Category Archives: Team Updates

Keeping you updated on soccer news

When real life gets in the way…

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

This was my matchday in a nutshell. As I mentioned in my “About Me” article I am a Graduate Student at the University of Central Missouri (UCM). Part of my job is to run the UCM Pep Band for basketball games. This is normally not an issue and a super fun part of my life, but this time it got in the way. Both the Men’s and Women’s teams, the Mules and the Jennies, were playing in the MIAA Conference Basketball Tournament in KC this weekend, and I had two games on Saturday. The Mules played at Noon, and the Jennies played at…you guessed it…6:00pm, AKA gametime.

Bass Drum courtesy Kirsten Arpin

My husband was lucky enough to get to No Other Pub, our Sporting KC bar in the Power & Light District, to watch the game with members of The Cauldron who didn’t make the trip up to DC. *Side note: Great job to The Cauldron and SKC for having the most traveling fans of any MLS team by far this week! Anyway, my husband was at No Other Pub and kept sending me updates by text, when he remembered. Here is the extent of my gametime commentary:

“Medranda starting as attacking mid, Zus right back”

“Gerso is contributing a lot”

“Melia saved a pen”

and that was it…please note his lack of punctuation. All of these things happened before 17 minutes on the clock. The lack of communication may have been helped out by the $30 unlimited burgers, wings, and beer at the watch party.

So, here are my thoughts from watching the game and highlights, and listening to interviews after the fact.

Seth image courtesy: Kirsten Arpin

Sporting KC’s starting XI has gone through some changes since last year with the retirement of Paulo Nagamura and Brad Davis and Jacob Peterson being signed away by Atlanta United. Last year we also had a crazy defensive rotation that was forced by injuries. Hopefully this season we see a stabilized line up with Captain Matt Besler, a healthy Seth Sinovic and Ike Opara, and utility man Graham Zusi.

One of SKC’s immediate needs was to get Dom Dwyer some help up front. The answer for this first game was the addition of Gerso Fernandes and Jimmy Medranda on the wings with Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza at attacking mid. Gerso has previously played in Portugal, and he made an impact right off the bat. Not only is he fast, but there was a play late in the game where he made a crazy shot from right inside the box. It would have been perfect if he had been another 10-15 yards out.

The player of the game definitely goes to Tim Melia. This may have been the hardest I have seen anyone work for a clean sheet. Shots seemed to come in flurries, and there was no relaxing in goal. Timmy also had some assistance from his teammates with Jimmy and Dom providing huge goal-saving headers in the 66th minute. Tim’s heroics in no way diminish the show put on by DC’s Bill Hamid. Dom, Benny, Gerso, and Jimmy all had some legitimate chances, and Bill was on fire, so props to Bill!

Storm image courtesy: Kirsten Arpin

Though it was freezing out, manager Peter Vermes chose to keep all 11 starters in for the full 90 minutes. I don’t think this was detrimental to the team’s performance though, because the guys were still playing strong at the end of the game. It seemed like DC United was bunkering down in the last ten minutes, and SKC was still making chances literally up until the final whistle.

Some things I’m curious to see coming up this season are how Jimmy and Zus are utilized, Latif Blessing…period, and the return of Soony Saad. Blessing may prove to be one of the fastest players in the MLS, and he was the leading goal scorer in Ghana’s premier league last year. Look for him to get worked into the line-up soon. Soony’s return is also a big point of interest, because him and Dom have had such great chemistry on the front line in the past.

This week is the home opener at Children’s Mercy Park, and there’s supposed to be freezing rain…welcome to Kansas City.

Oh, and by the way, the Jennies lost…

*The Tuesday before the game SKC hosted a preseason kickoff party, and that was the best time! We got to meet a few players, and play drums in the fan march through downtown KC! I was on Dom Dwyer’s insta story, so that was pretty awesome.

Featured image courtesy: Kirsten Arpin

Come chat with me on twitter: @Kirsten_Hoogs

Vancouver Whitecaps Vs. Philadelphia Union

Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Christy Casas @nkstar9

While other outlets are calling the Vancouver Whitecaps’ season opener against the Philadelphia Union snoozefest, I am calling it an opportunity to learn. Coming off an emotional win in the CONCACAF Champions League just 4 days prior, the starting nine was different and so was the momentum.

One big change was seeing the likes of Christian Dean in the starting IX. Dean, was out for the entirety of the 2016 season due to two back-to-back injuries and having his father pass away. Dean’s performance was solid despite not having a start in the MLS in 555 days and perfectly in step with Tim Parker in which together, they kept the Philadelphia Union’s offence at bay.

We also saw Cristian Techera and Erik Hurtado back in action. Though, the middle seemed stifled by the amount of long balls being sent by defensive players. The length of the field wasn’t fully utilized. This excluded the speed and talent of Alphonso Davies.

Davies delighted fans during CONCACAF Champions League, scored the goal to send the Whitecaps to the quarter-final and the first goal to propel the club into the tournament Semi-final. Remember Davies is just 16 years old and seems to be adding a much needed energy to the team.

Last, but not least, I noticed that Brek Shea and Fredy Montero, when subbed-on during the second half, acted as a catalyst to breathe some life into the somewhat flat-footed Whitecaps.

More than ever, it’s time to #riseupraincity

Featured image courtesy: Vancouver Whitecaps FC facebook

Come chat with me on twitter: @nkstar9

Atlanta United Inaugural Season Opener

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Almost 24 hours later, I’m still trying to process everything that happened Sunday. So much happened during the day that I almost don’t even remember the actual game itself at all. Fortunately, I remembered to record it so I’ve got it playing in the background while I write this.

I was so excited and anxious about opening day that I had to take some sleep aids on Saturday night to make sure I got some sleep. And then I woke up at 5am and forced myself to go back to sleep for a little longer. I woke up about every half hour after that until I finally gave up and got out of bed.

As I went through my morning routine, my head was filled with how I wanted this day to play out. As a member of leadership for Terminus Legion, the tailgate planning took over my week. Food trucks, games, beer, parking spaces…the list goes on. I arrived at the tailgate around 11:30am and paced for about an hour until the food trucks arrived to set up. Once everything was in place, I got to walk around and talk to people. And there were SO MANY PEOPLE. All four of the ATLUTD supporters groups were tailgating in the same lot, and combined, we have well over 1000 members, but there had to be 4000-5000 people in that parking lot. It was elbow to elbow and lines everywhere. Everyone was having a great time, though – I didn’t even hear any complaints when our kegs were tapped!

Me and Susannah Collins from the MLS Digital Team

During my tailgate tour, I saw the MLS video crew walking around and tapped Susannah Collins on the shoulder to tell her I was her boss’ sister. Once the crew heard that, they were all too excited to get me on the live show, where Susannah and I played a round of Giant Jenga, so that was fun. I also did a quick Facebook live video interview with Doug Roberson of the AJC and leaders of the other supporters groups.

Seven hours after arriving at the tailgate, I finally walked through the 3rd Street tunnel to Bobby Dodd Stadium. I walked over to the Golden Spike and signed it. Walking up the stairs to the supporters section is when the goosebumps came. Standing in the supporters section and watching the players – OUR players – walk out for practice was when the noise really started. But it wasn’t until right at the end of the National Anthem that my eyes started to water. And then the whistle blew and it was game on!

I missed quite a bit of the first half due to the fact that I couldn’t find a spot within any of the sections and I walked back and forth looking for someplace to settle. I did, however, catch the first ever MLS goal (that counts – I saw plenty in preseason) for Atlanta United FC. In the 25th minute, Ty Mears lobbed a cross to the far corner of the 6-yard box and Yamil Asad slid in to push the ball into the goal. The noise at that moment was absolutely deafening. Everyone was jumping and screaming and hi-fiving. It was such an amazing moment.

The crowd outside before the game courtesy: Robyn Saghini

ATL did have one additional chance late in the first half. Greg Garza passed to Josef Martinez, who shot it right at Luis Robles for a save. The second half saw a few more chances for ATL, but it was the New York Red Bulls who ended up with two goals to take the win. Carlos Carmona was shown a straight red card late in the second half after a rather deliberate and unprofessional foul.

Despite the loss, I walked out of the stadium with a smile on my face. I understand that the team has only been together for just over a month and they’re still working on getting their rhythm and that it will take a little time. I get that the majority of this team doesn’t have any MLS experience and may not have even watched a single MLS game before this weekend. Eventually, all of that will come together and the wins will come.

But 24 hours later, I’m still smiling because the moment I’ve waited for has finally arrived. Atlanta United is here. My team is here. And we’re not going anywhere. #UniteAndConquer

Featured KICKOFF image courtesy: Robyn Saghini

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

A Beautiful Day for The Beautiful Game

Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich @heyambrosia

It was a beautiful day for a home opener in Sandy, Utah, that’s for sure. It was 55 degrees, a home brew festival was going strong ($5 got you an awesome pint glass and the ability to try home brewed beer made by the locals. What a way to start the day.), and even with the chill in the air, the VERY strong wind (that would ultimately affect that first 20 minutes or so of game play while the teams got used to the breeze), and the issues with our new ticketing system, we couldn’t hold still for the life of us. It was match day.

There was an audible buzz from the tailgate lot just north of the stadium, where most supporter groups for Real Salt Lake gather before the game. Section 26, RCB, SCU, La Barra Real, and many other supporters were all smiles and laughs as we waited for the game to start. Everywhere you looked people were hugging each other hello after months of not being in their favorite place: The RioT.

It has been a pretty big upheaval during this offseason. Some of our best players have left to other teams or retired, our backup keeper Jeff Attinella was chosen in the MLS Expansion Draft, and a few other players that we had gotten used to having around weren’t renewed for another year. In their place came a much younger crowd of players, some from RSL’s own academy (we now have 7 homegrown players on our team this year), Brooks Lennon from Liverpool FC, Albert Rusnak from FC Groningen who has done marvelous in the offseason, and we have Jeff Cassar for another year, at least.  A bit of a nerve-wracking start for any RSL fan, but once it was time, we all went in as quickly as we could.

All in all, we came away with a draw, 0-0 against Toronto FC. Possession was right down the middle, 50/50 with a lot of blocked shots by RSL and a penalty kick save in the 30th minute from the Wall of the Wasatch, Nick Rimando, which makes this his 130th shutout. Three players made their RSL debut this game, Albert Rusnak starting off with the team and Ricardo Velasco being subbed in for Jordan Allen at the  87th minute as well as Chad Barrett subbing in for Yura Movsisyan at the 69th minute of play.

Seven yellow cards were given this game, 3 for RSL and 4 for Toronto FC, with ranges from Dissent to Unsporting Behavior. One landed a PK for Sebastian Giovinco who now knows that PK’s aren’t worth breaking a sweat for Nick Rimando.

19,519 were in attendance for this home opener, and I can safely say this was an encouraging performance from RSL. Great job out there, boys. We’ll see you next week against Chicago Fire!

Featured image courtesy: Ambrosia Tonkovich

Come chat with me on twitter: @heyambrosia

Real Salt Lake City 0-0 Toronto FC: A High Altitude Draw

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Matchday Song – The Gates by Young Empire

I had to laugh a little when, on my way to my Away Day pub of choice, I opened the starting XI tweet to find a side unchanged from our playoff run. It had this feel of continuity to it I wasn’t expecting, and it immediately brought me back to those final days, in all its glory and…well…the other stuff.

It resonated with me because what I wanted, what I think a lot of us wanted, was bloodshed. A group of players returning to the game with a vengeance, with something to prove, with the pain of loss still burning in their veins the way it was in ours. What we ended up with is a team in persistence. A team not just with something to prove, but ongoing in its mission to prove we still have everything to play for.

As nice as it would have been to start the season with a knockout win, to shake off the specter of our first MLS Cup loss and hit the ground running, I’m glad we’ve started as a team that looks ready to take the season in stride. That resonates with me too.

It’s not as often as I’d like that I can compliment a Toronto FC side for not falling asleep at all in a match and for maintaining its shape well, and that’s a positive I’d like to point out from this game. We had some great chances, created by some of the players who struggled most in the game, and despite having less than our fair share of possession we looked equally likely to take 3 points.

My men of the match have to be Jozy Altidore for doing a lot of work at both ends of the pitch, getting into good positions, and having great control most times he was on the ball, as well as Eriq Zavaleta for making some vital interceptions, providing cover in some weak moments and for the pleasure I take in watching him grow as a player every single week. Also, he didn’t play, but shout out to Tosaint Ricketts who, if we had have utilized a third sub (uhhh Greg Vanney? Please, mate!), I’m pretty confident could have been the difference between the two teams tonight.

We also got a glimpse of one of our new guys, Victor Vazquez. He didn’t have a chance to do much but the way he started influencing the game looked promising. Though what didn’t look promising is him replacing Jonathan Osorio because I’m never happy to have 11 players on the field without a single Canadian player representing us. Objectively, I’m excited to see what Vazquez can bring to the table. Still sore about the loss of one Will Johnson though. Miss you, buddy.

I’m a sucker for moments of personality on the pitch, so let me end this with the biggest show of personality in this match, though unfortunately not from our own player and at the expense of our one big chance to win the game. Nick Rimando, anger pouring out of him ceaselessly as he waits for the penalty kick to be taken, cursing the ref up until beyond the whistle, when he paused in his unending appeal for mercy to lean ever so slightly to his right before diving to save the left-sided penalty we all knew Sebastian ‘Seba’ Giovinco would take.

At any rate, it’s a bitter irony that one of our greatest pieces of play was the counter-attacking football that led to the penalty earned. If there’s any take-aways from the game I’ll say it was these: a certain atomic someone needs to start mixing it up with his penalty kicks, and we are thus far undefeated this season! So heads held high, fellow Reds, and let’s see what our boys have in store for us this year.

Featured image Jozy Altidore courtesy: @torontofc

Come chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders Game Recap

Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke

“The Seattle Sounders had less than a 3 month offseason”, is the apparent and obvious excuse for the team’s loss Saturday against the Houston Dynamo. The Sounders opened in Houston on Saturday evening. It didn’t go as hoped for the reigning MLS Champions- the team lost 2-1. By the end of the first half it was 2-0 in the Dynamo’s favor. Things weren’t looking good for the Sounders.

The Sounders lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with MLS Cup hero Stefan Frei as goalie, Gustav Svensson as right back and Joevin Jones as left back. The big guys, Roman Torres and Chad Marshall played at center backs.

Ozzie Alonso wore the captain’s armband and started as center mid along with Cristian Roldan. Over the course of the 2016 season, the two developed a dynamic partnership that will hopefully continue, and get stronger, over the course of the 2017 season.

 Alvaro Fernandez and Nico Lodeiro started as right and left mids, respectively, and Clint Dempsey returned to MLS play after being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat last August. He played at attacking mid. Jordan Morris, 2016 rookie of the year, started as forward, like he did much of last season.

Frei had several good saves early but Houston took the lead on a free kick by Erick Torres just outside the box. Torres got the ball up and over the wall and sent it into the back of the net. 1-0. The Dynamo scored their second goal on a beautiful bending shot by Romell Quioto.

The Sounders got one back in the second half on a goal by the one and only Clint Dempsey in the 58th minute. The goal came from Joevin Jones sending in a cross, Jordan Morris tried to hit it in, missed, and caused the ball to come loose in the box. Dempsey reacted quickly and sent the ball into the net.

Houston applied lots of pressure in the first half then their intensity dropped off in the second half.  The Sounders kept control of the ball better in the second half and looked more like their Championship winning team. Jones had several good and dangerous crosses and Morris had a great run in the 77th minute.

Brian Schmetzer said that it was a “good learning tool” for the Sounders. The locker room was quiet; Morris remarked in his post-game interview that no one likes to lose. The Sounders will play again Saturday in Montreal. 5 of their first 7 games are on the road.

Featured image of Clint Dempsey courtesy: @SoundersFC

Chat with me in the comments section

USWNT vs Germany Recap

US Women’s National Team Key Contributor

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken22

March 1st, 2017. Lynn Williams had the only goal of the game as the United States Women’s National Team defeated Germany 1-0 in a close match in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Lineup: 3-5-2

Alyssa Naeher

Becky Sauerbrunn, Allie Long, Casey Short

Crystal Dunn (Mallory Pugh, 58), Morgan Brian, Carli Lloyd (captain), Samantha Mewis, Tobin Heath

Christen Press (Lindsey Horan, 79),  Lynn Williams (Alex Morgan, 79)

The ladies in red, head to toe, faced off against the 2016 Olympic gold medalists Germany in the first round of matches in the SheBelieves Cup. This tournament was created in 2016 after the USWNT launched the #SheBelieves campaign during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The countries invited to face the United States are Germany, France, and England. They are ranked 2, 3, and 5 in the world respectively.

Image courtesy: @ussoccer_wnt

The game was pretty evenly matched with both sides having multiple opportunities on goal. Germany’s best chance came in the 12th minute when Sara Däbritz hit a dangerous shot from right outside the 18 yard box forcing Alyssa Naeher to make a save. The USWNT goal was started off with Christen Press stripping the ball away from Germany’s left back and cutting inside to take a left footed shot that hit the crossbar. Tobin Heath then followed the rebound but it was deflected off a German defender out to the penalty spot. The 2016 NWSL MVP Lynn Williams then finished it into the back of the net to put her country up 1-0.

Lynn Williams had another opportunity to add onto the scoresheet when she beat two german defenders to go 1v1 with the keeper, but then she hit it over the goal in the 69th minute. The United States continued to hold the 1-0 lead to win the game.

A couple of takeaways:

Casey Short:

The defender from the Chicago Red Stars had a solid game at left center back. This was only her 5th cap but she looked very comfortable in that position. She made a lot of great tackles and was a prominent part in the USA getting a shutout.

Alyssa Naeher:

Alyssa Naeher has been competing with Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for the starting goalkeeper role since Hope Solo‘s absence following the 2016 Olympics. Having a clean sheet against the 2nd best ranked team in the world is very good for Naeher’s case.

Allie Long:

The Budweiser woman of the match looked very solid in her middle center back role. Primarily an attacking center midfielder, Long’s versatility shined as she was the key to this 3 center back experiment. We will most likely see her start in this position in games to come.

What’s next for the  USWNT?

The United States takes on England in the next instalment of the SheBelieves Cup on March 4th in Harrison, New Jersey. You can watch it on Fox at 5:30 pm eastern. The lionesses lost 2-1 to France in the game prior to USA versus Germany.

Featured image courtesy: @ussoccer_wnt

Come chat with me on twitter: @abigailgerken22

Season Opener – NYCFC

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

It’s 2017 and New York City FC still hasn’t managed to best Orlando City SC on the road.

I’ll admit to a lingering fondness for Orlando City. Chalk it up to being expansion team twins, how deeply I appreciate their tribute to the victims of the Pulse shooting, and Kaká. Just… everything about Kaká. I genuinely like them, and I get some warm fuzzies when we play them.

That said, I would love it if we could defeat them in their own home.

It is a really nice home, for the record. This was the inaugural match in the new Orlando City Stadium, and throughout the game I kept marvelling at just how slick it is. Good job, Orlando! You built a beautiful stadium that I think we all covet, at least a little bit. And naturally the narrative of the team and supporters getting a win for their first game in a new home is a lovely one.

But again: It would be great if we could go down to Florida and win.

Despite the 1-0 loss, there are still some positives we can take from this match.

Usual defensive shakiness and some lag in the midfield aside, I thought NYCFC looked comfortable. So often the first few matches of the season are plagued with nerves as the team is still growing together, but I didn’t see any of that. The team gelled, for the most part, which is more than I expected.

Andrea Pirlo – NYCFC Facebook

We held the lion’s share of the possession, and though we weren’t able to finish any of the chances created, the fact is that there were plenty of chances. It’s easy to see that there’s already more play opening up to supply strikers with opportunities. In particular, the link-up between Jack Harrison, Maxi Moralez and David Villa (before he was called offside — in other news, water is wet) was stunning. More of that, please.

(And, you know, more clinical finishing for more goals. Goals would be great.)

There are, of course, old ghosts that continue to haunt NYCFC. To say our defense is weak would have been a lukewarm take last year — does it even bear repeating this year? It was especially stark going up against Orlando City, who are similarly notorious for defense issues, and yet… they defended against us fairly well. What? Guys, come on. If Orlando City can mold their defense into something semi-firm after all this time, so can we. Please. I don’t ask for much.

One of the things I like best about Patrick Vieira is his willingness to alter lineups to find winning combinations. The beginning of the season is always full of growing pains, so I don’t expect a dramatic change right away, but I am confident the starting lineup next week will look different. My biggest question is if he’ll bench Andrea Pirlo, who didn’t exactly have the game of his life in Orlando. My second biggest question is, can I really live in a world where Pirlo is on a bench?

I leave you with a smattering of random observations:

  • We play better when we have a second striker. We didn’t have a second striker until the 84th minute. It was a little hard to watch.
  • At one point in the second half, Cyle Larin and Maxime Chanot got tangled up on the ground and it looked a bit like Larin was trying to spoon him, to which I say: Same.
  • Jack Harrison is still doing brilliant Jack Harrison things, and opposing teams are still dealing with brilliant Jack Harrison things in the only way they know how — by throwing every defender at him at once in hopes that he won’t be able to dance his way out. (Sometimes he does anyway. I love those times.)
  • Bench depth is the best problem and we’re lucky to have it, but man, I miss T-Mac. The game inarguably changed pace for the better when he came on.
  • UGO. Ugo! Here’s the part where I confess that I was unable to watch a single minute of preseason, so I hadn’t yet been introduced to the wonders of Ugo, but now that I have: Ugo, you guys. What a firecracker! I can’t wait to watch him play this season.
  • Taylor Twellman commenting that NYCFC “played a sexy kind of game” has been looping in my head for hours. Please help.

Next week we’re back home to take on D.C. United! What do you think we should do differently? Who do you predict will score the first goal of the season? (Don’t say David Villa, that’s cheating. Get creative.) Is it too early to wonder if Jack Harrison’s beard might be bad luck?

Featured image David Villa courtesy: NYCFC Facebook

Come talk to me on twitter about all this and more: @lukacharms

Team. Town. Timbers Army.

Official Portland Timbers Reporter
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

It is impossible to sum up the events surrounding this weekend’s opening MLS game – Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC, but I’m going to try anyway. Here goes:

Team

Now that it’s in the books, I’ll be honest, I was excited but a little nervous for the season opener. In the leadup, I was worried about our opener turning into a trap game. Pretty much everyone I talked to beforehand expected us to crush the expansion side, MNUFC, like bugs. As a Timbers supporter, of course, I had heard this story before (see, for example, Cal FC and Hollywood United), and had a grim appreciation for a surprise ending. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.

As it turned out, it was a perfect way to open the season. The Timbers’ 5-1 victory over Minnesota United FC on Friday delivered on the promise of the preseason and then some. New additions David Guzmán & Sebastian Blanco had particularly auspicious MLS debuts. (My new nickname for Guzmán is Tenacious D.) And Blanco–oh my. He runs, everywhere, on both sides of the ball, and fast. I haven’t seen his heat map yet from Friday but it is probably a field-sized red rectangle. He plays smartly, simply, and quickly. And when the offense is moving, he is mentally a step ahead. As soon as Blanco knows that a ball is about to be sent his way, you can almost see him instantly calculating all available options for the next ball, more than ready for the quick one touch and on the run again.

The whole front four was as entertaining as advertised. Diego Valeri made mincemeat of MNUFC’s middle. He started the second half with a graceful header fed by Blanco that included a beautiful buildup by Alvas Powell and Fanendo Adi; and even though John Alvbage guessed correctly on the penalty, he was unable to stop Valeri’s clinical shot slotted to the lower left corner. Adi’s calm footwork up top was not only poetry, it directly led to his bagging two goals in stoppage time.

Darlington Nagbe and Blanco shredded MNUFC’s defense out wide. Nagbe dominated the left side, blowing past defenders without seeming to break a sweat. There were too many moments to love in this beatdown for me to list them all. If the front four plays like this every week, we might be in for a heck of a ride this year. It will be interesting to see how the team handles a challenging defensive line, though; I hardly think that e.g. a Nagbe-Taylor matchup is a fair predictor of our wing play overall this year.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lawrence Olum’s score to open the bank for the Timbers this season. Welcome back, Larry. I genuinely worry about that CB spot, but not only were you not terrible, you hustled. Thanks for holding down the fort until the next new Spinal Tap drummer–er, I mean Timbers starting center back–joins the squad.

Town

One of the things I love about the Timbers Army and its nonprofit arm, the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST), is that we take the positive energy directed at supporting our boys on the field and direct it to good work in the community. This Saturday marked the first day of futsal practice for a group of immigrant and refugee teens` sponsored by 107IST. Thanks to 107IST support, these recently arrived teens from countries throughout Africa and South Asia now have a regular, safe place to hold soccer practices.

Timbers Army fans donated preseason tickets to allow thirty IRCO teens and family members to attend. And 107IST member dues have now also paid for the teens’ futsal fees for March and April. A Timbers Army volunteer who works with the teens told me that Saturday’s futsal practice was the first time in a long time he’d seen his immigrant teen mentee smile and just be a happy kid. ❤

Timbers Army

I love our supporters. So many work so hard to make sure that the match day atmosphere is second to none. That Bob Ross tifo? I don’t even know how WE’LL follow that one. And the front stand banners included an Arabic saying of Syrian origin (“When Danger Approaches, Sing To It”) as well as a “Spread The Love” banner in Arabic in the second half. Timbers Army supporters make their love for the more vulnerable among us evident, both in the community and in the stands.

And speaking of supporters, major props to MNUFC supporters, Dark Clouds and True North Elite. At least 150 supporters came out to stand and sing for Minnesota’s first MLS match on Friday, and we tried to treat them right. We invited them to our preseason opening party, including a chant off, on Thursday; and we hosted futsal pickup for both Timbers and MNUFC supporters on Saturday. Our love of beards, microbrews, politeness and bad weather probably binds us together more than we care to admit.

At the end of the afternoon on Saturday, the Africa House teens finished their practice and joined the Portland/Minnesota supporters for a joint scrimmage across two fields. It was absolutely beautiful.

I’ve had my share of soccer weekends, good, bad, and ugly. This one ranks among the best. See you next weekend for the Galaxy match!

*Team, Town, Timbers Army in the title refers to the three things that the nonprofit 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST) celebrates and supports when it comes to the city of Portland and the Portland Timbers. For more information about the 107IST, click here or drop me a line.

Featured image courtesy: Sheba Rawson twitter

Come chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

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