Tag Archives: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez

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 That red card was later rescinded by an Independent Panel after the Whitecaps filed an appeal.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.

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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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Welcome Home

 

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, September 10: 3-0 Win

So many firsts here in Atlanta this season – and this weekend saw another one: ATLUTD’s first game in our brand-spanking-new $1.5 billion stadium. I did an Instagram takeover a few weeks ago when we were invited to preview the stadium. The stadium itself is breathtaking. The atmosphere from Bobby Dodd has definitely carried over – and multiplied – at the Benz. It is LOUD in there.

For the first game, the announced attendance was 45,314, which is on par with the numbers from Bobby Dodd. It was just announced Wednesday morning that the ATLvNE game is sold out as well, which makes it now 11 sell outs in 11 games. I had a slightly unique perspective walking into the stands on Sunday, as I was chosen to represent my SG in the Golden Spike ceremony (a rep from each of the four recognized supporters groups carries the spike in before every game). Below is a video taken by one of the other reps – that’s the back of my head at the front left of the spike.

The key thing about the field at the Benz is that it’s longer and wider than the field at Bobby Dodd (70×110 > 75×115). 25 square yards doesn’t sound like much, but it may have made the difference on Sunday for ATLUTD. Our midfielders (Tito Villalba and Yamil Asad) and defenders (Greg Garza and Anton Walkes) on the sides had more room to make runs up the wings, creating more chances and getting more results.

Speaking of Tito…have a game, kid! He was definitely back on track this week, with assists on two of three goals and a few shots on goal himself. The first assist was a header from a short corner that fell to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who just got a touch on the ball that slowly crept into the net behind FC Dallas goalie Jesse Gonzalez. It was Pirez’s first goal for ATLUTD, and the historic first goal in the Benz. It also reminded me a lot of the first goal of the season for ATLUTD that was scored by Yamil Asad.

The second goal happened so quickly after the second half started, I almost didn’t catch it. Not thirty seconds into the half, Almirón got the ball to Josef Martínez, who scored his first goal since July 4th.

Greg Garza scored his second goal of the season in the 68′ when Almirón passed to Martínez, who stepped over the ball, bringing a Dallas defender with him, and clearing the way for Garza to tap it into the net behind Jesse Gonzalez.

Both goalkeepers had great games, too. Guzan ended up with the clean sheet, but Jesse Gonzalez had some spectacular saves (and was saved by the crossbar a couple of times). Matt Hedges had Gonzalez’s back once in the first half and cleared a ball right at the goal line.

Coach Tata Martino said after the game that it was the team’s best game of the season, and I agree. After a month of long breaks and poor showings, the game the boys played on Sunday was exactly what we all – the team and the fans – needed, especially with the number of games we have in the next few weeks. If they can keep performing like they did against Dallas, getting into the playoffs will be a piece of cake.

Our next game is Wednesday against New England Revolution, who we have not played yet this season, and we’ll play them again at the end of the month. Saturday, 9/16, is the Big One, though. Our final game against Orlando City this season, in front of a record-setting regular season MLS crowd of 70,000+. I will most likely be doing another IG takeover, so go follow the MLSFemale account!

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GRESSELMANIA!

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165
Official Atlanta United Reporter

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Full disclosure: I haven’t rewatched the game from Sunday against Portland Timbers, so I’m going to just gloss over the finer details of it and talk about a few observations I noted while watching on Sunday. For another perspective of the game, you can read my MLSFemale counterpart, Sheba’s article here.

I have to agree with Sheba about the ball Yamil Asad took to the head and the possibility of him having a concussion and yet continuing to play. I know Atlanta United takes these injuries seriously – Jeff Larentowicz just returned from being out for two games because of a hit he took a few weeks ago. Not sure if Yamil took it seriously, though.

And I don’t disagree that the tackle that Carlos Carmona got a yellow for was far more dangerous than it needed to be. I don’t want to see him get suspended, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is.

Things we learned this week:

  • Miguel Almiron has no right foot – he had a couple of chances for goals, but either passed to someone else who missed or had a shot saved or shot with his left foot and missed.
  • Asad can do more than throw ‘bows – scroll down to #1 in Matt Doyle’s weekly recap to see Asad’s backheel nutmeg pass to Almiron.
  • Rookies can score goals! Julian Gressel was picked 8th in the MLS SuperDraft this year and has been having such a great start to the season that he’s already gotten a catchy nickname (Gresselmania) and his own fan-made t-shirt. On Sunday in Portland, he scored his first goal – and it was lovely.

And, in case you haven’t seen the shirt yet, here’s the tweet I sent out after the game (that Gressel liked!):

And finally:

  • Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is probably the best CB in MLS right now – totally my opinion, but I’m not the only one who thinks so:

It was a much better game for us with Tito Villalba up top instead of Kenwyne Jones. Much love for Kenwyne, but he’s just not fast and this team was built for speed. The boys still need to work a bit on finishing their chances, but these numbers tell me we’ll be ok:

For the first time ever in ATLUTD’s short history, we have back to back home games!! This Saturday, we are hosting Houston Dynamo and May 28th we host NYCFC on a correctly sized field. 😉

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ATLvDC

 

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Sunday, April 30: 1-3 Loss

I am really struggling to find something to write about. There wasn’t much good that came out of Sunday’s game. We scored two goals, but one was an own goal… We dominated the game, stats-wise, but we still lost… No red cards, but we ended up having a player suspended anyway.

Sunday morning started out cloudy and a little rainy. Shortly after noon, the sun came out and brought the humidity with it. I’m not sure it affected the players, but it did affect the crowd a little. Drinking adult beverages for 4 hours at the tailgate + temperatures over 85 degrees (in April!?) made things a bit uncomfortable in the stands. I heard that several people had to be treated for possible dehydration. I drank two bottles of water in the second half alone.

I was, however, really excited about this game because my favorite soccer store set up a tent at the Terminus Legion tailgate and I finally got my training jersey personalized with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez‘s name and number on it, completing my Argentinean trio of jerseys.

The game itself started off pretty well for Atlanta United. We controlled the game for about the first 25 minutes before it all went to hell. Tito Villalba had two shots in less than two minutes – both of which were saved by Bill Hamid. In the 9th minute, Miguel Almiron snagged the ball just outside the box and passed to Greg Garza, who tapped the ball to Yamil Asad. Asad slid to his right to get around a DC United defender and lifted a cross right into the path of Kenwyne Jones, who headed the ball into the back of the net. A few minutes later, Jones had another chance, but the ball went wide of the net.

In the 25th minute, DC got their first goal by way of an unfortunate own goal by Michael Parkhurst. Parky was probably a half step too late to touch that ball and ended up deflecting it past Alec Kann into the net. This was about when the game started to go downhill for Atlanta.

While we still managed to dominate the game (see the graphic below), Atlanta couldn’t manage to get the ball past Hamid. We had 26 shots. TWENTY SIX. And 74% possession. How about that passing accuracy, too? I still don’t know how we didn’t win this game.

Yamil Asad was shown a yellow card in the second half for raising his elbow while going in to take the ball away from Lloyd Sam. I’ve watched the clip a few times and it doesn’t look like any contact was actually made, but DisCo reviewed the tape and ended up suspending Asad for a game anyway. That kid really needs to learn to keep his elbows down (no more listening to Ludacris’ “Southern Hospitality” before games, I guess). I’m considering bringing duct tape to the next home game for him.

I feel like there was something off about our defense this week. Was it because Jeff Larentowicz was out (concussion protocol)? I can’t put my finger on it, but I hope they work out the kinks in practice this week and get it together for NYCFC next weekend.

Our next two games are away – in two of the trickiest stadiums to play in. Yankee Stadium because of it’s weird dimensions and the following week in Portland because of Timbers Army. With any luck, the slightly odd dimensions of Bobby Dodd and the crazy ATL crowd will have prepared the boys for what they’re about to face.

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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

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Oh, what a relief!

Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini

Friday, March 31: 0-0 Draw

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

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

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

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

Oh, and LGP did this, too:

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

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

Other notes:

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

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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