All posts by Andrew Moran

Shippensburg University and Theta Xi alum! Chelsea and Philadelphia Union fan... Aspiring PR sports practitioner.

Atlanta United: a closer look, and how they’re changing the game

Another MLS season is ahead of us. Another two teams joining the party. Minnesota United and Atlanta United are about to field their starting XI for their inaugural season, and while excitement from supporters and critics alike surround each organization’s debut, Atlanta United has made headlines specifically for paving its own path. From the players to the stadium and everything in between, AU is turning heads and refuses to follow the norm.

 

Old stadium not suited for soccer? Nah, they’ll pass.

When you look at original franchises like New England & DC United, a soccer specific stadium is still lacking. When these games are televised, the matches are less eccentric with the stadium half empty. These football stadiums are simply not designed to host soccer matches and aren’t downsized properly when the whistle blows. A similar thing can be said about Orlando, who played their first two seasons in a football stadium. Orlando filled the seats, but one could occasionally see the football lines which ruined the aesthetic. NYCFC currently plays in an MLB stadium and faces challenges such as an insanely small field and implications due to transforming the field back and forth.

United is set to play its first eight home games at a temporary location, Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Although come summer 2017, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will become the official home. The new world class stadium will host both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United and looks to accommodate both accordingly.

Arthur Blank, the owner, says sharing the field between teams wont be a problem. “There will never be an MLS game in Atlanta where NFL lines are shown on the field.”

Notable features include a retractable roof, a 360 degree screen, a 70,000 seat capacity which will be downsized to 30,000, retractable stands to expand field size, and curtains that will hide the upper level seats enabling an intimidating atmosphere.

For more details about how they’re changing the game day experience for fans, you can dive into it below!

http://www.atlutd.com/post/2016/05/16/home-atlanta-united-mercedez-benz-stadium-begins-revolutionizing-guest-experience

 

Retiring DP’s? Nah, they’ll pass.

A common trend among the league has been to sign older, veteran players from across the globe. In most cases, its simply to market the club. We can take a closer look at NYCFC. Signing Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo boosted ticket sales no doubt, but the performance on the field was not what the supporters were expecting – playoffs were not reached.

Atlanta is paving its own path; United has used its three Designated Player spots on young players. How young? All in their early 20’s and mostly all from the Argentina first division. Miguel Almiron was one of their first signings and was revealed as Atlanta’s number 10. The young man, 23, was sought after by several European clubs and has 7 appearances for the Paraguayan national team. His previous club was Lanus in Argentina’s first division.

The other two signings were Hector Villababa and Josef Martinez. Villababa is a 22-year-old midfielder from San Lorenzo playing in the Argentina first division, while Martinez is a 23-year-old forward currently on loan from Italian side Torino. Martinez actually suited up for Venezuela during CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying and sits fourth in the leading goal scorer table with five goals.

other distinguishing young signings:

  • Yamil Asaad, attacking midfielder, age 22, on loan from Argentina first side Velez Sarsfield
  • Anton Walker, defensive midfielder, age 20, on loan from Tottenham
  • Leandro Gonzales, defense, age 24, has played for multiple first division teams in Argentina, accumulating more than 100 first team appearances

 

Coach with previous MLS experience? Nah, they’ll pass

Sigi Schmid and Adrian Heath were names being thrown around late last year and speculation soon grew if they would return to the league. I was sure Atlanta would make a logical choice and go with one of those guys, having previous MLS experience.

Then I woke up one early morning, one eye opened, scrolling down my twitter feed.

Gerardo “Tata” Martino named head coach of MLS expansion side Atlanta United”

I literally was in awe.

If you’re not familiar with Tata’s resume, all you need to know is that he coached at Barcelona (runner up in Copa Del Rey and La Liga) and the Argentina national team (led his side to Copa America final and Copa America Centenario final)… yea, no MLS experience but I am not complaining. Martino is known for his attack minded, high pressing football and it will be interesting how his playing philosophy fairs in MLS.

As for what the players and media are saying, he’s a very affable man.

“[Martino’s] been great for us. He’s really been open with his communication. He’s made it clear he wants it to be physical, he wants it to be intense on the field. But off the field he’s very approachable. He’s working on his English and we’re all working on our Spanish and we’re making it work,” says Parkhurst, 33, recently named captain of AU.

 

The journey ahead is long, my friend.

Listen, I am as hyped as you guys are to see these plans come to fruition. Everything is lining up perfectly for this organization to have a great season and maybe…maybe reach playoffs; previous expansion sides have not had that luck.

Precisely six MLS expansion teams have failed to finish above the red line come postseason since Seattle in 2009. This includes in 2015 with NYCFC (Villa, Lampard, Pirlo) and Orlando City (KAKA!!). Tata is yet to learn the elements of MLS and they have proven to be tricky ones. United is definitely looking to be a menace on and off the field but one can’t be too optimistic.

 

 

With the season starting in a few weeks, preseason is looking pretty good.

On February 12th, Atlanta played their first game ever… and they’re already scoring GOLAZOS. Check out the vid below.

 

Target joins MLS and Minnesota United as official partner

AT&T, Wells Fargo, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Allstate, Etihad Airways, Audi.

Now – Target.

On Thursday, the league announced Target as their latest addition of corporate sponsors. On top of the league-wide deal, MNUFC will suit up with the iconic red and eye bulls-eye displayed on the front side of their kit.

Target is already involved in the action sports scene, but partnering with MLS signifies its largest push into the sports world.

“There are so many things that drew us to soccer – it’s multicultural, watched and played by families and is growing immensely in popularity,” Rick Gomez, Target senior vice president of Marketing said in a statement.

This partnership will include “brand integration across platforms, including broadcast, digital, video, content, in-stadium and on-site activation at marquee MLS events,” per MLS.com.

Target currently holds naming rights partnerships with two Minnesota sports facilities: Target Field and Target Center – home of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively.

When it comes to the kit sponsorship, on field branding and in-stadium activation rights is also included in the bundle. The Target brand will be on display at TCF Bank Stadium throughout the inaugural season.

Minnesota United will commence playing in MLS this March, after years of playing in the United Soccer League. The team has already sold more than 8,000 season ticket deposits and will join the Eastern Conference with ex-Orlando City coach Adrian Heath.

“We look forward to helping launch Minnesota United FC to the world and bring soccer to the Twin Cities, which has been Target’s hometown for more than 50 years,” said Rick Gomez, senior vice president, Marketing, Target. “Target has a long history of supporting our local teams and are proud to be part of Major League Soccer’s expansion into the Twin Cities this year.”

Chelsea VS West Ham Recap: What We Learned From Conte

With the third day of the English Premier League wrapped up, Chelsea fans saw a glimpse of what Conte may have to offer this upcoming season.

Goals from Eden Hazard’s penalty and Diego Costa’s 89th minute rocket were enough to get the Blues past West Ham United 2-1 and here’s three things we observed.

1.) N’Golo Kante

From Leicester City to Chelsea, I think anyone would find the immense pressure hard to live up too. But let me tell you, I finally saw first hand why this man had been regarded so highly. Kante showed up to play on Wednesday and no doubt was a huge help for the team. Throughout world football, a strong defensive midfielder is found at the core of each squad. Although given a yellow card very early on in the game, he was a non-stop engine and kept winning balls for Chelsea during the duration of the match.

2.) Conte’s Tactics

Chelsea has been traditionally seen playing with a 4-2-3-1, and that was the formation which ultimately won them the Premiership. Although, today showed the Italian lay out a 4-1-4-1 format. I was skeptical at first… but N’Golo Kante showed he could in fact protect the back four by himself and let Matic push up the field. It seemed to me that Matic was used to pressure higher up the field, and Kante pressured right in the middle of the pitch. This kept West Ham with very limited opportunities. At the very end, we even saw a 4-2-4 formation, which fundamentally led to Batshuayi linking up with Costa, supported by Moses and Pedro on the wings – deadly.

3.) Regaining Their Pride

Today I saw glimpses of the old Oscar, the old Hazard, and the old Terry; could the players finally be out of their funk? Oscar was chosen to start in front of Cesc Fabregas. I wont look too much into that decision but I thought Oscar had himself a good day. The Brazilian was heavily involved in all areas of the pitch and even (surprisingly) went into challenges with heart. Hazard was an outlet on the wing all game and even came close to scoring in the first half before his PK. The back line was superb and you really cant complain when you have such experience in Terry, Cahill and Ivanovic. It seemed, for the first time in a while, that the team might just be getting their mojo back.

 

Juventus: Preparing for Life After Pogba?

On Tuesday morning, word spread throughout social media that Juventus had bought Higuain for 94.7 million euros. An enormous amount, and in fact, only one player and club beat that record – Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

With Napoli cashing in for the superb Argentinian striker, Juve is making a statement… it wants to be world-class. Now I am not saying they are not a power house. They have dominated Serie A winning back to back titles. But in a world filled with “super clubs,” winning your domestic league often does not quench the thirst. Analysts, coaches, players and supporters all want one thing and that’s glory from the UEFA Champions League.

Although Juve might sell its biggest star, the board of directors knows it has a ginormous hole to fill and their plan is gently coming to fruition. Benetia, Dani Alves, Pjaca, Pjanic and Higuain have all been acquired during this summer transfer window and if the rumors are valid, they are also eyeing Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano to take Pogba’s place. These players will not only add depth to their already deep roster, but these reinforcements may just be enough to give Juve the real trophy they’ve been after.

If I ever were to sell Pogba from my club, I would’t really be upset with these players coming into the locker room. But the icing on the cake would be to ultimately keep Pogba and they still might. Apparently, per ESPNFC, talks between Man U and Juventus have come to a stand still over Juve’s 120 million asking price. I dont really know if The Red Devils are just trying to make a statement in the market or are actually in need of him. Im not hesitant to say that comment because both Real and Barca have backed off the frenchman after his subpar summer. Could you say Pogba is better than Iniesta? Modric? Kroos? I think both spanish clubs have realized that maybe 120 million might be just a tad too much.

I’m going to assume the sale of Paul Pogba will go through, simply because the rumors have been gaining so much momentum for weeks and I feel as if Manchester United and Mourinho both really want the Frenchman. With Pogba moving to the English Premier League, many futbol fans are left wondering if the deal is worth it.

Jason Kreis Appointed Head Coach Of Orlando City SC

Jason Kreis is back!

The previous New York City FC coach is back in MLS after almost a year of looking for a club. Orlando City SC announced on Tuesday that Kreis will become the club’s second coach in history.

“We are very excited that we have got our man. Jason is a progressive thinking and highly ambitious coach, who is very familiar with success in MLS,” Orlando City SC president and founder Phil Rawlins said. “Jason’s playing philosophy is the same attack-minded, possession-oriented style of soccer that we have built our club around. He is a winner who checks all the boxes for us.”

Kreis had a great coaching career before his “flop” with NYC. He led Real Salt Lake to two MLS Championship appearances, winning one of them. In addition, he directed the team to a CONCACAF Champions League appearance.

On Twitter, Kevin Kinkead, a Philly U informant, tweeted “Those RSL teams played good defense and had a core that stayed together for YEARS. Beckerman, Morales, Rimando, Beltran, Borchers, etc”… and he is exactly right. Kreis had a dominant group at RSL and, whether you like it or not, this played a huge role in the overall success of the club.

But in my opinion, Kreis is walking into another NYC situation. NYC didn’t qualify for playoffs – you can tell the team really didn’t gel together and who knows what went on behind the curtains. Lampard came into the team half way into the season and you can see the frustration in David Villa’s eyes. Orlando City also depend on star power – Kaka, Larin, Brek Shea – to get anything done; Kaka has been battling some injuries all year that is literally why they are sitting 8th place.

I’ve only been watching MLS for a couple of years and never saw the “Kreis era,” but Kreis is beloved by MLS fans and knows the league already. The board of directors in Orlando are clearly content with this decision and hopefully will be behind him going forward.

 

 

Pep Guardiola Hoping To Reach New Heights With City

New kits. New badge. New manager. This is the Manchester City of 2016. The days of the struggling Manuel Pellegrini are long gone and City fans can only be optimistic about the future.

On July 3rd, the club revealed their new home kits; The uniforms stick to the classic baby blue shirt and shorts, but with a smoother look. Along with the new kits, came the revamped Manchester City badge (which, if I add, is brilliant).

With a “#ItBegins” Twitter campaign signaling their new vision, thousands of supporters converged at the club’s Etihad campus this past week to grab just a glance of their new manager and look.

Pep Guardiola, who found nothing but success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich said, “I proved myself in Barcelona and, after I proved myself in Germany, I wanted to prove myself in England.”

Manchester City has already signed Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan – if this isn’t a signal of things to come, then frankly, I dont know what is. Stick Gundogan behind the likes of Sterling, Silva, Aguero and De Bruyne? Gundogan is no doubt a Xavi/Fabregas-esque type player with a holding midfielder player capability and this is an overall great first signing.  

Personally, I always find it very intriguing when managers that have had previous success in other countries come to England and try to test the waters. I feel like Pep is in for a little bit of shock… He already had his plate made with Messi at Barca and Robben and Co. at Bayern.

But lets elaborate on the team he has now. Sagna, Zabaleta, Kolorav, and Kompany all range from the 30-33 age. Their defensive mids – Fernando and Fernandinho – are 28 and 31, respectively. I think the improvement of these two areas will determine the outcome of City’s success this season. In addition, there have already been rumors of Guardiola preparing to give a plethora of players the door. On the other hand, their attacking players are quite young and all have exceptional qualities. How Guardiola attempts to gel this team together after (probably) getting rid of some extra fat is something to keep an eye on. 

Either way you put it, “The best coach in the world” is in the house. His resume spells nothing but greatness and City fans are already mesmerized. The season hasn’t even started but City and United are certainly already in the runnings for Premier League triumph. As a Chelsea fan, I am literally not looking forward to this. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Announces Manchester United Move

(Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his move to Manchester United after much speculation)

The 34 year-old has officially announced that he will be leaving Paris Saint Germain and move to The Red Devils of England.

Since signing with PSG in 2012, the almighty Zlatan has enjoyed nothing but success at the French club, winning four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, three Coupes de la Ligue, two Coupe de France, and was even the top scorer in Ligue 1 for three seasons.

After becoming a free agent, the player formally announced his move via Instagram: “Time to let the world know. My next destination is @manchesterunited #iamcoming”

Sources of ESPNFC claim that everything is verbal so far – no contract has been written and Manchester United have not stated anything on any social media platform.

The interesting part of this move is the reunion between former player and manager. Zlatan and newly signed boss, Jose Mourinho, have collaborated together during their Inter Milan days through the 2008-2009 season.

Manchester United was not the only club chasing Ibra. A plethora of other english clubs were closely monitoring the situation, and a handful of MLS teams were also keeping tabs on the former Swedish international.

Eric Bailly is the only other player that has signed for United thus far. It will be interesting to see what other players are under Manchester United’s radar. Although, if its anything like these two recent signings, expect United to easily place in the top four.