Soccer Trips 2017

2017 promises to be another great year for American soccer, and this year is particularly special because Atlanta United kicks off their first ever MLS campaign. But soccer happens all over this country at all levels and my goal each year is touch base at each level.

This year began with Atlanta United friendlies. First up was the quick drive up to Chattanooga for the game against Chattanooga FC. The Chattahooligans were great hosts, providing space at First Tennessee Pavilion and a huge breakfast buffet spread. Besides getting to meet fans from Atlanta and Chattanooga, I ran into Dennis Crowley, founder of Kingston Stockade FC of the NPSL. He came in from New York to check out the scene and we had a quick chat. Read my recap for Terminus Legion.

The following weekend was the opening match of the Carolina Challenge Cup. Atlanta United fans descended on Charleston to watch the Five Stripes face off against Columbus Crew SC. All four Atlanta United Supporter Groups did a shared tailgate, which was awesome. Returning to Charleston was great as well as the housing at Camp Cheek.  Read my recap for Terminus Legion and listen to my interviews with Atlanta United fans on the Terminus Legion podcast.

I went to the first ever Atlanta United game. The club kicked off at Bobby Dodd Stadium and it was awesome evening. Tailgate, march, tifo, great match. As a season ticket holder, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. Here’s the Terminus Legion podcast from the tailgate.

 

Here is my proposed schedule for the rest of 2017.

  • May 31 Savannah Clovers at Georgia Revolution. NPSL
  • July 3 Nashville Soccer Club at Peachtree City MOBA. PDL
  • August 6 Atlanta United at Sporting Kansas City. MLS
  • September 15 Bethlehem Steel FC at Louisville City FC. USL
  • September 16 New York Red Bulls II at Cincinnati FC. USL

Here are some of my previous trips.

You want to join me on a road trip? Comment below or hit me up on twitter @austinlong1974.

And check out Steven Bernasconi’s project, The Soccer Tour. He has put together an amazing 2017 and can’t wait to learn more about his adventures.

Juventus Home Shirt 08/09

Juventus’ first season back after the Calciopoli scandal was a relative success, with the Old Lady finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League. The following season, the club improved on their position while giving a good account of themselves in Europe.

The playing staff saw turnover ahead of the 2008/09 campaign with Birindelli leaving the club after a decade of service and almost 300 appearances. Zalayeta also departed, although his career never hit the anticipated heights. To help reinforce the squad, Mellberg, Amauri, and Poulsen were signed and Marchisio and Giovinco returned from loan.

The Bianconeri challenged for the scudetto before falling away in the spring, which eventually cost Ranieri his job. Alessandro Del Piero led the way with 13 league goals, supported by Amauri and Iaquinta, with Trezeguet out for most of the season. In the Coppa Italia, Juventus overcame Catania and Napoli before losing out to Lazio in the Semi-Finals. The Biancocelesti would go on to win their fifth Coppa title.

Juve were back in the Champions League and, after breezing through the Qualifying Round (5-1 over Artmedia Petržalka), the Bianconeri met Real Madrid on Match Days 3 and 4, winning both matches. The Old Lady won the home match 2-1 and then went to the Bernabeu where Alessandro Del Piero turned in a performance for the ages, scoring both goals. The Black and Whites topped the group but fell to Chelsea in the Round of 16.

Juventus 2-1

Real Madrid 0-2 Juventus

Moving on to the kits, Nike took over the contract for the Italian club in 2003 and had it until adidas became the manufacturer in 2015. This one was a solid effort, not the best but far from the worst, with the 06/07 and 14/15 versions the best in my opinion.

Juventus’ traditional black and white stripes were accented by bright yellow accents at the collar, cuffs and bottom hem. Yellow was used instead of the red from the previous season and I preferred this look, so much that I bought a replica version. The cuffs and hem were particularly interesting as the yellow bits were sown on under the main fabric to create a flare effect. There several different iterations of the kit as it was worn with white shorts and socks, white shorts and black socks and black shorts and socks. Have to say I liked this last version the best.

The replica had an embroidered crest with a thick heat transfer of the New Holland logo. There were some additional touches with the word BIANCONERI and two stars on the inside neck tape and JUVENTUS in gold across back neck.

As I was researching I noted that the league version of the shirt had stripes throughout the back of the shirt while the Champions League version had a black box for the name and number set. At first I thought I was imagining things but the Switch Image Project confirmed this slight alteration.

I ordered this shirt with JUNIOR 7 on the back. While I don’t wear it as much as I used to (read why here), it still hangs in my closet and maybe one day I’ll get it framed for the mancave I dream/talk about.

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Resources

Wikipedia

Colours of Football

Switch Image Project

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Check out more posts on kits from clubs and countries around the world on the Strip Club page. And yes. It’s safe for work.

South Georgia Tormenta FC v Myrtle Beach Mutiny

My soccer travels took me to down to Statesboro, GA, about a 3.5 hour trip southeast of Atlanta to watch South Georgia Tormenta FC.

The club was founded in 2015 and finished 5th in the South Atlantic Division during their inaugural season in the PDL in 2016. This year their competition includes teams from all over the Southeast:

  • Carolina Dynamo         
  • North Carolina FC U23
  • Nashville SC U23           
  • Tobacco Road FC                      
  • Myrtle Beach Mutiny  
  • Tri-Cities FC    
  • South Georgia Tormenta FC     
  • SC United Bantams      
  • Peachtree City MOBA
  • Charlotte Eagles            
  • Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Tormenta FC were named “Best New Franchise of the Year” after the 2016 campaign and this year have entered into a partnership with Charleston Battery. A recent friendly saw them draw with the USL team 1-1 down in Savannah.

Larry and I rolled a couple of hours before the match and met up with Terminus Legion Southeast Georgia Chapter Head Brian Diefenbach. He showed us the city before driving around the campus of Georgia Southern University, where Tormenta FC play. Even an hour before the game there was a decent crowd with a small group of tailgaters, kids playing Foot Golf and Foot Billiards, and fans checking out the merch and concessions inside.

The team plays at Erk Russell Park and has found a nice facility. There’s plenty of parking and seating with bleachers around three sides of the stadium, and the pitch was in really good condition despite heavy rains several hours previous. The club set up a VIP area on the player bench side with that side of the pitch having a forested background.

Myrtle Beach Mutiny took the field in an all red strip and was on the front foot early. The hosts, wearing their all black uniform, were lucky to absorb the early pressure and eventually found their footing. However a mistake in the back by Tormenta keeper allowed the visitors to open the scoring through their very talented #7. However Tormenta fought back and had several good looks at goal before halftime.

Eventually the equalizer came in the second half off a thundering header from a corner kick. Chances came thick and fast as the game opened up, with the game having a physical edge to it and the referee not having his best outing. The hosts nearly stole all three points when a half chance fell to a Tormenta attacker inside the box but his shot crashed against the crossbar and away from danger. The match finished 1-1 and several decent players were on show. The announced crowd 1200+ fans enjoyed a pleasant evening, with most braving the rain which started during halftime and lasted about 15 minutes.

Pic courtesy of Brian Diefenbach

Find out more about South Georgia Tormenta FC here.

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Read more about my ground hops here.

Magic City Brigade

NOTE: I recorded a podcast with Collin Barnwell, Vice President of the Magic City Brigade, the Birmingham Hammers’ Supporters Group ahead of the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game at Silverbacks Park. The recording didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped so I transcribed it. Enjoy.

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Collin, thanks for joining me. Talk about the formation of the Birmingham Hammers.

MCB Founder Forrest Collins and Hammers Founder Morgan Copes

Photo via Magic City Brigade

The club was founded in 2013 by Morgan Copes and John Killian. They played a non league season in 2015 and then joined the NPSL in 2016. (There is a great appearance by John Killian on Flakoglost podcast)

How did last season go?

Last year we didn’t do that great, only won two games but it was our first season. We had some first year woes, and fired our coach after the season. We hired another coach Wulf Koch, who is an experienced collegiate coach and has done very well at the University of Auburn at Montgomery. We’ve got a very charismatic coach who has a great staff. This year it’s looking up.

So the team is formed and then Forrest gets involved and the Magic City Brigade come to be. Talk about that.

Forrest started it in his dorm room. He enjoyed watching the Supporter Groups of Portland and Orlando and Seattle and figured if Birmingham was going to have a team, why not have a Supporters Group like that or one that mimics that style and choreography.

I got into the party a little late so to speak. I came to the Hammers in late 2014/early 2015. When I heard about Forrest and the Magic City Brigade I started coming out and joining them at events. 

Just been a work in progress ever since. Started as a couple of guys who wanted to watch the game together and is now formed into group that goes to matches home and away. We are Hammers supporters and we enjoy football, that’s the biggest thing.

Touching on that, I came to the first official game for the Hammers when they played Chattanooga FC in Birmingham. I reached out to you guys and joined you at the tailgate. Nice big spot to tailgate, and although the Chattahooligans were there and much bigger, they have a several year head start, but you guys were there, had some pizzas and some food and some beer, just hanging out. It was great.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that you guys had a great tifo for the first game. It had a couple of stars and smokestacks from the ironworks. Talk about that and your inspirations.

The tifo was a rendition of what makes Birmingham iconic and that would be Sloss Furnaces and the iron industry at the turn of the century. It displayed the stacks of Sloss Furnace and the Birmingham city flag, which is a tri-color flag, red/white/red with a red star in the middle of it and the seal of Birmingham. It was our take on that, and we got our first tifo done and we wanted to make it about the city and not about us.

The Hammers play at Sicard Hollow. There is no rigging, there are no barriers, there are just bleachers, there is nothing to unfurl as it were. However the facility has a nice hill in one corner and you guys staked the tifo down and it was up for the whole game, which I think is better, and at halftime I was able to get some pictures.

We were talking earlier about in tifo in general. You guys have a lot of DIY flags that are hanging on the fences of the facility. Talk about tifo for a fourth division club. How do you execute that?

There’s teams to look up to in the fourth division from a creative and inspiration standpoint like Chattanooga and Detroit City. All of our tifos are homemade. We buy the fabric at supermarkets, wherever we can find it, we buy the paint at the supermarket. It’s very free hand, very do it ourselves, it looks crude, it looks rough, but that’s who we are. We’re new to this, we’re not trying to make a publication out of this. We’re just doing things our way and people seem to enjoy it.

Going back to the first game, the Chattahooligans had close to a hundred fans and you guys didn’t have as many. I did like that you were on the opposite end of the field, little give and take, and you guys just did your thing. Had a nice big drum, a couple of chants, very organized. I like your attitude: we’re new, we’re trying and we do what we can.

Photo via Magic City Brigade

That’s one of the biggest things. We are not here to please the front office, we are not here to please other people. I have had several conversations with the owner and they have told me to stop bugging them with questions/permission about this and that. Everything about our club is very grassroots and it’s very do it yourself.

My wife and I live about an hour and a half north east of Birmingham, so we are not close and can’t get 30 people together to paint a tifo, so all the tifos that are constructed at my house are done on the kitchen table or the parking lot our apartment complex. All the others are done a combination of driveways and parking lots. It’s very do it yourself, get some dirt on your knees and paint.

Talk about 2017 season for the Magic City Brigade. Do you guys plan to have watch parties.

Being that streaming has become more of a thing for lower division clubs, we’ll probably have some watch parties for some our away games.

One thing I talk about with lower division supporters is that you guys get to travel. For Atlanta United, I get to go to one game this season, but for the other 16 I’ll be at a bar or home or whatever. For NPSL, especially the Southeast Conference, it’s pretty doable if you really commit you can go to every game.

I know for me, my plan is to attend about 85% of the away matches, with two of them being a six hour drive from my apartment, so it’s not feasible. If I had more resources I would go to all the games. The format makes it ideal for travelling and they are close drives. It’s very regional. That’s what I like. If you’re willing to commit to those seven to eight hour drives, you can go to every match.

We’re planning on having someone at every game, whether it’s one person or it’s like today here in Atlanta, it’s seven to ten of us. We will have at least one member of the Brigade at each game and that speaks volumes to who we are in the fourth division.

Let’s talk about the 2017 season. Who is in your division?

Southeast Conference is split into two division–East and West. The Birmingham Hammers are in the West with Chattanooga FC, Inter Nashville FC, Memphis City FC and New Orleans Jesters.

I know you’ve started blogging, done a couple of previews. What can fans or neutrals look for from the Birmingham Hammers this season.

I run a completely fan oriented blog, https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/ and it’s a 100% fan take on the experience, so it’s completely biased. We had one fan from another team who said that the blog was not an accurate reflection and I told him yeah.

This season we are in better form than last season. With a new coach and a new staff who are chomping at the bit to get started. We had one preseason match and in that match we played the Alabama ODP team and they were excellent. I don’t know how ODP teams are across the country but they were quality and we beat them 6-0. I don’t think that’s 100% comparable to the NPSL but this season I can see us making the playoffs. We have to win our home games and get some points and I think that’s doable.

Who are some players to watch out for?

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

Our keeper Bradley Louis. He’s been with us for three seasons.

Photo via Birmingham Hammers

We also have a new face, Jorge Delgado. He’s a forward who played at Mississippi College, and his career stats are impressive.

So expectations for the season? What would you be happy with?

I really don’t care what the record is. It’s bringing amateur soccer to Birmingham. I could see us winning every game but also I could see us dropping a couple.

How can readers find out more about Magic City Brigade and the blog.

We are on facebook and twitter (@MCBrigade14). You can find me on twitter (@BhamForeman) and the blog is https://bhamhammersblog.wordpress.com/.

I’ve been joined by Collin Barnwell from the Magic City Brigade and we have been tailgating before the Atlanta Silverbacks/Birmingham Hammers game. Collin, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to talk and have a great season.

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The Birmingham Hammers defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks 2-1.

Walking Through the Storm, Ken Kendra

Walking Through The Storm: Watching the 2015-16 Liverpool Football Club season at the North American pubs their clubs call home

Ken Kendra is the founder of Raleigh Reds, the Official Liverpool Supporters Club in Raleigh, NC and traveled around the States during the 2015/16 season to follow the Reds, meet fellow fans and write a book. The result is Walking Through the Storm.

The book is several things: a series of match recaps, an assembly of memories and stories, and a look into the life of a fan and supporter group organizer. Liverpool’s season was not boring with a managerial change, frustrating results and two cup finals. The account of the second leg against Borussia Dortmund is quite good which feeds into the trips down memory lane for both the author and the fans he meets along the way. From the most recent fan to the lifelong supporter, everyone has a story to tell. Finally, the Official Liverpool Supporter Group (OLSC) covers the entire US and the book gives insights into not only match days around the country and the fellowship created by gathering to watch games week after week but also into local drinking laws and how to start a local chapter.

The book is an easy read and a must read if you a Liverpool fan, especially in America. If you’re not a Liverpool fan, still worth the read as Ken recaps the season and recounts stories that every fan can relate to.

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For more book review, check out my Recommended Reading page.

MLS Kits 2017

Get the podcast here: MLS Kits 2017

JR Francis (@paynomind on twitter) came back on the #SoccerNomad podcast to look at the kits for the 2017 MLS season. Our conversation covered a lot of ground and pulled references both far and wide. Hope you enjoy our conversation.

Resources

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Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Holland Euro 2012 away kit

The Netherlands made the World Cup Final in 2010, narrowly losing to Spain in a match possibly more remembered for Nigel De Jong’s foot to Xabi Alonso’s sternum than the finish by Iniesta and the crowning glory of La Furia Roja. Following that defeat, the Oranje breezed through Euro 2012 Qualifying, only losing one match to Sweden after qualification had already been secured, and during the run they climbed to #1 in FIFA World Rankings.

Heading into the Euros, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, manager Bert van Marwijk had re-shaped the squad with about a third of the squad turned over. The Dutch rolled out a back line of van der Wiel, Heitinga, Vlaar and Willems with Mathijsen getting some time as well. The attacking group in the first two games featured Robben, Sneijder, Afellay and van Persie with de Jong and van Bommel holding.

After dropping their first two games, Holland could still advance and put most of their key attackers on the field with Van der Vaart and Huntelaar coming on and van Bommel and Afellay heading to the bench. An early goal gave hope to the Oranje but two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo saw the Dutch finish 0-3 and in last place.

As for the kits, the home shirt featured a two tone orange pattern that I didn’t care for and I loved the change shirt from Nike the moment I saw it. I love all black kits and this one by Nike was fantastic. The small deep orange band that came down the shirt provided a nice accent to the shirt while keeping the manufacturer logo in the same color as the shirt. Plus the KNVB badge was not framed in that weird shield used in previous iterations.

The Dutch wore the all black strip for the last group game and the shirt features a black ring collar, rubberized material at the seams and around the orange design feature, laser cut venting around the rib cage and a ventilated back. Nieuwe Meesters (New Masters) is on the inside neck and the bright Dutch orange is on the inside of the cuffs.

Another item I came across in my research was the name and number set. The name font is pretty common for the time but the numbers are quite, how do i say this, blocky. This image from the Switch Image Project shows what I’m talking about.
Despite my kit buying rules, when I saw a deal on Classic Football Shirts on the authentic version, I had to get it. I ordered a medium (maybe not a good long term decision as I age and put on the pounds) and it’s wonderful, bold shirt that weighs almost nothing.

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Resources

Football Shirt Culture

Historical Football Kits

Colours of Football

Wikipedia

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Check out more posts on kits from clubs and countries around the world on the Strip Club page. And yes. It’s safe for work.

The Soccer Diaries: An American’s Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game, Michael J. Agovino

The Soccer Diaries: An American’s Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game

I loved this book, which starts with a boy’s first game, a World All-Star Game at the old Meadowlands. As the author ran through the rosters, it’s remarkable that this game was played in the United States 35 years ago. From there it’s the drips and drabs of soccer that American fans searched for until the internet and sports channels flooded the market.

I found myself nodding along as the author searched out the beautiful game, either in games near and far or games on TV (which were extremely rare in the 80s and early 90s). It’s here that the book really spoke to me as I found the game later in life and would search bars and bookstores and catalogs for anything that would add to my knowledge of the game.

The book is similar to Fever Pitch in that it covers a long period of time in short little bursts and explores how one fan’s life changes through the years. However it doesn’t focus on one particular team and is not as dark and brooding and introspective as Hornby’s work and the author gives numerous examples of the fellowship to be found in soccer. I have traveled to matches, I have written and podded about matches, and I have met so many great people along the way. In the same Agovino spends time mentioning the many friendships he has developed over the years.

The author brings different perspectives as a fan and writer. Clubs and national teams coming to America for a quick payday, Swiss club teams struggling to find success and relevance, MLS searching for an identity, the fever and passion and joy and disappointments that go into each World Cup. The game has changed a great deal, both at home and abroad, in the last 30 years and the book explores this.

This is the book I would write if a) I could write as well, b) I had as many interesting stories and c) I had the time. If you follow the beautiful game at all, read this book. If you have fallen out of love with soccer read this book.

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For more book review, check out my Recommended Reading page.