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

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