Tag Archives: Josef Martinez

Party at the Benz for Atlanta United

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Since the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened, Atlanta United have been unstoppable. Here’s a rundown of the stats for ATLUTD between 9/10-24:

  • 5 home games
  • 4-0-1 record
  • Have outscored opponents 19-3
  • 2 hat tricks by Josef Martinez in back-to-back games
  • 4 clean sheets for Brad Guzan
  • 3rd place in the Eastern Conference
  • Still 2 games in hand vs most of the conference (only playing 1 Western Conference team in remaining 5 regular season games)

Going to a game at the Benz feels like going to a party. The huge tailgates before the weekend games (and slightly smaller ones on weekdays) just enhance that atmosphere. It feels like we’ve done nothing but party for 2 weeks straight.

So many goals to cheer for! NINETEEN GOALS in five games. Eight of those scored by Josef Martinez in the first four games – and back-to-back hat tricks! That guy knows how to put on a show!

Last Wednesday, Yamil Asad had a great game, too. In a 4-0 drubbing of the LA Galaxy, Asad was involved in all of the goals, scoring two for himself and assisting on the other two. (Also note, the boys now wear suits when they arrive for games. *swoon*)

This Sunday, it was a little of everyone. Tito Villalba scored the first goal – another blast into the top 90 of the goal – which seems to be a sweet spot for him (see: Tito’s winning goal at Orlando City in July).

The second goal was a pass from Julian Gressel into the box that Jeff Larentowicz chested into the goal. It was Larentowicz’s first goal for ATLUTD and caused quite the stir on social media on Monday…

The other big news out of Sunday’s game was Miguel Almiron pulling up with a hamstring injury in the 17th minute. He was visibly upset walking off the field on Sunday and it was announced Monday that he will be out for a minimum of three weeks, which means he won’t be playing for Paraguay next week during the international break and may not be back until the last game of the season (vs Toronto) at the earliest.

With Sunday’s result, ATLUTD are now sitting alone in third place in the Eastern conference, just three points behind NYCFC and with a game in hand. Both teams play this Wednesday (ATLUTD hosts Philadelphia and NYCFC at Montreal).

ATLUTD will finally be caught up next week on games played after a trip away to New England and a home game vs Minnesota United – a game that should have been played in August, but was pushed back due to the MBS construction delays.

Other news of note this week:

  • ATLUTD have now scored more goals than any expansion team ever in MLS (63)
  • Homegrown players Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Justin Garces were all named on the 21-player roster for the U-17 World Cup in India, being played in October.
  • After his double hat trick performance last week, Josef Martinez was named MLS Player of the Week.
  • Yamil Asad was named to the MLS Best XI and Leandro Gonzales Pirez was “on the bench” for Team of the Week.
  • Kevin Kratz won Goal of the Week last week for his free kick goal vs New England; Tito Villalba’s rocket is up for Goal of the Week this week – and ATLUTD always wins the internet, so don’t be too surprised when Tito wins this one, too.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @robynsaghini

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

ATL’s Lucky Number

 

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

FOUR. Four goals on the 4th of July, bringing Atlanta United up to 4th place in the East. And the ATLUTD Academy U-16s just won a quarterfinal game by a score of 4-0.

Let’s start with our first road win in over two months, though. One of my favorite players, Tito Villalba, scored a brace against Columbus Crew on Saturday to ensure the first away win since April 22.

This might be my favorite tweet so far this season, though:

Anyway, back to the 4th… I’m now convinced that the ATLUTD players are summoning their strength with thunderstorms. Our last three or four home games have been delayed or nearly delayed because of lightning in the area and we’ve come out with three points. I mean, Josef Martínez and Miguel Almirón are superhuman anyway, so it’s a natural assumption, right?

San Jose Earthquakes came in with a surprising amount of energy for a team that played late Saturday night and traveled across the country. A minute and a half into the game, they scored their first goal. The scoreline remained 0-1 for the remainder of the first half. ATL had a bunch of shots, but nothing was getting past David Bingham.

It didn’t take long before San Jose’s schedule caught up with them, though. They were pretty sloppy throughout the game and Kofi Sarkodie was yellow carded in the 10th minute for a reckless tackle on Yamil Asad – a yellow that should have been a straight red. About 20 minutes later, though, Sarkodie picked up a second yellow for dragging Asad down in almost the exact same spot, and was sent off.

There were four other yellows in the first half of the game:

  • In the 15th minute to Anton Walkes for “unsporting behavior” (aka a bad tackle)
  • In the 18th minute to David Bingham for time wasting (who does that in the 18th minute?)
  • In the 42nd minute to Carlos Carmona for persistent infringement
  • In the 45th minute to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for unsporting behavior

In the second half, there were three more cards:

  • Yellow card in the 74th minute to Jeff Larentowicz for a rough tackle in midfield
  • Yellow card in the 90th minute to Josef Martínez for “delaying the restart of play” (aka taking his jersey off while celebrating a goal)
  • And finally, in the 93rd minute a straight red went to Víctor Bernárdez for stepping on Martínez

So, yeah, it was sloppy all around – except for the goals. Oh, the goals. They were lovely. And Josef learned his lesson about not jumping on the fireboxes after a goal. He ran towards one after his first goal, but gave us in the supporters section a grin and a finger wag before he was swarmed by his teammates. (Although, the fireboxes don’t shoot fire during games after it’s been raining, so it wouldn’t have been a repeat of the last home game, but it’s good to know he learned his lesson after last time)

Here are all of the lovely, lovely goals from Tuesday night:

Additional notes from Tuesday’s game:

  • It was announced minutes before the lineup came out that starting goalkeeper Alec Kann picked up a left quad injury during the Columbus game on Saturday and would be out 6-8 weeks. That’s the same thing they said about Josef’s injury and he was out for 12 weeks. Kyle Reynish started for the first time on Tuesday and did well enough. Once the Gold Cup is over, we’ll also have Brad Guzan in rotation, so we’ll see how that goes…
  • Anton Walkes got his third start on Tuesday night and scored his first professional goal – a header off a set piece.
  • Also, we scored on a set piece! I don’t think that’s happened yet!

The fireworks after the game were really nice, too. It’s been a while since I went out on the 4th to see fireworks (mostly because I have a dog who strongly dislikes loud noises like thunder, fireworks, vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers).

So now we rest up for the last game at Bobby Dodd – and it’s gonna be a big one. ATLvORL for the first time in Atlanta. But first, the Five Stripes (still don’t love the nickname, but I’m trying) head down to Orlando on 7/21 for the first ever meeting between the two teams who’s fan bases are already rivals. I won’t be traveling for that one because my brother and his family (including my two nieces!!) will be in Atlanta for our grandmother’s 100th birthday party that weekend.

I will, however, be at Bobby Dodd for our final game there – and I’ll be taking over the MLSFemale Instagram account that day! I’m excited about taking over the IG account, but it’ll be a bit of a sad day – only because we’re leaving the stadium where we’ve watched our boys play for the last 4 months. Hopefully, there will be a good thunderstorm around 5pm that day so our superheroes can summon their powers and get lots of goals!

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

Mid-Season Catch-Up

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

It’s been a busy few weeks for me and Atlanta United. I’ve lost count of how many games we’ve played in the last three weeks. Losses on the road and wins at home. But the important thing is that we’re currently sitting in 6th in the East, which puts us into the playoff race.

I’m writing this while watching the Miami FC vs ATLUTD US Open Cup game in Miami. I’m hoping to have a final score at the end of this article, but right now it’s 1-1 at the beginning of the second half.

These USOC lineups from coach Tata Martino have been interesting. Lots of the kids who don’t play much on the first team. Brandon Vazquez has been on fire – both in USOC, where he currently has two goals, and in regular season play, where he’s got one goal and an assist. This is a bit of a surprise, considering I didn’t think he did well at all in preseason play. I guess good coaching will do that, though. 🙂

In other news, JOSEF MARTINEZ IS BACK! And with a vengance! He played a full 90 minutes in the first USOC game two weeks ago vs Charleston (our USL affiliate) and scored a goal, but didn’t start in regular season games until this past weekend vs Colorado Rapids. He scored the only goal in that game (with an assist from Vazquez) and celebrated by nearly setting himself on fire.

His first goal in the regular season since coming back came a week and a half ago against Columbus Crew, when he came in as a sub. He stated after the game that he was a little emotional after the goal because he was so happy about getting the goal for all of the fans that were chanting his name before he came on. He may not know this, but so many of the supporters also had all the feels when he scored that goal. I was a little teary-eyed myself.

*USOC Update* – Miami just went up 2-1. On a #(@$*@%# set piece, of course. ATL still needs to work on defending set pieces. Sigh.

Back to the regular season…This month has been particularly rough and it’s not over yet. 2 games per week for 4 weeks. After this USOC game, the boys travel to Columbus to take them on at home and then return home for a 4th of July match vs San Jose Earthquakes. And then we get a break during the Gold Cup, although if we manage to win tonight, we will host the winner of CINvCHI on July 12.

*USOC Update 2* – Atlanta just tied up the game. A PK was awarded to us when Carleton was taken down in the box and Julian Gressel got the shot just under Miami’s keeper.

And there it is – Miami FC just defeated ATLUTD on a goal from Poku – OF COURSE. Poku has a habit of scoring the game winner in USOC games. I saw him do it 3 years ago when he was an Atlanta Silverback vs Real Salt Lake.

Ah well…back to focusing on the regular season, then!

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

Catching Up

 

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

I’ve been gone for a minute, but life gets busy sometimes, right? Anyway, y’all didn’t miss much. NYCFC came to the ATL and got dished up some revenge in the form of a 3-1 loss, then two losses away at Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire have kept Atlanta United hovering just below the line in the Eastern Conference at 5-6-3 on the season. One thing to note from these games: set pieces have been our downfall. We have got to get better at defending them AND using the opportunity when we get them. NO MORE SHORT CORNERS, PLEASE.

Things are just starting to get a little crazy schedule-wise for the Five Stripes. Last night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut (more on that later), and the next three weeks before the Gold Cup break look like this:

  • Saturday, June 17: home vs Columbus
  • Wednesday, June 21: at DC United
  • Saturday, June 24: home vs Colorado
  • Wednesday, June 28: USOC round 5 at Miami FC
  • Saturday, July 1: at Columbus
  • Tuesday, July 4: home vs San Jose

Throw in a work trip next week for me and I’m exhausted just looking at this. I shouldn’t complain too much, though – this is nothing compared to what September looks like: SEVEN games in 20 days, six of which are home games. That doesn’t include the USOC final, should we make it that far, but an already rescheduled game vs LA Galaxy would have to be re-rescheduled for that. I may be in a coma by October.

In good news, Josef is back!! Martinez went in with about 30 minutes left in the Chicago game last weekend. He managed to make a couple of decent plays, but no goals and nothing spectacular to report. We’re all just SO happy to see him back on the pitch. The bar I was watching the game at got really loud when he stood up to be subbed in.

Wednesday night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut vs their USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery – and what a night it was. The players were announced and had just lined up on the field for the national anthem when the game was delayed because of lightning in the area. A two hour and 42 minute delay later, it was game on.

The lineup was mostly Atlanta’s B team, with a few regular starters (Larentowicz, Almiron and Martinez).

Charleston did not come to Atlanta to lose. They played like it was a playoff game, even without a couple of their usual starters (including Romario Williams, who is on loan to the Battery from ATLUTD, but was called up to the Jamaican national team). Charleston went up early on a goal headed in by Forrest Lasso on a long throw in. ATL answered in the 30th minute with Kevin Kratz scoring his first ATLUTD goal. Charleston went up again just minutes after the ATL goal and almost got to 3-1 when a PK was called, but Woodbine skied the ball over the goal into the supporters crowd.

Down 1-2 at the half, coach Tata Martino was not happy, and he made a couple of subs at the half. Mikey Ambrose came in for Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel came in for Zach Loyd. Three minutes into the second half, we knew for sure Josef was back when he was sent a cross by Brandon Vazquez and headed it into the net. The go ahead goal was knocked in by Vazquez on a cross from Ambrose.

This morning we found out that Atlanta will travel to Miami in a couple of weeks to take on Miami FC – who currently field former Atlanta Silverbacks players Jaime Chavez and Kwandwo Poku. Poku is an ATL fan favorite because of his heroics in the 2014 USOC tournament that let the Silverbacks to the quarterfinals where they lost at home to Chicago. Also, Miami FC defeated Orlando City SC, and I may laugh about that one for a long time – especially if we win vs Miami later this month.

A few random tidbits from the last few weeks:

  • Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin traveled with the U-17s to Argentina for a friendly earlier this month.
  • Lagos Kunga played for the U-20s in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea; he did pretty well, from what I’ve read – including this goal.
  • Kenwyne Jones was called up to the Trinidad & Tobago National team for their WCQs and was injured during warmups for their game earlier this week. :/
  • Atlanta United announced this week that this weekend’s game vs Columbus is the sixth sellout this season (but soccer won’t do well in Atlanta, right?).
  • It was also announced this week that we won’t get Brad Guzan in town permanently until after the Gold Cup in July. Jury is still out on whether he will start or not when he gets here. Right now, it’s Alec Kann‘s job to lose, according to Tata.

I need to go rest up for Saturday’s game vs Columbus Crew. I have a feeling it’ll be an interesting one after their USOC loss to FC Cincinnati (30k+ in attendance! Holy cow!) last night. I will leave y’all with this, though – Greg Garza and his wife welcomed their second son into the world today – and who doesn’t love some soccer babies?

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

ATL on the Rise

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Saturday, March 18: 4-0 Win

Atlanta United’s second ever home game was even better than their very first game in MLS for a few reasons. First, ATL won 4-0 in front of another sellout crowd – and over 100,000 people have attended the first two home games. Second, the stadium crew had a slightly better handle on conditions in the building and it was a much better experience, at least from my perspective. Third, the vibe in the stadium was, as I’ve seen many times in the last 24 hours, electric.

Atlanta United got their first shutout and potential MLS Golden Boot winner (yep, I’m going there) Josef Martinez added another two goals to his tally. Martinez now has five goals and leads the league. His goals yesterday were spectacular.

The first came in the 60th minute when Miguel Almirón squeaked a pass through the gap that Martinez had left between Chicago Fire’s central defenders. Martinez took two touches, one drifting just far enough to his left to get around Jorge Bava, and it was in the back of the net.

His second goal in the 82nd minute saw him once again splitting the central defenders, this time with a pass from Yamil Asad. Martinez took one touch to get around Bava and then took a shot from a seemingly impossible angle.

The first goal of the game was an own goal for Chicago. MLS Rookie Julian Gressel nabbed a pass from Hector Villalba at the edge of the box and played a cross in front of the goal that was deflected in by Chicago’s Brandon Vincent.

The third goal was my personal favorite because it was my favorite player, Hector “Tito” Villalba who scored in the 67th minute to officially open his MLS account. Greg Garza sent a pass up to Martinez, but it was deflected by a Chicago defender and dropped right at Tito’s feet. After one touch to get in place, Tito launched that ball off his left foot right through Bava’s outstretched hands and into the back of the net. I’m not sure I’ve ever cheered as loud as I did at that moment.

While most of the crowd was busy celebrating the Goal-a-Palooza in the stands, others standing in line at the concession stands said that the lines were so much better this time around. At the home opener, there were not enough concession stands open and what was open was slow. I got in line for a hot dog and a bottle of water about 30 minutes before the game started and gave up about 25 minutes in. I left some money with a friend of mine in line and went back to watch the pre-game ceremonial stuff. The friend I left in line finally came by to hand me my food AFTER Atlanta’s goal (which was around the 25th minute of the game). She also nearly got in the middle of a fight in line. To say this week’s experience was an improvement would be a huge understatement.

There’s no doubt that the improved concessions in the stadium helped the mood of the crowd – maybe not as much as those four goals did, but nonetheless, the crowd was really into this game. The capos in the supporters section kept the chants simple and the sections were loud enough to get the rest of the stadium going. The A-T-L thunderclap and the “Atlanta! United!” call and response were SO LOUD. In person it was amazing to see the crowd coming together like that. When I watched videos last night of the chanting and watched the game again this morning, I may have shed a tear of joy. My friend Jason Longshore of Dirty South Soccer said it best in his Daily Dirt sub-heading today: “Atlanta United’s supporters earn an assist yesterday.”

As of 9:30pm ET on Sunday, Atlanta United are at the top of the Eastern Conference. ATL is also leading the league in goals scored with 11 and are currently in third place for the Supporters Shield. If anyone had asked me a month ago where I thought ATL would be in the standings three weeks in, I don’t think I could have predicted this.

Our next MLS game at Seattle on 3/31 will be a huge test. Three of the four ATLUTD players (Almiron [Paraguay], Martinez [Venezuela], Jones [Trinidad & Tobago], and Carmona [Chile]) that have been called up to their national teams this week are starters. How will the international break affect the team, especially against the defending MLS champions? Sure, we beat them 4-2 in preseason, but the Seattle Sounders played all of their bench and trial players. A few of their starters got subbed in late in the game, but we didn’t really get a sense of how ATL would fare against the Seattle starters.

Only time will tell, but I will be biting my nails off at a bar with my Terminus Legion family in 12 days anxiously watching the Five Stripes (not sure I’m in on this nickname yet, but I had to try it) take on Dempsey, JMO and that Seattle crowd.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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

Atlanta United FC Preseason Recap – Part II

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

February 27, 2017

Way back in October 2016, it was announced that Atlanta United would participate in the 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup hosted by the USL side (and ATLUTD affiliate) Charleston Battery. Minutes after the announcement, I booked two hotel rooms in Mt. Pleasant, SC for each weekend of the tournament for me and my friends. At that point, the team had fewer than 10 players signed, I believe, but that didn’t matter. Any excuse to go see our team play as early as possible!

I drove the four and a half ours out to Charleston on Friday, February 17th, and met up that night with some friends who had also driven in from ATL and surrounding areas. The next morning, after brunch with my soccer besties, we drove out to Daniel Island for the tailgate and game. By the time we got there around noon, the tailgate was just about in full swing. All of the Charleston and Atlanta supporters groups were next to each other, sharing beer and food and getting hyped for the game.

ATLUTD vs Columbus Crew was the first game of the tournament. Fresh off that 4-0 win in Chattanooga, the fans were feeling really optimistic about our chances in the tournament. Atlanta went up 1-0 on a diving header by Josef Martinez in the 6th minute and kept the lead going into the half. A lot of the talk at halftime was that the ATL side was looking really tired towards the end of the half. There was concern about them being match ready for the rest of the week and for the season opener. In the second half,  Columbus’ Federico Higuain scored a brace, to hand ATLUTD their first (and only) loss of the preseason.

Yamil Asad + me
Yamil Asad + me

I won’t lie, it was a huge bummer, but we knew it was going to happen eventually. Fortunately, it was only preseason. And we stuck around for the second game to watch the Battery take on the Seattle Sounders. I ended up going to the pub in the stadium for some food and missed the Seattle goal, but went back out for the second half and watched the Battery score a goal at the death to get a draw against the reigning MLS champs, which was pretty amazing.

The second round of games were on Wednesday, so I wasn’t able to attend in person, but I went to a watch party at Fado Buckhead to cheer on our boys with 50 or 60 other fans in the corner of the bar. We had no sound, but as long as the game was on, we were good. ATLUTD put out their starters and Seattle fielded their B team and trialists. By the half, the score was 3-0 in Atlanta’s favor; Martinez got his third goal of the preseason, Miguel Almiron scored on a PK after Julian Gressel was pulled down in the box, and Hector “Tito” Villalba scored a lovely goal that flew right through the Seattle goalie’s legs. In the second half, Martinez scored again to bring the score to 4-0 and the fans watching from ATL were freaking out. Not long after that last goal, Seattle brought in some of their starters and scored 2 goals, bringing the final score to 4-2 in favor of Atlanta.

The following Saturday, I was back on the road to Charleston to catch the last two games of the tournament. The current standings had Columbus in the lead with 4 points (they had tied with Charleston in the early game on Wednesday), Atlanta in second place with 3 points, Charleston in third with 2 points, and Seattle in last with 1 point. If Seattle managed to win or draw with Columbus and ATL beat Charleston, our boys would take home their first trophy. Unfortunately for ATL, Columbus beat Seattle 1-0 and took home the CCC17 trophy. Still, we had second place to fight for!

Michael Parkhurst + me
Michael Parkhurst + me

ATL started a very different line up for this final game. Mostly the B team, with Yamil Asad up top and Andrew Carleton in midfield. Asad scored on a header just over three minutes into the game with an assist from Mikey Ambrose. Just before the end of the half, Romario Williams (an ATLUTD player playing for Charleston) scored a stunner from about 20 yards out and tied the game. The second half was pretty well dominated by ATL – Carleton was a force to be reckoned with – but it wasn’t until subs Almiron, Parkhurst, Larentowicz, and Villalba came on in the last ten minutes of the game that we saw another goal. In the 90th minute, Villalba nabbed a cross from Andrew Wheeler-Oniunu and fired it past Charleston’s keeper, earning Atlanta second place in the tournament.

The best part of the weekend was just after the game when the players came over to our section to say thanks, sign autographs, and take pictures with the fans. I finally got my selfie with Tito and he signed my jersey (which already has his name and number on it). He also asked me where I was from, which confused me until I realized he was pointing to the Argentinean flag I was holding. I told him in my not-so-great Spanish that my father is from Argentina. I also got selfies with Parkhurst and Asad and later one with Coach Tata Martino in the parking lot when we kind of ambushed him. We also briefly saw club president Darren Eales and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra as they were leaving. I didn’t even have words for how excited I was that we were eight days away from our first season opener.

And now it’s less than a week. I am still at a loss for words. Hopefully I’ll find some soon for my next article! See y’all then!

Come chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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