Tag Archives: Atlanta United FC

Oops, we did it again breaking ALL the records in Atlanta

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, March 11: 3-1 Win

After a miserable season opener at Houston last week, Atlanta United FC redeemed itself by breaking the “raccoon witch curse” and the fans proved once again that soccer is thriving in Georgia.

In 2017, ATLUTD could not manage to scrape together a draw against DC United, let alone a win and the “raccoon witch curse” was born. Those raccoons at RFK Stadium obviously performed some unholy magic that somehow allowed the second-worst team in the league last year to defeat ATLUTD all three times they met.

In our home opener for 2018, though, the tables turned. Coach Tata Martino made some adjustments to the formation (more on that in a bit) and ATLUTD wins 3-1, with goals from Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Tito Villalba. My friend (and Mouths of the South podcaster), Jay Riddle had a theory:

ATLUTD played in a 3-5-2 formation this week (different from the usual 4-2-3-1) and Tata put Jeff Larentowicz (aka “Larry”) back as a defensive midfielder, Miggy back in at CM, and moved Greg Garza to left wing and Julian Gressel to right wing.

I’m usually a bit leery when Tata starts changing things around, but it was easy to see the guys had much better control this week. I was still nervous with only a 1-0 lead at the half, but then Miggy scored. And not even two minutes later, Tito scored (and I missed it because I was posting a picture of T.I. on the supporters stage to the MLSFemale IG story, which is how I got caught on ESPN, so there’s that).

Our old pal Yamil Asad may have scored DCU’s first goal of the season, but he wasn’t much help to them this weekend. Asad got some applause from the early fans when he walked into the stadium and hugged all of his former teammates when DCU came out for warmups, which nearly made me cry. However, he did have some trouble getting past Gressel and Franco Escobar on the right. The only goal for DCU was scored by Darren Mattocks, who slipped by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and somehow managed to get a shot by Brad Guzan.

For a third time, ATLUTD broke the MLS single-game attendance record with 72,035 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. The club also announced on Monday that they will open the full stadium for a fifth game (Oct 21 vs Chicago Fire, the final regular season game) this season. A friend of mine did the math and said this will bring us to just over 900,000 people at ATLUTD games in 2018. I’d like to see them open it up two more times (for a total of seven full-stadium games) so we can go over 1,000,000!

In other news this week, Julian Gressel made the MLS Team of the Week (with Almiron on the bench), and Miggy’s goal is up for Goal of the Week. I think ATL fans broke MLS’s system last year, so now you can only vote once (instead of once per hour like last year).

This coming Saturday, 3/17, ATLUTD host the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have an impressive streak of 18 road games undefeated. Vancouver got the best of our boys last year, but so did DCU – until they came to the Benz, so we’ll see what Tata and the boys do this week. I’m not betting against my boys and the home crowd, though. 😉

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

So that happened to ATLUTD…

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, March 3, 2018: 4-0 Loss

Atlanta United‘s preseason was…not ideal. They managed a single win against soon-to-be MLS rival Nashville SC in some crazy weather conditions and then a loss (vs Columbus Crew) and two draws (MNUFC and USL side Charleston Battery) during the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC.

During the week between the final game in Charleston and our first regular season game at Houston, it was announced that our brand new toy, Ezequiel Barco, sustained a quad injury in training and would be out for 4-6 weeks. This brought back nightmares to the ATLUTD faithful, as Josef Martinez suffered a similar injury early in the 2017 season while playing for the Venezuelan national team.

Barco’s injury and the fact that Michael Parkhurst was still recovering from an injury forced coach Tata Martino to make some pretty big changes in the lineup for the Houston Dynamo game.

Miguel Almiron, who has made the most impact at central attacking midfielder was pushed out to the left to cover for Barco. 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel was slotted in to replace Almiron, Chris McCann was added as a defensive midfielder, and Jeff Larentowicz was pushed back to center back to replace Parkhurst.

This was, however, our first regular-season lineup with offseason acquisition Darlington Nagbe in it. We saw some lovely things from him in the preseason, but this game didn’t go as well for him – or any of the midfielders or CBs, for that matter.

It pains me to say this, but Leandro Gonzalez Pirez probably played his worst game ever. He ended up with a yellow card (Despite saying he was trying to get fewer cards this year; not such a great start there, LGP) was subbed out late in the first half with a hip contusion.

Maybe he was still hungover from his birthday celebration earlier in the week? Or he was distracted by the fact that he’s going to be a first-time dad later this year? I don’t know what got into him, but he was not himself this weekend and while ATLUTD is reporting that he’s day-to-day (did not practice on Tuesday) with this hip contusion, he could easily be out for 1-2 weeks or more.

While our list of injured players grew longer, at least our defense managed to shore itself up in the second half of the game on Saturday. After giving up four goals (!!) to Houston in the first half, the second half was scoreless. This is the first time ATLUTD fans have been on this side of a score like that. And it was not fun. My social media timelines were not a pleasant place to be on Sunday.

Thankfully, it was just the first game of the season. We have 33 more games to go and I have faith that they’ll figure it out soon enough.

In the meantime, we have our first home game of the season to look forward to (or not) this Sunday vs the only team that got the best of us three times (*angry emoji*) last season, DC United. DCU snuck around during the offseason and picked up Yamil Asad on loan from Velez Sarsfield in Argentina.

If you read any of my columns last year, you’ll know Asad was a fan favorite here in Atlanta in 2017. He will always be remembered for scoring the very first regular season ATLUTD goal and throwing ‘bows out on the field early in the season. He even went on to score DCU’s first goal of the season last week at Orlando (ha!).

ATLUTD take on DC United this Sunday, 3/11 at 3pm ET at home in front of a potentially record-breaking (again) crowd. The upper level will be open, which means 70k+ in attendance at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

ATLUTD’s Best Season Ever

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

The inaugural season for Atlanta United was full of highs and lows. Highs like going undefeated against Orlando City SC (we are the #KingsOfTheSouth, after all) and drawing against both the first and second place teams from 2016 – twice against Toronto FC, thank you very much. Lows like losing all three games against DC United and Josef Martinez and Miguel Almirón getting injured.

Still, so many good things happened this year. First of all, WE HAVE A TEAM! And they did very well when no one really expected them to.  They were the only expansion team to have made the playoffs in their first season since Seattle Sounders did in 2009. The 70 goals they scored this year is the second most in MLS this season and the highest ever for an expansion team. The +30 goal differential is also the highest for an expansion team and fourth in MLS this year.

The defense did some really good work this year as well. Alec Kann and Brad Guzan had a total of 12 clean sheets this season.  MLS newbie Leandro González Pirez and veteran Michael Parkhurst teamed up in the back to become a formidable defensive presence. In the few games LGP didn’t play, it was definitely noticeable.

For all of the complaining about the team’s name in the last two years, it really has become very appropriate. This team really did unite this city like nothing has ever done before. Atlanta United supporters broke the single game attendance record – TWICE in five weeks – and then broke the playoff attendance record. ATLUTD supporters also had the highest average attendance for the regular season, with an average of just over 48,000.

ATLUTD is racking up the awards this post-season. Julian Gressel ran away with the Rookie of the Year award and Miguel Almirón won Newcomer of the Year. Both Goal of the Year (Tito Villalba’s rocket vs Orlando) and Save of the Year (Brad Guzan vs NYRB) were both awarded to ATLUTD, proving once again that #ATLWinsTheInternet.

In addition to those awards, three of the 24 Players Under 24 were from Atlanta (Villalba, Asad, and Almirón, who was #1), and five of the top selling jerseys in MLS were Atlanta players. We also have two players up for MVP (Almirón and Martinez) and coach Tata Martino is up for coach of the year.

After all of the successes in 2017, what do Atlanta supporters have to look forward to in 2018? For one, a team that’s been together for a year and knows each other pretty well now. Despite some post season roster moves and a few players who’s futures are up in the air (at least to the general public right now), Atlanta United have a solid core and any offseason moves will likely only enhance that.

Second, we’re getting a USL team! It was announced recently that Atlanta United will kick off a USL team in 2018 and they’ll play in Gwinnett County, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. In a baseball stadium (*sigh*) with a little over 10,000 seats. Word is that they will eventually play at the ATLUTD training ground, but right now, the show pitch there only seats 2,500 and the USL minimum is 5,000.

The USL team is exciting because we have three new homegrown players being added to the roster next year and this will be our chance to really see them play. The new homegrowns will join U-17 National Team standouts Andrew Carleton (who saw a few minutes with the first team earlier in 2017) and Chris Goslin.

Third, now that we’ve moved into the Benz, we won’t have to worry about crazy schedules with 8 games in 24 days or months without a home game. Plus, we’re hosting the 2018 MLS All-Star Game!

While 2017 was tremendous for us here in the ATL, 2018 promises to be even better. And we’ll be there, rowdy & proud as ever.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Rookie Goals FTW

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

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 22: 1-3 Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from this week:

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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

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

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 15: 2-1 Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

Home Sweet Home

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Tuesday, April 11 – Marietta, GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging out with Brittany Arnold from Fox Sports South

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

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

Images courtesy: Robyn Saghini

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

International Breaks are No Fun

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

March 25: International Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image of Martinez courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram! @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

Snow Day!

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Sunday March 12: 1-6 Win

I can’t begin to tell you how many weather reports for Minnesota I saw last week. Will it snow? How cold will it be at kickoff? Will it break a record? Turns out that Sunday’s Minnesota United vs Atlanta United game did break a couple of records – and not all due to the weather.

Lucky for me, I was warm and toasty at Fado Irish Pub in the Buckhead section of Atlanta with 100 or so of my closest friends watching the game. It was actually a bit chilly outside (in the 40s), but nowhere near as cold as it was in Minneapolis.

The weather did play a major factor in the game. The temperature hovered in the low 20s at kickoff, making it the coldest game in MLS history, just beating out the MLS Cup Final in Kansas City a few years ago. And the snow started to fall just before the game started and started sticking about 20 minutes in. It was so bad at one point that Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, ATLUTD’s left back, had to change his shoes because he couldn’t stay on his feet.

The other records, though, were of the goal variety.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez didn’t look remotely fazed by the weather as he opened his MLS account, probably because he spent some time playing in Switzerland. Three minutes into the game, Martinez ran straight through the Loons defenders and tapped the ball around John Alvbage. Ten minutes later, Miguel Almiron lofted a ball over Alvbage’s head into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 in favor of Atlanta. A quick pass from Almiron to Martinez in the 27th minute gave Josef a brace.

In the 30th minute, Jeff Larentowicz brought down Kevin Molino in the box and Minnesota were awarded a penalty, which caught Alec Kann going the wrong way. Kann did make up for it in first half stoppage time, though, with three back-to-back saves after a Minnesota corner kick that bounced around the box a few times.

The second half saw more goals by ATLUTD. Tito Villalba tried a cross to Martinez in the box, but it was deflected and bounced right in front of Almiron, who launched it into the back of the net with his (rather dangerous) left foot. Martinez earned his first hat trick after barreling through the Loons defense and skirting around the keeper again in the 75th minute. In the waning moments of the game, Greg Garza got a cross to a completely unmarked Jacob Peterson, who headed into the net.

I’m not much of an analyst – yet – but I can tell you Minnesota’s coaching staff needs to give some serious thought to their defensive strategy. There was no way their slow CBs were going to be able to keep up with our hyper-fast front line, snow or no snow. They were beaten – badly – every time. We’ll see where these two teams stand when they meet again later this season. In the extreme heat and humidity of Atlanta in August. One weather extreme to another.

The final tally was 6-1 in favor of Atlanta. A hat trick for Martinez, a brace for Almiron, and one goal for Peterson. Atlanta is the first expansion team to score six goals in a game their first season. It was the coldest game on record for MLS. And Martinez, Almiron and Garza all made the MLS Team of the Week, and coach Tata Martino was voted Coach of the Week. Not bad for some newbies!

The boys are back in ATL next Saturday for a 4pm game vs Chicago Fire. I am off to watch the highlights for Chicago’s first two games. I hear they’re starting off this season pretty well, so I’m eager to see how ATL does next week. See y’all then!

Featured image courtesy: Atlanta United FC facebook

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017