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Atlanta United FC Preseason Recap, Part I

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

February 26, 2017 – Atlanta, GA

One week. We are ONE WEEK away from the first ever season opener for Atlanta United. I have been waiting for March 5, 2017 for over three years, when I heard some rumors about Arthur Blank bringing a team to ATL. I’m kind of in shock right now. My brain can’t process this.

So, instead of focusing on the first “real” game, I’m going to re-live the preseason games in two parts. First, the first EVER ATLUTD game in Chattanooga and then a recap of the week-long Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC.

We got to see all of the ATLUTD players together live and in person for the first time ever in Chattanooga, TN on February 11th when they played the NPSL side Chattanooga FC. The excitement before the game was incredible. As my dad and I drove the two hours up I-75, we talked about all of the players and how Tata Martino would make it all work.

When we arrived at Finley Stadium around 11am, the joint tailgate with Chattahooligans, Terminus Legion, and Resurgence was well under way. The Chattahooligans had an amazing brunch spread and one TL member brought his tailgate trailer and had an EPL game showing near the cornhole boards. Around 2pm, I heard some chatter about the ATLUTD team bus arriving, so I made my way across the street to see what I could see. Hundreds of fans with flags and drums were out in the street, chanting and singing while they waited to greet the bus.

I ran into ATLUTD club president Darren Eales in the midst of all this and even though I’ve talked to him dozens of times, I have to admit that this is when I started to freak out. While talking to Darren, it suddenly hit me that THIS IS HAPPENING. In an hour, we’ll see our team on the field. I may have started to get a little emotional.

Fortunately, before I actually started crying (with joy, of course), the bus arrived. The chanting got really loud when that bus door opened and the players started walking out. I heard in some of the post-game interviews that the players were really surprised and thrilled that so many fans showed up.

Nearly 12,500 people showed up for the game, and at least two-thirds of them were ATLUTD fans, most of whom drove up from the metro-Atlanta area. The noise when the team walked out of the locker room was insane. Nine minutes into the game, the first ever ATLUTD goal was scored by (my favorite) Tito Villalba. Later in the first half, Yamil Asad scored a beautiful goal he curled into the upper 90 of the net.

At the half, the ATLUTD staff gathered about 50 fans over to one of the corners of the stadium and handed out gold boxes that, as it turned out, had the team’s 2nd (away) jersey in it. Some were authentic and some were replicas, but they all had number 17 on the back, which was “given” to the fans this year. When the team walked out of the locker room at the half, they were wearing the away kits.

In the second half, we got to see nine new players (two of the starters were subbed off in the first half; the rest of the starters were subbed at the half) and two more goals; one from the newest DP, Josef Martinez, and the final goal from Atlanta’s first Homegrown Player, 16-year-old Andrew Carleton. The fact that he ran straight over to the fan section to celebrate was the moment of the game for many of the fans. The roar of the crowd for that goal was incredible.

After a 4-0 win, everyone went back home to Atlanta happy and if it’s even possible, even more eager for March 5th. Before that game, though, there were three more preseason games to play in Charleston, SC. Recaps of those games are coming up in Part II.

Featured image courtesy: Atlanta United FC facebook

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

Serial Mover Finds a Home Team in Atlanta

By Aya Philémon @aya_sofaya

My name is Aya, short for Sofaya, and I’m the Video Coordinator for MLSFemale, reporting on the Atlanta United FC.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved soccer. Not necessarily because I actively sought it out, but because it was just always there. Like a family member.

You don’t think about reasons why you love them, you just do, by default. I played the sport as a child, in various youth leagues, was never really good at it. I went to a soccer camp every summer with all of my siblings and cousins, and since there was a lot of us, when we broke up into teams, it was often – Everyone Who is Related to Me vs Everyone Else.

Team wise, my family was always international-focused. As many Haitian families do, we supported Brazil, but in my immediate family the focus of the support has always been France NT. Pele, Thierry, and Zidane were the holy trinity. Aside from one cousin who really loved Liverpool, my family was never really into club football. That is, until Arsenal happened to us.

Video Coordinator for MLSFemale
Video Coordinator for MLSFemale

While Arsenal will always be my Main, and while being a Gooner brought me so many experiences and opened my world to what being a soccer fan is truly all about, there was a critical aspect of the sports fan experience that Arsenal can never fulfill for me: Hometown Pride. After living in three states and three countries, I never thought I would ever live out that particular aspect of sportsmanship.

Although I lived half of my life in New England, I never really became involved in New England Revolution. My hometown was a New York City suburb in Connecticut, so the New England sports teams were never geographically as close as the NYC ones. After having moved to Atlanta, the sports scene was more cohesive, but we were missing a team for the one sport I actually liked!

When Atlanta UTD was announced, all of this was about to change for me in a major way. I bought a season ticket immediately. I’ve never felt more connected to the city that I live in as I do now that I have this community to tether me to it. The season hasn’t even officially started yet and I’ve met a ton of people. I’m already way more involved than I ever thought I would be.

I’m immensely excited to be a founding member of Atlanta UTD, and immensely excited to be a part of MLSFemale. This is going to be a great season. I can’t wait.

Come chat with me on twitter: @aya_sofaya

Subscribe to my channel: AYASOFAYA

Never Looked Back

Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter
Official Sporting Kansas City Reporter

By Kirsten Arpin @Kirsten_Hoogs

Hey Sporting Fans!

My name is Kirsten Arpin, and I’ll be serving as  the MLSFemale Official Reporter for Sporting KC this season!

For the past year, I have been a full-time graduate student at the University of Central Missouri (Go Mules!) pursuing my Masters of Music in Wind Band Conducting, which could be jokingly described as ‘professional stick waving’. I received my bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Kansas, and I am a lifelong Jayhawks fan. I also like to play roller derby when I can.

Me and hubby
Me and hubby

My husband and I are both huge Sporting KC fans, and since he’s a Kansas State Wildcats fan, SKC is one of the teams we agree on! One of our favorite dates was the Wizards vs Manchester United games in Arrowhead Stadium in 2010. Once we moved to Kansas City from Manhattan, KS we attended as many Sporting games as possible, and at that point we were hooked.

After attending games where we could be seen sitting in seats all around the stadium, we decided to try out The Cauldron. That was the end of it – We joined The Cauldron immediately, and have never looked back. We’ve even gotten our dog Kevin in on the action, and now he goes by the aliases Dog Dwyer and Mutt Besler!

Kevin
Kevin

Sporting KC is an amazing team and organization. They have not only united the city to become the Soccer Capital of America, they also initiated The Victory Project, which works to help children who are fighting cancer or other health issues, socio-economic issues, or development issues. Sporting KC is not only a phenomenal club, but they are an inspiration to Kansas City and the people who call it home.

I am very excited to spend this season with you and to share all that is great about Sporting KC!

Come chat with me on twitter: @Kirsten_Hoogs

Soccer Is In My Blood

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Hi there! My name is Robyn Saghini and I am an MLSFemale Official Reporter for Atlanta United FC. My love for soccer is in my blood. My dad grew up in Argentina and passed his love for the sport to me and my brother. I was on a team for one season when I was six years old, but I wasn’t very interested in playing. My brother started playing when he was four and never looked back, which meant I got dragged to games and tournaments all the time.

I grew up in New Jersey, so we were MetroStars (and later NYRB) fans. When we moved to Atlanta, my dad and I would get together on weekends and watch NYRB games when they were televised. For the last three years, I’ve been slowly backing away from NYRB and finally ended that relationship for good last October.

In 2011, Dad and I attended a pre-season MLS tournament just outside Atlanta. As we walked out of the stadium after the game, we were asked to sign a petition to bring an MLS team to Atlanta, which of course we did. A few years later, I saw a post about an MLS Cup Final watch party from the ATL Wants MLS Facebook page. Turns out the guy who started the petition was starting a supporters group for the new Atlanta MLS team he had heard some whispers about. I signed on immediately and became a co-founder of Terminus Legion, the first and largest supporters group for Atlanta United.

Over the last three and a half years, I’ve been working with TL and the Atlanta United front office to help spread the word about the team. I’ve spent hours on social media trying to convince whoever will listen that Atlanta is a soccer city.

With less than two weeks until the first regular season game for ATLUTD, there are almost 30,000 season tickets sold. Over 40,000 tickets have been sold for the home opener and it’s on track to be a sold out game. Once the tickets for the home opener at Mercedes Benz Stadium go on sale, I have no doubt they’ll sell out the entire stadium (over 70k seats).

Atlanta IS a soccer city. Atlanta United is our team. This is our time. #UniteAndConquer

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

MLSFemale Volunteer Board

Hi, I'm Liz Panucci, Co-Founder of MLSFemale
Hi, I’m Liz Panucci, Co-Founder of MLSFemale

We would love to have you join in and belong to The Sisterhood!

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Find Your #InnerReporter

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Together, dreams come true here for female sports fans who want to share their love of the game. MLSFemale and mlsfemale.com help provide an audience, and platforms, for women to achieve their inner reporter – at whatever level they desire.

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Put Up or Shut Up

Official Portland Timbers Reporter
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson @shebainpdx

Welcome aboard!

My name is Sheba Rawson, and I’ll be writing about the Portland Timbers for MLSFemale this season. I’m a mom, an educator, and a member of the Timbers Army.

I’ve always loved sports. As a child growing up in the Bay Area, I attended pretty much every Stanford home football game until I graduated from high school; and I followed local pro football, baseball, and basketball teams. And as a young adult, I was lucky enough to participate in competitive sports myself, from track in high school to collegiate and women’s open ultimate. But I only really discovered soccer a little later in the game.

Back in 2004-5, my oldest son started playing club soccer. Besides the usual soccer mom learning curve (“explain offside to me one more time, please”), I was introduced to professional soccer. Bernie Fagan, who ran my son’s soccer club, used to play for the Portland Timbers back in NASL days in the early 80s. Bernie wisely gave all of his club’s players season tickets to the (USL) Timbers, knowing full well that we wouldn’t just drop off our ten-year-olds at the stadium. So we bought tickets for the whole family and started coming to games.

I was hooked almost immediately. In addition to the fast pace and excitement of the game, the Timbers had a VERY passionate group of supporters in the north end of the stadium. Even when the action on the field was disappointing, the action in the stands more than made up the difference. The Timbers Army chanted and sang nonstop, from before the game began until well after the game was over. Some crazy guy with a chainsaw was there, too: Timber Jim could sometimes be found dangling from the rafters on a rope line or climbing to the top of a REALLY tall spar pole in the south end in the middle of the match.

There was plenty of action on the field, of course. Scot Thompson was a stalwart on defense. Byron Alvarez was an electric forward. And Bryan Jordan, who was *maybe* 5’7” in his cleats, inspired my height-challenged son to believe that on the soccer field anything was possible, even for the not-so-tall among us.

As the Timbers made the move to MLS, I became more involved with the Timbers Army. Eventually I became a board member on the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST), the nonprofit engine that fuels the Timbers Army. I’ll be happy to share more about that as we go along, if you’re interested. After family and work, it really is my second (third?) life and love.

I’ve been through some incredible ups and downs with the Timbers, from their USL days through their first six MLS seasons. And I look forward to sharing their seventh MLS year with you. I love the team and the game, and I’ll share the joys and sorrows of the season with you all. If you’re looking for keen insight into individual player roles and deep tactical analysis, I’m likely to disappoint you. But if you’re wanting to talk Timbers with a passionate fan with a little knowledge of the basics and a big love of the team and the game, I’m here for you.

Lastly, I want to offer a special welcome to female MLS fans who want to talk Timbers. As a woman who loves sports, I have tried–and usually failed–to find sports radio or TV that welcomes me to the conversation. One of the reasons I answered the call to write here is my constant complaint that very little room is made in sports media for female fans. I don’t think it’s on purpose, usually; but pro sports talk in this country most definitely has a male audience in mind most of the time. When this opportunity presented itself, I realized that if I wanted room in the sports world for female fans to be heard, I really should put up or shut up myself.

So, here I am, embarking on a new adventure with all of you. I have no idea where it will take us. But I’m looking forward to the ride.

Come chat with me on twitter: @shebainpdx

I Love This Game

Official Real Salt Lake Reporter
Official Real Salt Lake Reporter

By Ambrosia Tonkovich @heyambrosia

(February 7) – I’m sitting in my front room trying to put into words how it felt to go to my first game. How it felt to get into this sport for the first time.

As an American, obviously the sport wasn’t a primary sport like football or baseball was expected to be in my life. Let me paint you a picture of me, right this very second, as I write this.

I am a (late) 20-something female, sitting in front of my computer. A wall of Real Salt Lake scarves (8 to be exact) covers the wall to my left, a RSL tank top draped over me, and in front of me, various RSL memorabilia. Nick Rimando and Javier Morales (sigh) bobble heads, past season ticket holder gifts decorating bookshelves from previous years, and me with a tab open hoping that I get the RSL 2017 kit reveal soon.

I think I may be a little obsessed. Like a weird crush you can’t quite shake that texts you ‘what are you doing’ 7 times a day.

I’m the fan that talks about the team as “we”. “We” just acquired Brooks Lennon. I hope “we” are going to have a better year. “Our” season is almost here. I am part of the team at this point.

Come say 'Hi' if you see me at a game
Come say ‘Hi’ if you see me at a game

Of course I don’t play. No way I could, I am NOT that active, or talented. But I sweat and bleed Claret and Cobalt at this point. I go to the games on Saturday nights and watch them live, get in the car on the way home and watch the highlights, and Sunday morning I rack the game back up again and replay it again to see what I missed.

I love this game.

There is a reason they call this the beautiful game. This is a magical place to be. The people I have met here, the fellow fans, including ones from other teams… the passion that we all share; it has been incredible. So how do I portray how I feel about this game?

I can’t. You have to show up to a game. You have to watch the fans faces when we score, or when we miss a goal (see how I say “we” again?). You have to see the feeling of completion or heartbreak or devastation. You have to feel how magic it is.

It’s what makes me have a huge grin on my face as I type this with less than 3 weeks away before opening day. I can’t wait.

Come chat with me on twitter: @heyambrosia