Tag Archives: Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United: Back in Action

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Hello again! Sorry for the lack of reporting from the ATL this month; I’ve been traveling for fun and work and haven’t had much time to write. In the meantime, though, Atlanta United have had an…interesting month. Let’s dive in to some quick recaps, shall we?

May 5th @ Chicago; W 1-2

May started out pretty well. The $15M kid, Ezequiel Barco got his first goal for the Five Stripes. Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez combined for the go-ahead goal. Over 100 ATLUTD supporters traveled for the eighth straight game undefeated.

May 9th vs SKC; L 0-2

Unfortunately, that undefeated streak didn’t go further. The first home loss of 2018 came at the hands of Sporting KC on a Wednesday night at the Benz. Tata made some lineup changes and there were some questionable calls, like Martinez’s goal called back as offside after Video Review.

One call that was (unfortunately) correct was the DOGSO red on ATL keeper Brad Guzan for taking Khiry Shelton down in the box in the 37th minute. ATL’s second and third goalies were both out with injuries and they had to sign 4th round draft pick (2018) Paul Christiansen to temporary hardship contracts for a couple of weeks. Christiansen did pretty well, getting a couple of good (maybe lucky) saves early on, but SKC ended up getting a couple of goals by him in the second half.

On a side note, my brother is no longer allowed to attend ATLUTD games. o_o And Tim Melia is a gosh-darn unicorn. That’s for you, @khoogs.

May 13th @ ORL; W 1-2

Atlanta United still have not lost to Orlando City (2-0-2). That is all.

(We play them two more times this year; I’m sure there will be MUCH more to talk about soon enough)

May 20th vs NYRB; L 1-3

*Sigh* This is where it gets ugly.

This game was the first home game I’ve missed in ATL’s short history. I screamed at the TV in my hotel room in El Salvador so many times, I’m surprised security wasn’t called. The refereeing, though…so bad.

I haven’t re-watched the game and I don’t want to, so all I can remember is that ATL lost the plot in the second half. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez got a yellow card for some reason, which meant he was out for the next game on accumulation.

Greg Garza got a straight red for a dangerous (but possibly unintentional) tackle, where he also re-re-re-injured his left shoulder (originally injured in the 2017 All-Star Game). Garza has been wearing a brace to keep his shoulder together since last season, but after this injury, he decided to go ahead and get the surgery to fix it rather than wait until a “better time.” He’s now out for four to six MONTHS. *crying emoji*

May 30th @ NE Revs; D 1-1

And finally, Wednesday night’s game. All in all, not a terrible game, but ATL has definitely had much better games. The New England Revolution‘s keeper practically stood on his head to make some really good saves. Barco and Miguel Almiron would have had a couple of goals each if it wasn’t for him. Martinez did manage to get a really easy goal when he caught NE’s defense sleeping.

There was some more slightly questionable refereeing in this game, although not as bad as in the previous two games. Kevin Kratz was called for a (soft) foul in the box and NE was given a PK, which they converted. Earlier in the game, however, Mikey Ambrose was not given a PK for a similar (soft) foul on the other side of the field. *shrug*

Upcoming Games

The next couple of weeks will be rather busy for ATLUTD, with four games in 11 days. I expect to see quite a bit of line up changes, especially for the US Open Cup game on 6/6. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for Atlanta, we aren’t losing any players to the World Cup this summer, so I’m hoping to keep that first place spot for a while…

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King Kratz the First of Atlanta United

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 28: 4-1 Win

I woke up way too early on Saturday, but for good reason. Breakfast/brunch tailgates are amazing. Also, I got to meet Jillian Sakovitz, who is part of the Atlanta United/Fox Sports South broadcast team this year (and gave her an MLSFemale pin – Too bad it didn’t make it on air, but it was on social media), so that was cool.

The highlight of the tailgate was the return of Brittany Arnold, who was replaced by Jillian this year. Brittany was at the game as a fan this time, so she came early and hung out at the tailgate before going in and later on after the game, too.

The game itself, though…The boys had us worried for a minute (or 57). Montreal Impact bunkered from the start and even more so after going up a goal in the 13th minute. Atlanta United had 73% possession, and most of it was spent trying to get something into the box and past the defense.

At the half, coach Tata Martino decided to make a tactical sub, replacing DM Jeff Larentowicz with forward Tito Villalba, who was getting his first minutes in a month since a hamstring injury in March. Unfortunately, Tito wasn’t much of an impact in this game, although it was good to see him make a few runs and nearly get a goal.

The first Atlanta goal came in the 70th minute when Miguel Almiron crossed a ball to Chris McCann in the box and Chris’ shot was deflected by Chris Duvall‘s arm, resulting in a handball PK for Miggy.

Greg Garza came out in the 75th minute to make way for Kevin Kratz, which turned out to be the best decision Tata has made all season. Three minutes after Kratz came into the game, Miggy was fouled just outside the Montreal box and Kratz stepped up to take the free kick and well…

A few minutes later, Miggy and Josef Martinez combined for the only goal that wasn’t from a set piece.

And finally, ten minutes later, another foul outside of Montreal’s box gave Kratz a chance to get a second amazing golazo.

Atlanta is currently still undefeated at home and has gone undefeated in their last seven games (6W, 1D). The next few games will really test the team, though. Three games in 8 days, two of which are away games: away at Chicago Fire this Saturday, at home on Wednesday vs Sporting Kansas City and away at Orlando City the following Sunday.

In the meantime, though, here are some additional news bits this week:

  • Almiron was named MLS Player of the Week
  • Miggy was also on the MLS Team of the Week for the third week in a row
  • Kratz and Barco were “on the bench” for Team of the Week
  • Tito Villalba and Franco Escobar are healthy and ready to play again!
  • Also, I got to meet Escobar last week when he did a player appearance *heart eyes emoji*

 

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Franco Escobar and me image: Robyn Saghini

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Atlanta United Blanks Los Angeles (again)

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, April 21: 0-2 Win

#AtlantaUnitedAfterDark

Coming off what coach Tata Martino called Atlanta United‘s best home game to date, a 2-2 draw vs NYCFC (see Keira Smith’s Rise Up, NYCFC article for a recap, since I didn’t have time last week), the team flew out to Los Angeles for the first time to take on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and 10 other guys who are not Zlatan.

ATL UTD’s objective for this game was to keep Zlatan from getting the ball in LA Galaxy‘s attacking third to prevent him and/or the not-Zlatans from getting any scoring opportunities. It seems their plan worked since the Galaxy were kept to only eight shots, only one of which was on target. Zlatan had zero shots.

[Note: Sorry, not sorry for all the Zlatan references. J. Sam Jones from Dirty South Soccer had me cracking up when he was live tweeting the game Saturday night. See below.]

This game was also the first start for Atlanta’s shiny new toy, Ezequiel Barco, who came in as a sub vs NYCFC last week. He was incredible, too. I think once he gets a few more games under his belt to really get in sync with the rest of the team, no one will know what hit them.

The whole team played incredibly well together, though. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez managed to not get carded in a road game, Darlington Nagbe and Julian Gressel were blowing by LA’s defense, and Chris McCann now has Zlatan in his pocket.

Atlanta has now outscored all MLS teams from Atlanta 11-0 in three games over two seasons. It could have been 12-0 if Josef Martinez hadn’t hit the post on his PK attempt (it may have been deflected by David Bingham, but I couldn’t tell from the replay). Fortunately, he made up for that a few minutes later when Gressel lobbed in a ball that hit the crossbar and Martinez defeated a couple of LA defenders to push the ball over the line.

Atlanta United is now one point behind NYCFC in the East and one point behind NYCFC and Sporting Kansas City (tied for first) in the Supporters Shield table. Josef Martinez is by himself at the top of the Golden Boot race and Brad Guzan has the most clean sheets (3).

In ATL UTD 2 news, the boys drew 1-1 against defending USL champs Louisville City FC on Saturday, bringing their record to 1-0-3. Andrew Carleton started for the first time in an Atlanta kit and missed one PK opportunity, but was given a second PK late in the game and converted that one.

On Tuesday night, the boys suffered their first defeat at the hands of the Charleston Battery, 0-3. Two of Charleston’s goals were scored by Gordon Wild, one of ATL UTD’s SuperDraft picks, who is on loan to Charleston this year.

This Saturday, Atlanta hosts the Montreal Impact in an early game (1pm ET) at the Benz. While I’m looking forward to the game, what I’m really excited about is the brunch tailgate before the game! 😉 Watch my IG story (@robynsaghini) for pics during the day.

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Double the soccer fun in 2018 for Atlanta fans

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Saturday, March 17: 4-1 Win

This past Saturday, March 24th, I was a witness to history – for the second time. I was at the season opener for ATL UTD’s USL team, ATL UTD 2. Season ticket holders for the first team were all given three free tickets for the USL team and after just one game, I was sold – and bought season tickets for them, too, even though they’re an hour away from me. It’s a chance to see guys on the first team roster that don’t usually get minutes in the Benz as well as some new guys who have yet to break into the first team.

All in all, it was a good time. The fans brought the noise and chants and the team brought the goals. ATL UTD 2 won the game 3-1 over NYRBII. After watching that first game, there’s no doubt this team will be fun to watch this year.

And now, back to the first team. Coming off a home opener that saw Atlanta United finally get that D.C. United raccoon witch curse off their backs, it was time to figure out how to defeat the tallest team in the league. Some will say we got “lucky” on St. Patrick’s Day, but Vancouver Whitecap‘s Kendall Waston was awarded a red card early in the game for an elbow to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez‘s head on a corner kick. That red card was later rescinded by an Independent Panel after the Whitecaps filed an appeal. Waston’s reaction to the red card will never not be funny, though.

After Waston’s exit, it was pretty much all Atlanta. Josef Martinez had an amazing game – and got his fourth MLS-career hat trick. Atlanta’s own Andrew Carleton got some actual first team minutes and notched an assist on Josef’s third goal of the night, which ended up being the MLS Goal of the Week.

There were a few not-so-good things that came out of that game, too, though. Miguel Almiron still hasn’t found his right foot; Franco Escobar got a knee or elbow to the head from goalie Brad Guzan and is currently in concussion protocol, so not sure if he’ll be playing this week or not; and LGP and Michael Parkhurst still have some work to do on communicating in the back and not letting those “consolation” goals through.

This weekend’s game is at Minnesota United FC – possibly in the snow again. Last year, we defeated them 6-1 at home and Josef got his first hat-trick. They defeated us at the Benz last year, but I think we got this one. Bring on the orange ball!

In other news:

  • We’re nearing the end of #BarcoWatch2; there’s a tiny possibility of him playing in MN this weekend, but more likely that he’ll play vs LAFC at home next week. *Fingers crossed*
  • Carleton and Chris Goslin were called up to the U20s Men’s National Team last week and got a trip to Spain.
  • Miggy was called up for the Paraguay national team and Darlington Nagbe for the USMNT for the USAvPAR game in Cary, NC on Tuesday, 3/27. The US won the game 1-0. Both of the ATL UTD players played at least 90 minutes and no one was injured, so all of Atlanta is breathing a sigh of relief.

Featured image courtesy: Robyn Saghini

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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. 😉

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

HOW?!

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.

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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

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Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017