Tag Archives: Tito Villalba

Kings of the South

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

By Robyn Saghini // @robynsaghini

Friday, July 21: 0-1 Win

Saturday, July 29: 1-1 Draw

After much online banter between Atlanta United and Orlando City fans over the last month – and some for over two years prior, the two teams finally met in Orlando on Friday, July 21 to begin the (slightly manufactured) rivalry everyone’s been talking about.

Things got heated a few days before the game when we learned that ATLUTD had paid for a billboard to go up in downtown Orlando, two blocks from the OCSC stadium.

This did not go over well in Orlando. Two days after it went up, the billboard was defaced (allegedly) by the Iron Lion Firm, one of OCSC’s let’s say “rowdier” supporters groups. The billboard was taken down later that day, whether by Orlando fans or because that was the plan is unclear.

ATLUTD had just under 500 fans travel to Orlando for the game. During the march to the match, Atlanta fans were escorted by local police and some OCSC front office staff. Someone threw a purple smoke bomb in the middle of the march. Another Atlanta fan was sucker punched walking to the stadium and the people he was with had water bottles thrown at them. There were also reports of a false fire alarm at 3:45AM at the hotel the team was staying at. The social media staff had a good response to that one:

The game was pretty close, though. If not for Tito Villalba‘s late screamer of a goal, ATLUTD would have come away with just one point. My favorite part of this clip is that Adrian Healy and Taylor Twellman are talking about how Bendik has been making some great saves and is Orlando’s MVP and then…

This past Saturday, in ATLUTD’s last game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Orlando struck first. This stunner of a goal from Kaka kept OCSC in the lead for an hour:

I hate to say it, but that was really well done. And it had us ATL fans worried for a while. Down 0-1 at home to a team we defeated 8 days prior? Fortunately, Tito did not let that happen. An extra time goal from Tito took back a point and Atlanta remains undefeated against Orlando City. I do love the treatment Dirty South Soccer gives this clip:

We still have one more game against Orlando coming up in September. Hopefully their fans will be a little bit better behaved (but probably not).

This coming Sunday, Atlanta United travel to Kansas City to take on the top team in the West. I’m nervous, y’all. The good news is that Dom Dwyer is already in Orlando and wasn’t very effective against us this weekend. At least we don’t have to worry about him.

In other news…

  • Lots of progress has been made on our new home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (aka “The Benz”). Turf was laid down this week. The stadium held a media day last week and so many pictures were shared!
  • It was just announced on Monday that our first game at the Benz is already sold out. The capacity will be held at 42,500 (the standard going forward for ATLUTD games) for the September 10th game against FC Dallas.
  • The ATLUTD U-16 Academy team are national champions!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

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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

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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.

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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A Point in The 6

Robyn - Atlanta 100x165

By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini
Official Atlanta United FC Reporter

Saturday, April 8: 2-2 Draw

Atlanta United FC have earned themselves some serious respect around the league these last two games. Splitting points with both of last year’s MLS Cup finalists is pretty impressive. Tito Villalba found his fire, Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona were back in the starting lineup to fuel that fire, and Decatur-native goalkeeper Alec Kann had a hell of a game.

I’m happy to say that Tito is working really hard to prove me wrong. Last week, I said I didn’t think he was a natural forward – and I’m sticking by what I said, but he certainly improved this week. Tito was ATLUTD’s Man of the Match last night with a brace – and what golazos they were! The first goal of the game came in the 15th minute on a perfect through pass from Miguel Almiron to Tito on the right. Tito’s shot went right through Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono‘s hands and into the net. His second goal came a little over a minute into the second half. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sent a pass that Tito grabbed and then fought his way into the 18 with Chris Mavinga, ending with a shot that went right through Bono’s legs.

It was great to see “La Banda” (almost) completely back together on the field last night. We’re still missing Josef Martinez (two weeks down; 2-4 weeks to go), but in the meantime, it’s great to see Almiron and Carmona back in the starting lineup. Almiron had a couple of shots last night, including an amazing one that should have gone into the upper 90, but was deflected by Bono’s fingertips.

Unfortunately, Yamil Asad got sent off for getting an elbow to the back of Eriq Zavaleta‘s head in the 75th minute. I thought it was unintentional (and maybe embellished a bit by Zavaleta?), but it is what it is. We’ll just have to wait and see what DisCo says about it later this week. On a sidenote, I was wearing my away jersey with Asad’s name and number on it last night at our watch party and felt like I should have gone home when he was sent off.

While watching the replay today, I also heard (it was too loud to actually hear anything last night) that one of the ATLUTD assistant coaches was sent off in place of Tata Martino. From what I understand, Tata was arguing with someone about Toronto’s head coach Greg Vanney talking to Asad before he was sent off. Haven’t heard any more about it since then, so I’m not sure what actually happened.

ATLUTD managed to hang on, despite a couple of close calls, thanks to goalkeeper Alec Kann, who has been fantastic in goal so far this year. So much so that many fans in Atlanta are wondering why we’re even bothering to bring in Brad Guzan this summer. How that fight for starting position goes remains to be seen, but it’s something we’ll revisit in July when Guzan gets to town.

Last night saw the first goal against ATLUTD in over 260 minutes, which only proves how good of a job our defense has been doing already this season – a bit of a happy surprise for the fans here. Up until a few weeks ago, we thought we’d be scoring tons of goals and letting almost as many in, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. At this point, ATLUTD has scored 13 goals, and has let in only 5. A goal differential of +8 is quite a nice cushion, but some more Ws would be preferred.

Additional observations:

  • I love Jozy Altidore when he plays for the USMNT, but he’s so frustrating. Seems to have the same issues at his club team a lot, but that little back heel pass to Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto’s first goal was so pretty.
  • Atlanta’s first homegrown player, Andrew Carleton, was on the bench for last night’s game, which caused quite the stir here at home. We cannot wait for the Frosted Orange (if you’re from ATL, you’ll get that reference) to get on the field for the first time. Personally, I’m hoping it’s at home, but we shall see.
  • Kenwyne Jones needs some more minutes on the field. He came in at the 84th minute for Villalba last night and did a great job, managing to get a couple of chances.

We are currently sitting tied with Chicago Fire for 2nd place in the East with 8 points. That could change, depending on the results from this afternoon’s ORLvNY game – a win for either of them would put them in 2nd. I can’t say I’d complain about either spot – I certainly didn’t expect to be this high up in the standings at this point in the season. It’s a great feeling and I hope it lasts well into the summer.

At this point, though, I’d settle for having the boys home for a game for a change, but we’ve got two away games before that. Next week, ATLUTD remains on the road, and back to Canada to take on Montreal Impact and the following week, they’ll be out in Utah to take on Real Salt Lake. Three weeks till ATLvDC at home, but it can’t come soon enough!

Featured image courtesy: atlutd.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @robynsaghini

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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