerCon and it took our minds off of the injury that Josef Martinez suffered during Thursday night’s Venezuela – Peru game, if only for a few hours.

From what we hear, it’s a left thigh injury. He came back to Atlanta and was scheduled for an MRI today, but no word as of yet what the results were or whether he will be available for Friday night’s game at Seattle. At least we know he’ll be around for a while, though, since ATLUTD  finalized the permanent transfer of Martinez from Torino this Tuesday. Oh, and Martinez also won MLS Goal of the Week for this shot in the ATLvCHI game:

Meanwhile, Miguel Almiron played for Paraguay, also on Thursday, in a 2-2 draw with Ecuador, Carlos Carmona stayed on the bench for Chile’s 1-0 loss to Argentina, and Kenwyne Jones played 84 minutes for Trinidad & Tobago in their 1-0 win over Panama.

In other news, this article by Doug Roberson of the AJC made my day, specifically this quote from ATLUTD’s rookie sensation, Julian Gressel: “On the field, I remember in the second half, you are on the field and you hear the main supporter’s section going ‘Atlanta’ and the rest of the stadium go ‘United.’ I was on the field and I had to take a deep breath for a second and regroup to focus on the game again. It was breath-taking. It was unreal.” The new hashtag #GresselMania is also a thing here in Atlanta, much to the amusement of some of Gressel’s teammates.

ATLUTD has a four (FOUR!!) game road trip coming up this month, mostly to accommodate for Georgia Tech’s spring football games. Our first major test of the season will be next Friday’s game at Seattle, especially now with Clint Dempsey appearing to be in top form after the USMNT’s rather decisive victory over Honduras last night. Holy cow.

In the meantime, since ATLUTD aren’t playing tonight, I’m getting my live soccer fix by watching some former Atlanta Silverbacks players (Poku and Chavez for Miami and Paul Black for NCFC) in the North Carolina FC vs Miami FC NASL season opener. Yay for random cable networks I never knew existed! The game just ended as a 1-1 draw. Good to see those boys in action again this year!

See y’all next weekend when hopefully I’ll be reporting some good news after SEAvATL!

Featured image of Martinez courtesy: atlutd.com

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