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Atlanta United FC Preseason Recap – Part II

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

February 27, 2017

Way back in October 2016, it was announced that Atlanta United would participate in the 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup hosted by the USL side (and ATLUTD affiliate) Charleston Battery. Minutes after the announcement, I booked two hotel rooms in Mt. Pleasant, SC for each weekend of the tournament for me and my friends. At that point, the team had fewer than 10 players signed, I believe, but that didn’t matter. Any excuse to go see our team play as early as possible!

I drove the four and a half ours out to Charleston on Friday, February 17th, and met up that night with some friends who had also driven in from ATL and surrounding areas. The next morning, after brunch with my soccer besties, we drove out to Daniel Island for the tailgate and game. By the time we got there around noon, the tailgate was just about in full swing. All of the Charleston and Atlanta supporters groups were next to each other, sharing beer and food and getting hyped for the game.

ATLUTD vs Columbus Crew was the first game of the tournament. Fresh off that 4-0 win in Chattanooga, the fans were feeling really optimistic about our chances in the tournament. Atlanta went up 1-0 on a diving header by Josef Martinez in the 6th minute and kept the lead going into the half. A lot of the talk at halftime was that the ATL side was looking really tired towards the end of the half. There was concern about them being match ready for the rest of the week and for the season opener. In the second half,  Columbus’ Federico Higuain scored a brace, to hand ATLUTD their first (and only) loss of the preseason.

Yamil Asad + me
Yamil Asad + me

I won’t lie, it was a huge bummer, but we knew it was going to happen eventually. Fortunately, it was only preseason. And we stuck around for the second game to watch the Battery take on the Seattle Sounders. I ended up going to the pub in the stadium for some food and missed the Seattle goal, but went back out for the second half and watched the Battery score a goal at the death to get a draw against the reigning MLS champs, which was pretty amazing.

The second round of games were on Wednesday, so I wasn’t able to attend in person, but I went to a watch party at Fado Buckhead to cheer on our boys with 50 or 60 other fans in the corner of the bar. We had no sound, but as long as the game was on, we were good. ATLUTD put out their starters and Seattle fielded their B team and trialists. By the half, the score was 3-0 in Atlanta’s favor; Martinez got his third goal of the preseason, Miguel Almiron scored on a PK after Julian Gressel was pulled down in the box, and Hector “Tito” Villalba scored a lovely goal that flew right through the Seattle goalie’s legs. In the second half, Martinez scored again to bring the score to 4-0 and the fans watching from ATL were freaking out. Not long after that last goal, Seattle brought in some of their starters and scored 2 goals, bringing the final score to 4-2 in favor of Atlanta.

The following Saturday, I was back on the road to Charleston to catch the last two games of the tournament. The current standings had Columbus in the lead with 4 points (they had tied with Charleston in the early game on Wednesday), Atlanta in second place with 3 points, Charleston in third with 2 points, and Seattle in last with 1 point. If Seattle managed to win or draw with Columbus and ATL beat Charleston, our boys would take home their first trophy. Unfortunately for ATL, Columbus beat Seattle 1-0 and took home the CCC17 trophy. Still, we had second place to fight for!

Michael Parkhurst + me
Michael Parkhurst + me

ATL started a very different line up for this final game. Mostly the B team, with Yamil Asad up top and Andrew Carleton in midfield. Asad scored on a header just over three minutes into the game with an assist from Mikey Ambrose. Just before the end of the half, Romario Williams (an ATLUTD player playing for Charleston) scored a stunner from about 20 yards out and tied the game. The second half was pretty well dominated by ATL – Carleton was a force to be reckoned with – but it wasn’t until subs Almiron, Parkhurst, Larentowicz, and Villalba came on in the last ten minutes of the game that we saw another goal. In the 90th minute, Villalba nabbed a cross from Andrew Wheeler-Oniunu and fired it past Charleston’s keeper, earning Atlanta second place in the tournament.

The best part of the weekend was just after the game when the players came over to our section to say thanks, sign autographs, and take pictures with the fans. I finally got my selfie with Tito and he signed my jersey (which already has his name and number on it). He also asked me where I was from, which confused me until I realized he was pointing to the Argentinean flag I was holding. I told him in my not-so-great Spanish that my father is from Argentina. I also got selfies with Parkhurst and Asad and later one with Coach Tata Martino in the parking lot when we kind of ambushed him. We also briefly saw club president Darren Eales and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra as they were leaving. I didn’t even have words for how excited I was that we were eight days away from our first season opener.

And now it’s less than a week. I am still at a loss for words. Hopefully I’ll find some soon for my next article! See y’all then!

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

All For One City

Official Toronto FC Reporter
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

I’m Cris, Toronto native and Toronto FC supporter. I’m also a member of the Kings in the North Toronto Supporter’s Group. As such, let me start with a very simple and well known idea that embodies our club and our city: The North Remembers.

10.14.15 – He drove straight from Pearson airport to BMO Field. In not much more than the time it takes to head down the 401 to Montreal, Sebastian Giovinco had crossed the Atlantic to be here in front of me, changed and warming up, ready and eager to play. Elsewhere in Toronto a baseball stadium let out a cheer as loud as an explosion as the Toronto Blue Jays fought to keep themselves in the post-season a little longer. Bautista hit a three-run homer and BMO applauded the Blue Jays win irrespective of what was happening on our own pitch at that moment. A truly historic night in Toronto.

Many Toronto FC fans will remember this night forever. Giovinco off the bench to score the most beautiful individual goal I’d ever seen. Clutching my friend next to me, tears springing to my eyes and disbelief sending waves of shock through the entire stadium. 34,000 people held their breath and then screamed like we had won the lottery. That’s what our first playoff clinch in franchise history feels like. That’s what Sebastian Giovinco feels like. That’s what TFC feels like.

Last season the franchise celebrated a decade in Major League Soccer. 10 years in the MLS and most of the collective memory is one of disappointment. Of what had once been branded “the worst team in the world.” But that night when Sebastian Giovinco rushed back from Italy for international duty, to be there in our squad and to score that goal to get us into the playoffs for the first time ever, for me, represents the changing fate of this city.

To whittle it down a bit, here’s where I started, what I’ll never forget. As a female soccer fan, I struggled to find a place for myself in supporting culture due to lack of people in my life who shared my interest. For years I dragged uninvested friends and family to games whenever I could but I was running out of people and I always wanted more. One game I took my dad to, a very wet one as there was heavy rain that day, he marveled at the Supporters Groups across the pitch from us. He loved the energy, the steady pulse of the drums, the fact that they did not slow down even as the torrential downpour fell heavily upon the stadium and it gave me the idea that maybe I’m not so different from them.

I started watching Toronto FC out of a love for soccer but today it’s more than that, BMO Field is home. I never expected to find such immediate comfort in a supporter’s group and be surrounded by so many women just like me. I joined the supporter’s section at the end of the 2015 season as a trial run and immediately felt at home. I had worried that in the most extreme section of the crowd I would find an even more masculine-charged atmosphere but instead I found one of inclusivity. I came for the soccer but now I stay for more than just the soccer but also for the family I’ve made there.

Although I joined the supporter’s section at BMO Field officially just last season, many of my comrades are day one supporters. Singing and cheering through everything. They speak of watching this team and feeling hope like never before. And they have always continued to sing. We remember our struggle and it helps us to celebrate our success.

From the day I joined the Kings in the North I’ve felt like I finally found my place. All of my emotions reflected back at me in the faces of the 3500 strong that comprise our supporter’s section. Soccer is an emotion and so is Toronto FC, one we all share. All for one team, all for one city, and all for one goal: the MLS Cup.

The North Remembers, we hold our history close to our hearts, we learn from our past, and we carve a future that will continue to make us proud to be Toronto FC.

Come chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

More Than Just A Game

Seattle Sounders Key Contributor
Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke

December 10th, 2016. A day that Seattle Sounders fans won’t soon forget. A day that finally brought Seattle an MLS Cup.

For me, it was a day when I lost all of my fingernails. And lost a LOT of tears. This was the story of the Sounders 2016 season. Everyone’s heard it, “from last in the West to MLS Champions.” So I won’t talk about their miracle turnaround, I’ll talk about the emotional rollercoaster of the 2016 Seattle Sounders season.

October 27th, 2016. Sounders vs. Sporting KC. Playoff game number 1. For 88 minutes fans stood in the pouring Seattle rain. And finally, a goal. Even on my TV screen, 2720 miles away, I could see the tears streaming down Nelson Valdez’s face. I could feel the fans yelling. My dog started barking; I had jumped up off the couch screaming and knocked her head off my lap, causing her to fall to the floor. The miracle season had somehow continued.

They played FC Dallas, pulling out another miracle first game and holding on in the second. This brought more tears, I remembered what happened in 2015 against them. How I ran to my room crying the second I saw Jesse Gonzalez save Chad Barrett’s PK. Colorado Rapids vs Sounders, in Colorado. I remember hearing before the game that Jordan Morris was sick. Morris has Type 1 diabetes, something that someone close to me has. I started freaking out; I know how being sick and at altitude affects people’s blood sugar. When he scored in the 56th minute, I jumped up yelling of joy then out of fear, Jordan Morris was down on the field with an injury(he was okay). “You look like mom after a Hillary Clinton speech,” said my little brother as I fought back tears watching them lift the Western Conference Championship trophy.

Flashback to June 1st, the Sounders playing D.C. United in DC. I went with my friend who wore one of my Sounders shirts. To be honest, I almost cried when I heard the BOOM BOOM CLAP from the Sounders fans in the upper left corner of RFK, when I heard them shout the last names of the Sounders players. When they shouted “JORDAN MORRIS” after he scored.

I live 2720 miles away from Seattle. Some of their games I can watch on TV. The others, I listen to on KIRO Radio. I can’t tell you how many nights I stayed up until 12:30 in the morning on Wednesday nights, knowing that I had tests and quizzes the next day at school.

After the Sounders won the MLS Final, I facetimed my friend, the one who had gone to the D.C. United game with me over 6 months ago. She had tears running down her face. She had become attached, she’d listened to me talk about the players for months.

The Sounders are more than a team. Their rivalry with Portland Timbers is more than a rivalry. Every game they play isn’t “just another game.” If they were just a team, if it was “just a game”, then I wouldn’t cry about it, I wouldn’t spend hours making cookies with players names on them. If they were just a team, if it was just a game, it wouldn’t be the same.

My name is Kaitlyn O’Rourke and I am so excited to be a Key Contributor for the Seattle Sounders with MLS Female this season. I’m excited to be writing for a website that celebrates women sports writers. I am so happy that soccer brought me to this place and got me together with all these other women, and I am excited to build friendships that will keep us together.

Chat with me in the comments section 

New York Is Blue

Official New York City FC Reporter
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

From where I sit, New York is blue.

Let me rephrase that.

From where I sit, three thousand miles away in my northern California home, having only ever spent a whirlwind twenty-four hours in New York City, hovering on the edge of my couch every matchday, New York is blue.

If it seems impractical to support an MLS team on the other side of the country– well, it is. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I’ve never known geography to dictate where my heart lies when it comes to soccer. Real Madrid and Juventus can both count me among their most faithful from halfway across the world. Alexi Lalas is fond of saying that you have to feel something when you hear the national anthem, and for me that’s only ever happened for the Croatia national team. My loyalties are scattered across the globe, but each team I love is a part of me as much as my own blood and bones.

The long and winding road that led me to supporting New York City FC begins with David Villa. It was his goal against Chile in the 2010 World Cup that sparked my true passion for the sport. Soccer had always been part of my life on the periphery, and I always enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I watched him sink the ball into the back of the net from fifty yards out that it finally clicked. Oh, I thought, blinking blearily at the screen in a German pub as Villa was engulfed by his teammates, heart swelling in my chest. Oh, I think I love this.

Villa was why I began watching La Liga, though in the end the team that endeared itself to me wasn’t the one he was on (either time). It always stung a little bit that I could never root for this player I’d quickly become so attached to. Couldn’t celebrate his triumphs, couldn’t suffer alongside his hardships, yet I couldn’t help but still be enamored every time I caught a glimpse of him at play.

Then, in those feverish days of World Cup anticipation, New York City FC announced David Villa as their first signing.

It was an easy choice to make. I’d never watched a single MLS match in my life, I didn’t know anyone who did, but that didn’t mean anything. I read the announcement and decided, that’s it. I support New York City FC now.

Here’s something I need you to understand about me: I’m incapable of doing anything halfway, and I don’t know how to like things casually. It’s a rarity when I don’t have a strong reaction to something. Extremes are where I live. No middle sliders. If I dedicate my time and emotions to something, I’m probably going to fall head over heels in love before I can stop myself.

I don’t know why I ever expected it to be different with NYCFC.

“I’ll follow them so I can watch Villa play again” quickly shifted to “well, I might as well learn about the rest of their players while I’m here,” which didn’t take long to morph into “I would lay down my life for Poku,” and before I knew it I was crying on the floor when we lost to the New York Red Bulls at home.

Since then, I’ve come to love NYCFC in the only way I know how — fully, deeply, and perhaps to a fault. I still get emotional every time I see Villa with the captain’s arm band, but it isn’t just about him. It’s about the whole team, the narrative of the club, each and every player. It’s about the passionate fanbase and our shared suffering over Yankee Stadium. It’s about constantly learning more about a league that I’m still very new to. It’s about learning more about myself as this team nestles itself against my heart. From every derby loss (and that one beautiful win) to qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time, NYCFC has me as their twelfth (wo)man. Always.

So here we are, less than a week out from the new season with a buzz in the air, the promise of possibility. NYCFC proved last season that the only way they have to go is up, and it’s a momentum they intend to keep as they enter their third season. Against all reason, I believe in them. I believe in us. I’m so ready to get started and see just how far we go.

New York, after all, is blue.

Come chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

I Live Soccer

Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christina Casas @nkstar9

Originally from Southern California, I grew up watching Cobi Jones and the LA Galaxy.  I also attended the 1999 Women’s World Cup final where our USWNT brought back the CUP to the US.

Playing soccer is not simply a hobby. I live soccer, dream about soccer, and the days that I get to play soccer are the best days of the week.

After moving to Vancouver, BC, I quickly found myself rooting for the Vancouver Whitecaps and becoming swept up in the passion of the community built around this soulful team.

Come chat with me on twitter: @nkstar9

Atlanta United FC Preseason Recap, Part I

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

February 26, 2017 – Atlanta, GA

One week. We are ONE WEEK away from the first ever season opener for Atlanta United. I have been waiting for March 5, 2017 for over three years, when I heard some rumors about Arthur Blank bringing a team to ATL. I’m kind of in shock right now. My brain can’t process this.

So, instead of focusing on the first “real” game, I’m going to re-live the preseason games in two parts. First, the first EVER ATLUTD game in Chattanooga and then a recap of the week-long Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC.

We got to see all of the ATLUTD players together live and in person for the first time ever in Chattanooga, TN on February 11th when they played the NPSL side Chattanooga FC. The excitement before the game was incredible. As my dad and I drove the two hours up I-75, we talked about all of the players and how Tata Martino would make it all work.

When we arrived at Finley Stadium around 11am, the joint tailgate with Chattahooligans, Terminus Legion, and Resurgence was well under way. The Chattahooligans had an amazing brunch spread and one TL member brought his tailgate trailer and had an EPL game showing near the cornhole boards. Around 2pm, I heard some chatter about the ATLUTD team bus arriving, so I made my way across the street to see what I could see. Hundreds of fans with flags and drums were out in the street, chanting and singing while they waited to greet the bus.

I ran into ATLUTD club president Darren Eales in the midst of all this and even though I’ve talked to him dozens of times, I have to admit that this is when I started to freak out. While talking to Darren, it suddenly hit me that THIS IS HAPPENING. In an hour, we’ll see our team on the field. I may have started to get a little emotional.

Fortunately, before I actually started crying (with joy, of course), the bus arrived. The chanting got really loud when that bus door opened and the players started walking out. I heard in some of the post-game interviews that the players were really surprised and thrilled that so many fans showed up.

Nearly 12,500 people showed up for the game, and at least two-thirds of them were ATLUTD fans, most of whom drove up from the metro-Atlanta area. The noise when the team walked out of the locker room was insane. Nine minutes into the game, the first ever ATLUTD goal was scored by (my favorite) Tito Villalba. Later in the first half, Yamil Asad scored a beautiful goal he curled into the upper 90 of the net.

At the half, the ATLUTD staff gathered about 50 fans over to one of the corners of the stadium and handed out gold boxes that, as it turned out, had the team’s 2nd (away) jersey in it. Some were authentic and some were replicas, but they all had number 17 on the back, which was “given” to the fans this year. When the team walked out of the locker room at the half, they were wearing the away kits.

In the second half, we got to see nine new players (two of the starters were subbed off in the first half; the rest of the starters were subbed at the half) and two more goals; one from the newest DP, Josef Martinez, and the final goal from Atlanta’s first Homegrown Player, 16-year-old Andrew Carleton. The fact that he ran straight over to the fan section to celebrate was the moment of the game for many of the fans. The roar of the crowd for that goal was incredible.

After a 4-0 win, everyone went back home to Atlanta happy and if it’s even possible, even more eager for March 5th. Before that game, though, there were three more preseason games to play in Charleston, SC. Recaps of those games are coming up in Part II.

Featured image courtesy: Atlanta United FC facebook

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Serial Mover Finds a Home Team in Atlanta

By Aya Philémon @aya_sofaya

My name is Aya, short for Sofaya, and I’m the Video Coordinator for MLSFemale, reporting on the Atlanta United FC.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved soccer. Not necessarily because I actively sought it out, but because it was just always there. Like a family member.

You don’t think about reasons why you love them, you just do, by default. I played the sport as a child, in various youth leagues, was never really good at it. I went to a soccer camp every summer with all of my siblings and cousins, and since there was a lot of us, when we broke up into teams, it was often – Everyone Who is Related to Me vs Everyone Else.

Team wise, my family was always international-focused. As many Haitian families do, we supported Brazil, but in my immediate family the focus of the support has always been France NT. Pele, Thierry, and Zidane were the holy trinity. Aside from one cousin who really loved Liverpool, my family was never really into club football. That is, until Arsenal happened to us.

Video Coordinator for MLSFemale
Video Coordinator for MLSFemale

While Arsenal will always be my Main, and while being a Gooner brought me so many experiences and opened my world to what being a soccer fan is truly all about, there was a critical aspect of the sports fan experience that Arsenal can never fulfill for me: Hometown Pride. After living in three states and three countries, I never thought I would ever live out that particular aspect of sportsmanship.

Although I lived half of my life in New England, I never really became involved in New England Revolution. My hometown was a New York City suburb in Connecticut, so the New England sports teams were never geographically as close as the NYC ones. After having moved to Atlanta, the sports scene was more cohesive, but we were missing a team for the one sport I actually liked!

When Atlanta UTD was announced, all of this was about to change for me in a major way. I bought a season ticket immediately. I’ve never felt more connected to the city that I live in as I do now that I have this community to tether me to it. The season hasn’t even officially started yet and I’ve met a ton of people. I’m already way more involved than I ever thought I would be.

I’m immensely excited to be a founding member of Atlanta UTD, and immensely excited to be a part of MLSFemale. This is going to be a great season. I can’t wait.

Come chat with me on twitter: @aya_sofaya

Subscribe to my channel: AYASOFAYA

Never Looked Back

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Hey Sporting Fans!

My name is Kirsten Arpin, and I’ll be serving as  the MLSFemale Official Reporter for Sporting KC this season!

For the past year, I have been a full-time graduate student at the University of Central Missouri (Go Mules!) pursuing my Masters of Music in Wind Band Conducting, which could be jokingly described as ‘professional stick waving’. I received my bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Kansas, and I am a lifelong Jayhawks fan. I also like to play roller derby when I can.

Me and hubby
Me and hubby

My husband and I are both huge Sporting KC fans, and since he’s a Kansas State Wildcats fan, SKC is one of the teams we agree on! One of our favorite dates was the Wizards vs Manchester United games in Arrowhead Stadium in 2010. Once we moved to Kansas City from Manhattan, KS we attended as many Sporting games as possible, and at that point we were hooked.

After attending games where we could be seen sitting in seats all around the stadium, we decided to try out The Cauldron. That was the end of it – We joined The Cauldron immediately, and have never looked back. We’ve even gotten our dog Kevin in on the action, and now he goes by the aliases Dog Dwyer and Mutt Besler!

Kevin
Kevin

Sporting KC is an amazing team and organization. They have not only united the city to become the Soccer Capital of America, they also initiated The Victory Project, which works to help children who are fighting cancer or other health issues, socio-economic issues, or development issues. Sporting KC is not only a phenomenal club, but they are an inspiration to Kansas City and the people who call it home.

I am very excited to spend this season with you and to share all that is great about Sporting KC!

Come chat with me on twitter: @Kirsten_Hoogs

Soccer Is In My Blood

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Hi there! My name is Robyn Saghini and I am an MLSFemale Official Reporter for Atlanta United FC. My love for soccer is in my blood. My dad grew up in Argentina and passed his love for the sport to me and my brother. I was on a team for one season when I was six years old, but I wasn’t very interested in playing. My brother started playing when he was four and never looked back, which meant I got dragged to games and tournaments all the time.

I grew up in New Jersey, so we were MetroStars (and later NYRB) fans. When we moved to Atlanta, my dad and I would get together on weekends and watch NYRB games when they were televised. For the last three years, I’ve been slowly backing away from NYRB and finally ended that relationship for good last October.

In 2011, Dad and I attended a pre-season MLS tournament just outside Atlanta. As we walked out of the stadium after the game, we were asked to sign a petition to bring an MLS team to Atlanta, which of course we did. A few years later, I saw a post about an MLS Cup Final watch party from the ATL Wants MLS Facebook page. Turns out the guy who started the petition was starting a supporters group for the new Atlanta MLS team he had heard some whispers about. I signed on immediately and became a co-founder of Terminus Legion, the first and largest supporters group for Atlanta United.

Over the last three and a half years, I’ve been working with TL and the Atlanta United front office to help spread the word about the team. I’ve spent hours on social media trying to convince whoever will listen that Atlanta is a soccer city.

With less than two weeks until the first regular season game for ATLUTD, there are almost 30,000 season tickets sold. Over 40,000 tickets have been sold for the home opener and it’s on track to be a sold out game. Once the tickets for the home opener at Mercedes Benz Stadium go on sale, I have no doubt they’ll sell out the entire stadium (over 70k seats).

Atlanta IS a soccer city. Atlanta United is our team. This is our time. #UniteAndConquer

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Put Up or Shut Up

Official Portland Timbers Reporter
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Welcome aboard!

My name is Sheba Rawson, and I’ll be writing about the Portland Timbers for MLSFemale this season. I’m a mom, an educator, and a member of the Timbers Army.

I’ve always loved sports. As a child growing up in the Bay Area, I attended pretty much every Stanford home football game until I graduated from high school; and I followed local pro football, baseball, and basketball teams. And as a young adult, I was lucky enough to participate in competitive sports myself, from track in high school to collegiate and women’s open ultimate. But I only really discovered soccer a little later in the game.

Back in 2004-5, my oldest son started playing club soccer. Besides the usual soccer mom learning curve (“explain offside to me one more time, please”), I was introduced to professional soccer. Bernie Fagan, who ran my son’s soccer club, used to play for the Portland Timbers back in NASL days in the early 80s. Bernie wisely gave all of his club’s players season tickets to the (USL) Timbers, knowing full well that we wouldn’t just drop off our ten-year-olds at the stadium. So we bought tickets for the whole family and started coming to games.

I was hooked almost immediately. In addition to the fast pace and excitement of the game, the Timbers had a VERY passionate group of supporters in the north end of the stadium. Even when the action on the field was disappointing, the action in the stands more than made up the difference. The Timbers Army chanted and sang nonstop, from before the game began until well after the game was over. Some crazy guy with a chainsaw was there, too: Timber Jim could sometimes be found dangling from the rafters on a rope line or climbing to the top of a REALLY tall spar pole in the south end in the middle of the match.

There was plenty of action on the field, of course. Scot Thompson was a stalwart on defense. Byron Alvarez was an electric forward. And Bryan Jordan, who was *maybe* 5’7” in his cleats, inspired my height-challenged son to believe that on the soccer field anything was possible, even for the not-so-tall among us.

As the Timbers made the move to MLS, I became more involved with the Timbers Army. Eventually I became a board member on the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST), the nonprofit engine that fuels the Timbers Army. I’ll be happy to share more about that as we go along, if you’re interested. After family and work, it really is my second (third?) life and love.

I’ve been through some incredible ups and downs with the Timbers, from their USL days through their first six MLS seasons. And I look forward to sharing their seventh MLS year with you. I love the team and the game, and I’ll share the joys and sorrows of the season with you all. If you’re looking for keen insight into individual player roles and deep tactical analysis, I’m likely to disappoint you. But if you’re wanting to talk Timbers with a passionate fan with a little knowledge of the basics and a big love of the team and the game, I’m here for you.

Lastly, I want to offer a special welcome to female MLS fans who want to talk Timbers. As a woman who loves sports, I have tried–and usually failed–to find sports radio or TV that welcomes me to the conversation. One of the reasons I answered the call to write here is my constant complaint that very little room is made in sports media for female fans. I don’t think it’s on purpose, usually; but pro sports talk in this country most definitely has a male audience in mind most of the time. When this opportunity presented itself, I realized that if I wanted room in the sports world for female fans to be heard, I really should put up or shut up myself.

So, here I am, embarking on a new adventure with all of you. I have no idea where it will take us. But I’m looking forward to the ride.

Come chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx