A Point in The 6

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

Saturday, April 8: 2-2 Draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional observations:

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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I’ve Seen This Movie

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Sunday, April 2: 1-1 Draw

Sunday was a beautiful evening for soccer in Portland. Another sold out crowd at Providence Park gathered in anticipation. Darlington Nagbe and David Guzmán were home from international duty. Marco Farfan, the local homegrown talent and Centennial High School senior, was going to get the start in front of family and friends. And scoring machines Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri would have the chance to test a New England Revolution team that could prove as dangerous on the counter as the Timbers. And for a time, we weren’t disappointed.

First: that goal. Oh, my goodness. Valeri’s strike at the twelfth minute was one of the prettiest I’ve seen at Providence Park, and is surely already in the running for goal of the year:

Then: Marco Farfan. Absolute poetry. My seats are on the west side of the stadium, which means that when he is working as a fullback I get a great up close and personal look at the action for half of the match–and oh my GOODNESS. It was hard to remember that Farfan is still only 18 as I watched him repeatedly own Kei Kamara. Farfan won eight tackles in his home debut and put in a confident, competent performance, pushing up well and defending his territory brilliantly. If he didn’t finish his spring break homework I hope he can turn in a condensed match report for extra credit.

The Timbers were working the ball well that first half, maintaining confident possession and a one goal lead going into the half. And then…

You know that moment in a horror movie when everybody in the theater seems to know what’s about to happen, but for some reason the characters don’t? When you want to shout at the screen “No, that is NOT just the wind making that scraping noise!” “No, you should NOT all split up and head out separately into the woods!” “No, the bad guy is NOT dead and if you turn your back on him he WILL get up and brain you!”

That is pretty much how the second half felt.

All of us in the stadium could tell what was coming. We all KNEW that a one goal lead would not suffice. We KNEW that we needed to come back with intensity, that we needed to crash the box, that we needed to put in another goal to put the game away.

And instead we watched in gathering dread as the team seemingly started the half in second gear; as Sebastian Blanco missed chances wide; as we didn’t have numbers inside the box when we needed them…and as this happened:

Yep. Told you so, said pretty much everyone in the park. I TOLD you if you didn’t take care of business that the bad guy in that horror movie would get back up and brain ya.

I’m not sure where to lay the blame for this one. Yes, Jake Gleeson misplayed the ball. But if Roy Miller had done the defensive job required, the ball wouldn’t have been a threat in the first place. And if Nagbe had been trailing in the box more for second chances, we might have had a second or third goal, which would likely have iced the game even with the defensive lapse. And if we had used, say, Dairon Asprilla or Darren Mattocks, maybe they would have provided a late offensive spark that would have shifted the momentum in our favor.

Regardless of the reason, Lee Nguyen (who to be fair was not in fact a horror movie bad guy, just a talented player doing his job) leveled the score late in the match, and the Revs took a point in Portland.

Disappointing, to be sure, but yes, a point is better than none. And we are still ahead of our typical March/early April performance in MLS. But the firepower of this team has raised my expectations. One goal at home, especially with acknowledged weakness in the center back position, is not sufficient. I hope we score early and often next weekend, and that we don’t take the foot off the gas pedal in Philadelphia until the final whistle.


Off the Pitch

I got to meet an amazing young man this weekend. Dylan Mapston is a 12-year-old Timbers fan and goalkeeper who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. You can read more about Dylan here. Dylan’s two-year-old cousin, Cheyenne, lives in the Portland metro area and is undergoing treatment for a cancerous growth on her spine (more information and fundraiser here). Dylan has started an effort to raise awareness for children with cancer and to give back to those who are fighting this disease. Dylan and his father flew out to Portland for the Timbers and Thorns matches this weekend, collected teddy bears and toys donated at both matches, and delivered them to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital.

Soccer may be the thing that brings us together, but sometimes it inspires something much greater. It was a privilege to meet Dylan. I’m grateful for his inspiration and perspective, and for demonstrating the Team/Town/Timbers Army connection we know and love. I hope we meet again soon.

Featured image of Marco Farfan courtesy: Portland Timbers facebook

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Everyone’s Open Now…Right?

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Sporting KC @ DC United: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

Sporting KC vs FC Dallas: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

Sporting KC @ Toronto FC: Home Opener 0 – 0 and freezing

I’m beginning to sense a trend here, and we need a Mommie Dearest moment…

wirehangers

Sporting KC has personally scored a whopping one goal in their four games, and they have been gifted one by the generous gaff of David Bingham. While both of those goals were at home, we had already opened for business.

The good side of the this story is that Tim Melia is straight up fire in home openers (and all games actually)! Three clean sheets in three openers with some monster saves thrown in for good measure. I would like to reference a tweet from this past game…

Tim Melia being an actual unicorn has neither been confirmed nor denied, so I’m just going to go with it…Now on to the game!

Toronto, you are cold. You are very cold, and you are very damp. It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained some more. I feel for our Toronto FC writer, @crissypayne, because she was there. She might still be thawing. I felt bad for the poor mascot children who had no coats! Michael Bradley‘s children had coats. Toronto, get those kids some coats!

The game can be summed up in one word really. Almost. Toronto almost scored. Sporting almost scored. That’s about all there was. A whole lot of almosts. Hopefully, now that we’re past everyone’s opening jitters we can start turning those almosts into actualities.

There have been some good things going on among these almosts though. The new guys on the team have all been positive additions to the line up. Gerso Fernandes is starting to get some great touches up front. He had three attempts, an assist on an attempt, and won a free kick in the attacking half against Toronto. Some of his passes were questionable, but there was a good amount of sloppy play on both sides. I’m going to chalk some of it up to the weather, and see what happens as the season continues.

Soony Saad is not technically new, but he had a solid game and was creating chances. Hopefully, he gets some more time to keep working on his rhythm with Dom Dwyer, and they can regain that magic they had a few seasons ago. Latif Blessing was a late sub for Soony, and he was like an instant jolt of electricity! He is fast, and knows how to move the ball both in space and through defenders. The only worry I have with Latif is that he is not very big, and he will need to be strong against some of the bigger defenders in the MLS.

The last new guy is Ilie Sanchez. Last week I was iffy on Ilie, but this week I am all for him. His on ball decisions were good, his passes were concise, and he had an amazing delivery from the corner in the waning minutes of the game! If Dom had been a foot closer it would have been a goal.

The real stars of the season so far have been the back four and Tim. The back line of Seth Sinovic, O’Captain my Captain Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Graham Zusi has been so solid. Matt and Seth have continued their strong foundation from last season, and with the additions of a healthy Ike and converted midfielder Zusi, the SKC back line is one of the best in the league.

All things aside, Sporting escaped with a point, and their unbeaten streak against Toronto now stands at eight games.

Week 4 Fun(ny) Facts

Toronto fans kept throwing toilet paper on the field which was annoying, but it led to the best moment of the game. Poor Soony…

SKC likes to play April Fool’s Day pranks. See last year when they got Tim Melia and Jordi Quintilla to “audition” for Dancing With The Stars. This year Dom, Soony, and Coach Peter Vermes catfished rookie Colton Storm, or should we say Mark from Cabo… You just have to watch.

I’m excited for Sporting to come back home to Kansas City this Sunday to take on the Colorado Rapids. Game day temp? 72 and sunny, baby!

Featured image courtesy: @SportingKC

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Oh, what a relief!

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

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

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

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

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

Oh, and LGP did this, too:

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

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

Other notes:

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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Leave ‘Em Quaking

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 1: 2-1 Win

I love when soccer stresses me out.

Yes, it’s nice to get decisive, comfortable wins. I’d certainly never be foolhardy enough to turn down an early lead and a clean sheet. That feeling of assurance that your team will win is irreplaceable (and rare).

But there’s a certain magic in coming up from behind.

The true mettle of a team tends to show its face when the scoreline isn’t skewing in their favor. It’s easy to fall to pieces when the opponent has the advantage. It’s easy to panic, to get desperate and sloppy. It’s much harder to keep heads up, eyes forward, and minds clear. Despite San Jose Earthquakes‘ early goal on Saturday, the boys in blue managed to retain their focus and pushed hard to come back.

Jack Harrison scored the equalizer just ten minutes in, off of a so-casual-it-couldn’t-possibly-have-been-on-purpose (but it was!) backheel from David Villa. I’m a huge fan of the Villa-Harrison connection. The two of them read each other incredibly well and always seem to know where the other is without looking.

That quick comeback gave New York City FC the confidence to keep persisting through the first half, though nothing came to fruition. Alex Ring, in particular, was doing the most he could to get a goal. It never quite came together, but he was delightful to watch. Ring is graceful with the ball at his feet — the word delicate even came to mind as I was watching him. It’s refreshing to watch.

Image courtesy NYCFC.com

Things never looked hopeless for NYCFC, but the struggle to find attacking harmony in the second half was undoubtedly real. And then, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Just six minutes after his substitution, West Nyack’s golden boy Tommy McNamara found the back of the net. Who else? Who but T-Mac could pick us up when we’re down?

Of course, to credit the goal just to Tommy would be doing a disservice to the beautiful play that led up to it. It truly was a team goal, which makes the turnabout win so much sweeter. Rodney Wallace passed to Villa, who coolly laid it off for Rónald Matarrita — and he could have gone for goal there, he really could have, but at the end of the day Mata is an architect, not a showboat. He saw Tommy with space and handed him the goal on a silver platter. It was one of those glorious moments in soccer where everything comes together so quickly and seamlessly, you have to wonder why you were ever stressed to begin with.

Those three points at home bring NYCFC up to a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early, but I remain confident as ever that this is a stronger, better, faster NYCFC. This comeback just solidified it for me. Nothing is impossible if we keep this attitude up.

What else went down?

  • Death to short corners. I’m over them. Give me a long, elegant arc over the top for a set piece goal any day of the week.
  • Not that I ever want to think about David Villa leaving us, but when he inevitably does, I hope T-Mac is still around. He has all the qualities a captain should possess — dedication, humility, grace under pressure — and, perhaps even more importantly, the undying love of the supporters.
  • My Andrea Pirlo feelings remain complicated. To echo what I said after our opening match, I’m not sure I can conceive of a world where he’s relegated to the bench. It simply doesn’t compute in my head. At the same time, it’s hard to come to his defense after a showing like this one. And yet, because he’s Andrea freaking Pirlo, there’s a tendency to gloss over what his game lacks — to wit, Patrick Vieira was adamant in his post-match comments that he did not sub Pirlo off because he was playing poorly. I can’t imagine we’ll see a reality where Pirlo isn’t starting with some regularity, but still, I’d be interested in knowing what shape the team can take without him.
  • Maxime Chanot was a verifiable wall in this match. He was everywhere, tackling and intercepting and clearing like it’s his job — I mean, it is, but you know. Man of the Match is an accolade that rarely goes the way of defenders, but if I could give it to him, I would.
  • Off the pitch, Rónald Matarrita is leading the team in fashion. Fresh to death, Mata. I love it.
  • To celebrate April Fools’ Day, NYCFC adopted a pigeon. I choose to believe this was not a prank, and I look forward to seeing what Theodore brings to the team. New York is coo.

Next weekend you can find me at Avaya Stadium in the Sounders supporters’ section with my Seattle-loving friends! But I’ll be back on Sunday to watch a replay of NYCFC’s match and report on it… if we win. If I find out we lost, I may mysteriously be too busy.

Just kidding.

Probably.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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Young Woman Yells at Cloud: Homecoming and a scoreless draw hosting Sporting KC

Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

Toronto FC song(s) of the match: Have You Ever Seen the Rain? By Creedence Clearwater Revival AND Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head by B.J. Thomas

I’ve got CCR on repeat and I’m trying to find inspiration in a game that was all washed out. We came, we sang, we drew, we froze half to death. That’s not to say I don’t still have complete faith in this team, that’s not to say I’m not proud we’re still undefeated in the league, but things are starting to feel a bit repetitive.

3 out of 4 games draws, 2 of them scoreless, and one relatively late winner that was more than overdue. And still Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t scored.

Don’t get me wrong, it felt so good to be home. Too good! So good I’ll forgive the cold that settled in my bones and the strange feeling that I had just taken a dip in Lake Ontario on my way to the stadium. Boy did it rain! But still.

Being among the fans again, singing our hearts out, it just felt so right. I hope the players felt it too. I hope BMO Field instills in them the same passion it does me and the thousands of others who sang and cheered like we could still feel the tips of our fingers. And to the Inebriatti guy who still took his shirt off in the second half; you’re really something else! That is passion.

I was, to say the least, not amused last game when we fielded a starting XI without a single Canadian player in it. Raheem Edwards silenced anyone who could have thought that was for the best when he set up a great goal off the bench in Vancouver and Jonathan Osorio asked questions too with his assist.

Edwards is still silencing any dissent with his phenomenal performance on Friday night against Sporting Kansas City. The kid was everywhere! The ground he must have covered! He provided a great option in the absence of Justin Morrow and he was well served in a 3-5-2 formation, a very attack minded player but not without his defensive prowess. Particularly impressive was his far post header save in the dying minutes of the game, a moment that could have proven the difference for SKC. This young local guy has my man of the match vote and I sincerely hope we consider him as more than just a stand in for future games.

Speaking of Canadian players, after reminding myself a dozen times this is not an article about Jonathan Osorio, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that it’s okay to sky a few shots! I know nobody is going to be as upset about this as he is but it’s worth noting that besides missing 3 sitters he had a pretty good game overall. Good passing, good positioning, his defensive game has improved a lot lately, and he always has a good read on the game. The shooting can be practiced! I only hope he isn’t too hard on himself, and finds the positives in his game as well as the room for improvement.

Finally, we unfortunately saw Clint Irwin forced off on injury late in the first half which is never ideal. I wish him the speediest recovery and I’m hearing he’ll miss 4-5 weeks with a hamstring strain. I’m just so glad we have an extremely capable backup by way of Alex Bono. He rose to the occasion and he got that clean sheet and he made two great saves in the process. It’s really nice to have not one, but two goalkeepers in whose hands I feel completely safe.

To my fellow fans: I’m so happy to see you again, we had a great first game back and you lot always make BMO Field the best place to be in the world. To the players: Welcome home and see you in a week. Undefeated, baby!

Featured image of Raheem Edwards courtesy: Toronto FC facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

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New Head Coach A Welcome Addition

Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich @heyambrosia

Real Salt Lake’s new coach Mike Petke was named today, and it was mostly no surprise. When he was hired on to coach the Real Monarchs, Salt Lake’s USL team, fans of RSL who were concerned with former coach Jeff Cassar’s performance started wondering if the plan was to eventually move Petke to be head coach over RSL.

Mike Petke, 41, previously coached New York Red Bulls, both as an assistant (2011-2012) and then head coach (2013-2014). He was fired in January 2015, which resulted in huge backlash from Red Bulls supporters. He was hired to coach the Real Monarchs in December of 2016.

As a player, Petke played  as a defender in the MLS for the MetroStars (later became what is now the New York Red Bulls) from 1998-2002, then was traded over to D.C. United to play for them from 2003 to 2005. After, he played for Colorado Rapids (2005-2008), then back to the Red Bulls from 2009-2010. He also made two appearances with the USMNT before retiring.

Petke has lead the New York Red Bulls to their first major trophy, the Supporters Shield in 2013 as well as leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014.

Since being coach of the Real Monarchs, he has lead the team to victory over the Timbers 2, with a 2-1 lead.

Many supporters of RSL are very excited to have Petke as a coach. He will be a welcome addition to the team.

Featured image courtesy: @RealSaltLake

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To Be A Seattle Sounders Fan

Seattle Sounders Key Contributor

By Kaitlyn O’Rourke

To be a Seattle Sounders fan means to love the team that was born in 1974, to love the boys in famous green, to be “full of hopes an’ full of fears, full of laughter, full of tears, full of dreams to last the years…”

It means to be the “rowdiest” fans in the league, to wear bright green and blue. But most of all, it means to love the team with all your heart. Even if you can’t march to the match, or sing and chant for 90 minutes with 45,000 others.

Even if you can’t lose your voice or follow them to every corner of the country and Canada, if you can only get to a few games per year. To be a Sounders fan means to carry the stories and memories of the team with you. It means to be eternal blue, forever green.

The Memories

The following list is a collection of anecdotes from Sounders fans (and Cristian Roldan’s family) about their favorite moments as a fan. (Promise they aren’t all the MLS Cup.)

~”When Marco Pappa volleyed the ball over Jaime Pinedo‘s head, to score our second goal, and claimed the Supporter’s shield.” –Jesse Lopez (Oct. 2014)

~”A friend brought me to a bar to watch a game. It was there I became a part of the ECS.” –Danny DiRe

~”Loved  traveling to our first away match in Vancouver, and seeing the players celebrate with us in ECS.” –Sandra Azevedo

~”My favorite Sounders moment of all-time was Kasey Keller’s last game. When Kasey Keller made that save in [h]is last game against the Earthquakes that put a huge smile on my face.” – Travis Hartman

~”During my first boom boom clap was the first moment I realized I was free of my emotionally abusive husband and I could live a life of my choice. For that, I will be a Sounder till I die.” –Kyla Lanham

~”Meeting the guys at the airport after my sister in law told me they were on her flight.  We rushed to SeaTac, and were the only fans there. They were so incredibly gracious! My kids were stunned into mutes when Jordan started talking to us, and I admittedly became tongue tied. Ha!” –Trish Mathias

~”I’ll say watching the MLS Cup final in my dorm and having non soccer fans and Timbers fans cheering with me when Torres scored.” –Nelson Matthew

~”My first time going to see a match at CenturyLink. Having moved to Seattle, we had dinner downtown before hand and were amazed at how many families had on Sounders gear heading to the match. It felt like NFL-level support, and the stadium experience lived up to the hype.” –Nathan Reynolds

~”I went to a Sounders game at the Kingdome, and they had 58,000 fans there.” –Pat O’Rourke (Sounders vs Cosmos on April 9th, 1976)

~”We were lucky enough to be in Toronto for the Cup Final. I was wearing a Kilt, because we win when I wear it, so I was borderline Hypothermic. I will never forget the sudden adrenaline of Torres’ PK and how warm I felt for the next hour standing there cheering our champions. I doubt I’ll ever top that Sounders memory.” –Chad Harris

~ “His first MLS goal” – Cristian Roldan’s cousin

~”My favorite moment was when Sounders played Portland at home last year. I thought it was an outstanding performance by the team and it put Cristian Roldan on the map.” –Alexander Roldan (Cristian Roldan’s brother)

~“One of her favorite Sounders moments was when Jordan scored against the LA Galaxy on the 25th September last year. We were still living in Seattle then, living at the Ronald McDonald House and she watched the game with us at the house. It wasn’t so long after Jordan and Cristian had been to visit us at the Ronald McDonald House and played with Erin. She was really happy that they beat LA Galaxy!! Also she said winning the MLS Cup was another of her favourite moments. Also meeting Jordan, Cristian, Tyler and Jordan Schweitzer when they visited her quite a few times at Ronald McDonald House and played football and generally fooled around!” –Erin Cross’s mom, talking about her daughter’s favorite Sounders memories.

~“When my friend Kaitlyn and I were the only 2 Sounders fans in this one area at an away game but we were louder than all the fans in the section, well, she was louder.” -Elizabeth (“oh yeah and Jordan Morris scored and they won”)

My memory? The MLS Cup. I won’t say how much I cried or for how long. It’s embarrassing.

The entire game I felt like I would explode. I kept thinking “the longer this goes on, the better our chances are”. Somewhere I read something that said “We get 30 minutes of bonus soccer because someone upstairs doesn’t care about your blood pressure.” And that’s how I felt. I was in my basement, surrounded by a light up Rainier beer sign and blimp, and a Washington State shaped table, and my dad, who had told me about 50,000 Sounders fans at the Kingdome.

I must have jumped on and off my couch 1300 times in the 10 minute shootout. I remember every thought I had. On the Sounders 5th kick, it hit me, if Nico Lodeiro missed, we would lose. At that point, I couldn’t imagine experiencing that. I didn’t have to. The Toronto player who went next hit the crossbar. That’s when the first tear came.

When I saw Roman Torres walk up, all I could think about was if he would shoot it over the bar. He didn’t. We had won. All I could think about was that We Had Won The Cup. My hands were shaking. I had such a big lump in my throat, I was crying so much, that when I went up to see my mom, all I could say is “We Won”.

I stopped crying at one point during the press conference only to hear Brian Schmetzer choke up. I had prayed for this moment (and I don’t normally pray). I had made bets on milkshakes (and never lost one). I had more pictures of grown men crying on my phone than I am proud of. I had imagined it 1000 different ways, but now I can’t imagine it any other way.

To be a Sounders fan is what all of these people said. It’s to be at away games, to meet the guys, to do the boom-boom-clap, to carry the memories, it’s to fall in love with the team. To be eternal blue, forever green.

Featured image courtesy: Gilman Park

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Last Goal Wins

Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Saturday, March 25: 3-2 Loss

I will always have a special place in my heart for Columbus. Aside from the obvious in 2015, there was this moment (which made me love Savannah forever, she is an awesome human) and this lovable yet incomprehensible video from 2013 (no, please do not ask me to explain it; I cannot). Since we HAD to end the winning streak somewhere, it might as well have been at Mapfre.

The Good

I was happy to see Dairon Asprilla get the start. He has had a second chance and a new beginning with us this year after last season’s loan to Colombian side Millonarios, and this weekend he made it count. In the fourth minute, in his first start for us this year, Asprilla had a beautiful right-footed cross to the left of the net. I was worried about Asprilla’s ability to fill in for Darlington Nagbe when it came to possession and ball handling, but I looked forward to his more aggressive stance when it came to shooting.

Fanendo Adi worked his usual magic, scoring in stoppage time at the half to pull the Portland Timbers level at 2-2, tying the Timbers all-time scoring record in the process. I watched the replay, and I can only describe what Columbus Crew did in response to Adi as “the campfire defense,” something I would argue that our back line was notorious for carrying out in 2011 and 2012. The Campfire Defense occurs when three or four guys in the back more or less make a circle around the opposing player, much like huddling around a campfire, and watch the ball in fascination as the offensive player shoots and scores; and that’s pretty much what Columbus did for Adi’s goal.

The Bad

Speaking of Campfire Defense: we were hurting in the middle and the back in this game. Ultimately we got burned because Columbus REALLY owned us in the middle. We had two key players out for international duty (Nagbe for the US and Davíd Guzmán for Costa Rica), and it showed. Without Nagbe for possession and Guzman for the 50/50 balls, when Columbus threw everything and the kitchen sink at us in the middle of the field, we were unable to respond (a little over 35% possession, which is definitely NOT okay with Porter).

And once again, with a back line consisting of mostly second stringers, our defensive unit did not handle the pressure well. While we were always in the hunt, our back line did not react well in general. We got burned in the 11th minute by Justin Meram cleaning up after a corner kick for Columbus’s first score; Ola Kamara  took advantage of some flat-footed defense at the 19th minute to chip Jake Gleeson; and the final goal by Niko Hansen in at the 84 minute mark ultimately did us in. All three of these goals made our defensive unit look disorganized, to say the least.

Other Stuff

Once again, the Timbers Army on the road represented well. This is the second away game that our road support has purchased pretty much every ticket available in the away supporter allocation. Win, lose, or draw, our away support makes me proud.

I’m also proud of our work off the field. Locally, supporters in Portland and Beaverton put in shifts at the Oregon Food Bank on game day, packing food for the hungry before heading out for watch parties. Team, Town, TA is still in full effect. Well done, folks.

On the field, our strength this year will be the counterattack, the control in the middle, and our attacking line in general; and our biggest challenge will be our, er, less than stellar back line. As I’ve said before, our season will probably best be summed up as “Last Goal Wins.” It’s been true so far, for better or for worse.  See you all next week at home as we battle New England Revolution on Sunday.

Featured image Fenando Adi to tie game courtesy: USA TODAY Sports Images

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Skroman Prijedlog

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

It’s international break! The best time of the year!

I wish I could tell you about how the New York City FC players fared on their respective national teams, but to be entirely honest? I wasn’t paying attention (well, beyond Costa Rica’s walloping at the hands of Mexico). Chalk most of that up to being sick as a dog, but chalk a good part up to the fact that my international breaks revolve around one major thing: Obsessively tracking the Croatia national team.

My heart beats strongest and hardest for Vatreni. I love them in the way one can only love the homeland of their blood. In May, I’ll travel with my girlfriend to watch them play a friendly against Mexico here in the States, and I only think about that match… oh, I don’t know, five thousand times a day. They’re number one in my head and heart. They mean the world to me.

Croatian players are so often my bargaining chip when talking to other football fans. I can find common ground with Inter Milan fans by singing the praises of their current Croatian wonder duo, Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović. I can break up a heated argument with any culé by asking how they feel about Ivan Rakitić. No matter where club loyalties lie, the most important thing to me is that everyone adores the men who represent my country.

That’s not asking much, right?

Unfortunately, Croatians are all but unknown in MLS. Let me break it down real quick:

Vedran Ćorluka courtesy: Getty Images

Four Croatians have played in MLS. Four! That’s enough to count on one hand, and you’re still left with enough room to give a big thumbs down. Scorin’ Goran Hunjak played for the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny and pre-Sporting KC Kansas City Wizards in the mid-90s. Josip Mikulić spent one uneventful season with Chicago Fire in 2011; Marko Marić was also there, but only made one appearance before being sidelined with injury. Leonard Bisaku saw out his career at Columbus Crew, though I’d challenge you to find a single soul who remembers him.

And… that’s it. It’s also worth noting none of the players above made appearances for the senior national team.

The biggest Croatian name to make it to America is Niko Kranjčar. A former midfielder for Vatreni, Niko found himself wandering in a bit of a clubless haze after Dynamo Kyiv released him in 2016. He somehow found himself training with the New York Cosmos to keep up his fitness, and signed for them in March when one of their foreign player spots opened up. He made seven appearances, scored one goal, and left for the Scottish Premiership three months later to join the Rangers.

Thrilling.

That brings me to my point. MLS gods that be, if you’re listening, I have a modest proposal:

BRING THESE PLAYERS TO MLS (PREFERABLY NYCFC BUT I’M NOT PICKY) NOW, THANK ME LATER!

  • Ivica Olić — 37 years old, forward, currently with 1860 Munich. I know, I see you balking at his age, but hear me out. Ivica has the honor of being in the top five all-time goal scorers for Vatreni, and even though he’s on the wrong side of thirty, he’s still finding the net in Germany. At one point he was rumored to be linked to the Sounders, so… You know what to do. Make it happen.
  • Eduardo da Silva — 34 years old, forward, currently with Atlético Paranaense. Speaking of all-time goal scorers! Dudu is our #2 man and was instrumental in many of Vatreni’s successes over the years. You need goals? Great. Sign him. Please. I miss watching him play.
  • Vedran Ćorluka — 31 years old, defender, currently with Lokomotiv Moscow. AKA Charlie, AKA that guy whose head kept bleeding during Euro 2016 so they made him wear a cute little water polo cap. Charlie is your prototypical bulky defender and he does well anywhere on the back line. If certain clubs who need some extra beef in their defense are looking for options, well… You’re welcome.
  • Nikola Kalinić — 29 years old, striker, currently with Fiorentina. Arguably the best striker you’ve never heard of. Nikola is on fire with both club and country. He’s a joy to watch play, and he lives up to his price tag based on goal tally alone. Maybe you remember him from embarrassing Spain during the Euros last summer? He’s cheeky. Get him over here right now.
  • Alen Halilović — 20 years old, attacking midfielder, currently with Las Palmas. Look, they’re not all old! Alen is young and talented and, well, major European leagues aren’t working out super well for him so far, so why not? Think of it as a swap deal. If Christian Pulisic can play for the USMNT, Alen can play in MLS. (Related, don’t talk to me about Pulisic until he learns how to pronounce his own surname.)
  • Anybody but Mario Mandžukić. I mean it. Anybody else. I feel very strongly that Mandzo was meant to retire at Juventus, and MLS gods, if you take that from me, you will rue the day.

I mean, I could go on. The list is approximately endless. This is my niche, this is the hill I die on.

Your move, MLS.

Featured image courtesy: Croatia National Team

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