El Equipo Naranja: Atlanta FC Official Blog
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It’s been a busy week or so in the land of Atlanta FC, time to catch up…

-2-0 win over Rocket City United at home.  Luis Sandoval and Robert Munilla with the goals in a fairly dominating performance.  It’s sad that Rocket City chose to complain and twist the facts after the game, but that’s their choice.  The team played well and didn’t let the impending US Open Cup match distract them.

-2-0 loss in US Open Cup to the Charleston Battery.  I’ve never been a part of a game like this in my life.  First things first, Charleston is a well coached team, they defend very well, and they’re very strong.  They have a first class organization, one that any team in the US should look to emulate. 

However, it’s tough not to look back at the game with a very bitter taste in my mouth.  I’ve never been pulled aside by referees as soon as we take the field to talk about problems with our bench at the regional qualifying tournament.  I have no idea what problems they are talking about.  No one from our bench was asked to leave or warned at regionals.  We had three red cards in four games at the regional tournament, all for plays that happened during the games on the field.  My biggest problem is the fact that we were pulled aside from the minute we stepped onto the field, while we don’t know what, if anything, was said to the Battery’s coaching staff.  That smacks of unfairness.  In retrospect, I would have felt belt about the conversation if it had taken place with both teams at the same time.  The way it went down, it felt like we were singled out and targeted.

According to the official stat report, sixteen fouls were called against Atlanta FC.  Eight cards were issued to Atlanta FC players, not including our head coach’s send off.

The first red card happened for an incident off the ball that no one but one assistant referee saw.  The fourth official didn’t get an explanation of what happened until halftime. We were told that it was for two aggressive pushes by the Atlanta player, the press box was told that it was for hands to the face contact.  You can’t see it on the video on USL Live, it must have happened out of the frame.  Considering that everything you can see on the video is something that a Charleston player did not even five minutes prior, you can understand the frustration.

What was also missed in that incident was Charleston’s captain head butting an Atlanta player behind the ball.  When this comes a few minutes after that same captain said in full voice from midfield, “F*** you,” to a different Atlanta FC player after another incident off the ball, you can understand the frustration.  The captain was substituted at halftime.

The second sending off was for a second yellow card.  The play happened right in front of the Charleston bench and not one coach, player, or staff member said a word about the incident.  No time was wasted in issuing the second yellow card.

Our coach was in the midst of a substitution prior to the yellow card.  After arguing the call that put us down to 9 players, he walked away to change the sub card.  As he did, the assistant referee on that side, who was manning the other half of the field, came sprinting over to get into our technical area and yell in our coach’s face.  The center referee did not consult with the assistant about the incident and immediately threw our coach out.  I have never seen an assistant referee provoke a coach in that manner in my life.  The situation was calmed down, but then reignited by the assistant referee resulting in our coach being sent off.

By this point, the players were overwhelmed with frustration.  Unfortunately, this boiled over on the third red card foul.  No one from our bench said a word about the referee’s decision.  However, Charleston’s head coach turned to me (I was standing in our technical area, closest to the Charleston bench) and screamed, “That’s f****** classless.”  He then followed that up with “F*** you.”  When I asked what his problem was, he responded with, “F*** off.”  On top of that, he nearly knocked the fourth official over, bumping him while yelling at me.  Things that would get us sent off and suspended end up with no response to them, you can understand the frustration.

While all of this ridiculousness happened, I don’t want to discredit the heart and determination of our guys on the field.  To keep an unbeaten professional team off the scoreboard while down to eight men is impressive.  I think we might have even created more chances than they did during this point.

None of this is to say that we would have won the game.  Who knows?  That’s the point, we didn’t get a chance to find out.  It’s one thing when a team displays bad behavior, it’s another when they’re provoked into it.  What are you supposed to do at that point?

Going back to watch the game on USL Live just does nothing but make me more angry about the things that happened.

-The inevitable letdown came during the second half of last weekend’s game with Chattanooga FC.  After a well played, competitive first half, we ran out of gas midway through the second half while CFC found another gear.  A headed goal from a set piece, and an excellent save in the 90th minute, was all they needed to take home their first win on the road, 1-0.

That result leaves the NPSL Southeast completely up for grabs at the midway point.  Rocket City is on nine points through five games while everyone else has six.  Pumas, Chattanooga, and Atlanta have played four games while Saturn has played five.  This weekend’s match with Pumas is even more important after recent results if we want to defend our NPSL Southeast championship.


Blackbaud Stadium will be the venue for Atlanta FC’s first ever US Open Cup match as el equipo naranja travels to face last year’s tournament runner-up Charleston Battery.  The game is set for June 9 at 7:30 pm.

The Battery are currently in 2nd place in the USL-D1, three points behind the Carolina Railhawks.  Last year, the Battery upset MLS teams FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo on their way to the final, where they lost at RFK Stadium to DC United.

Veteran goalkeeper Dusty Hudock has five shutouts thus far in the young season, the Battery haven’t given up a goal in their last 283 minutes.  Defense has been the key for the Battery this season, only giving up two goals in eight games.

On the field, the team features three former Atlanta Silverbacks players in Dan Antoniuk, Matt Bobo, and Scott Buete.  The team also features USL veterans Kenji Treschuk, Darren Spicer, and Randi Patterson.

More to come…


For the first time since professional teams joined the tournament in 1995, a club from Georgia has survived qualification for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Atlanta FC earned that historic distinction through an undefeated run in group play at the Region III qualifying tournament last weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. A come from behind win over Rocket City United on Sunday qualified them for the tournament.

The tournament began under rainy conditions on Friday against Legends FC from Dallas. Things looked bleak ten minutes in when Luis Sandoval was sent off for an unspecified incident off the ball. Leo Sanchez scored with a flick from a Alejandro Duque shot to put Atlanta in front. Legends never really tested the Atlanta goal, even after Robert Munilla was sent off late in the match. Sanchez’s goal held up for a 1-0 win.

Atlanta FC ran all over Dynamo New Tampa on Saturday, cruising to a 8-0 win. Sanchez and Matias Montalbetti scored two goals each and Paul Buckley, Abdul Bangura, Lalo Liza, and Junior Sandoval added a goal each. Unfortunately for the record books, the Tampa team was later disqualified from the tournament for using an ineligible player and the result was listed as a 3-0 forfeit.

This made things a little trickier against Rocket City United on Sunday, a win or tie was needed to ensure qualification. Things looked bleak as rain began to pour down and a Rocket City cross from the right side found the far side netting to give them a 1-0 lead. Wasting no time, Buckley’s corner kick was headed on by Javier Rodriguez to the far post. Sanchez continued his hot streak by fighting through defenders and the goalkeeper to poke the ball into the net to tie the game. With the result still in the balance, Marcelo Garcia headed home Bangura’s cross to seal the victory and put Atlanta FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup for the first time with a 2-1 victory.

Even though we don’t claim to be playing at the highest level of soccer in Atlanta, this weekend’s results have proven that we are at that level,” said coach Ricardo Montoya. “We will have the opportunity to participate in the oldest tournament in the United States, thanks to the efforts and abilities of our players. Since 2007, we have built this club for this moment. We founded the club to give players an opportunity to move on to the next level, to provide a spotlight to players who weren’t able to play in elite, prestigious youth clubs. Now they have earned that chance.”

The draw for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will take place on Wednesday, May 27. Atlanta FC will be placed into a match up against a fellow qualifier from the Southeast and could host or travel. Check www.usopencup.com for more information on the tournament and its format.

While the team came up short in winning the Region III championship, falling to Lynch’s FC of Jacksonville, Florida on Monday 4-3, its goal of qualifying for the oldest soccer tournament in the United States was completed. Rodriguez scored once and Sanchez added two more to his impressive season tally of seven.

These players have earned the support of the city through their accomplishments. We are challenging Atlanta’s soccer fans to give them the support they deserve. Come see the results of all of their hard work and sacrifice,” said Montoya. Rocket City will be looking for revenge on June 6 as they visit Riverwood High School. Kickoff is at 7:00 pm.


After a weekend of craziness, rain, and about anything else you can imagine, Atlanta FC has earned its first US Open Cup bid!  A 2-1 win over NPSL rivals Rocket City United on Sunday did the trick.

Rocket City took the lead in the 65th minute.  A shot/cross from the right side was not cleared and goalkeeper Billy Hale was screened.  At this point, the qualifying group was deadlocked between three teams on all tiebreakers and would have to be decided through a series of coin flips. Legends FC players were in the crowd cheering the goal which gave them a chance to survive this Group of Death.

Luckily, before the Region III staff broke anything, Atlanta FC tied the score at 1 three minutes later.  Paul Buckley’s corner kick was flicked on by Javier Rodriguez to the back post.  Leo Sanchez fought for the loose ball and was able to poke it into the near post.

Marcelo Garcia sealed the game for el equipo naranja in the 78th minute.  Abdul Bangura ran down a ball on the left side and found Garcia on the back post.  His header ensured that Atlanta FC would become the first USASA team to qualify for the US Open Cup from Georgia in the Professional Era (since 1996 and the inception of MLS).

Lynch’s FC won the other group and will join Atlanta in the US Open Cup.  First, these two teams will face off for the Region III championship and a berth in the USASA National Cups in Orlando in late July.  Kickoff is on Monday at 10:00 a.m.


Interesting day at Region III US Open Cup qualifying today for Atlanta FC.  It started with a big win over Dynamo New Tampa, 8-0 for el equipo naranja.  Leo Sanchez and Matias Montalbetti had 2 goals each.  The other goalscorers were Lalo Liza, Junior Sandoval, Abdul Bangura, and Paul Buckley.  Comprehensive win for Atlanta FC, the squad from Tampa never threatened Billy Hale’s goal.

The team found out later in the night that the Tampa squad was disqualified from the tournament due to using an ineligible player, they falsified a player pass for check-in purposes.  Due to that disqualification, all of Tampa’s results have become forfeits with a 3-0 scoreline.  That places Atlanta FC and Legends tied at the top of the group with six points each, Rocket City has three points.  Atlanta has the goal differential advantage at +4, Legends has +3.

A win or a draw on Sunday against Rocket City qualifies Atlanta FC for the US Open Cup for the first time in club history.  It would also be the first time an amateur team from Georgia has qualified for the tournament.

Follow the match live starting at 12:30 pm from the Atlanta FC Twitter.


Sorry about the late update, but it’s been a hectic trip.  Atlanta FC won its opening match in Region III US Open Cup qualifying 1-0 over the Dallas Mustangs FC.  Leo Sanchez continued his recent hot streak with a goal about midway through the first half.  Atlanta finished the match with nine players after red cards to Luis Sandoval and Robert Munilla.

Both teams took their time to settle into the match and adjust to the wet turf.  Early in the first half, the fourth official called the center over and notified him of something that happened off the ball and Luis Sandoval was red carded.  Even the opposing player from Dallas was shocked at the decision.

Atlanta kept the same shape, with Lalo Liza playing the defensive midfield alone.  The outside backs started getting forward more, which eventually resulted in the goal.  Darwin Mercado overlapped on the right side, sent in a cross that wasn’t cleared well, and Alejandro Duque mishit a shot.  Leo Sanchez was cutting across the goal at the time and redirected the ball over the goalkeeper’s shoulder into the net.

Dallas never threatened much thoughout the match, until Munilla’s red card late in the match.  He was sent off for retaliation after a forearm strike in the back of the neck by the Dallas player.  Unfortunately, the ref was behind the play and missed the first strike.  The assistant and fourth official didn’t see it either.  Mustangs started throwing players forward at this point, but never really tested Billy Hale in goal.

Atlanta’s back in action today at 2:30 against Dynamo New Tampa.  Follow along on the Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/atlantafc.


Atlanta FC won its first NPSL game of the season, defeating Chattanooga FC 3-1 in front of over 1,600 fans in Tennesee on Saturday night.  Leo Sanchez scored two goals and assisted on Junior Sandoval’s goal.

Storms passing over delayed the kickoff for over an hour. Both teams had early chances on goal, before the game settled down while both teams were trying to establish a rhythm. Atlanta found it first in the 23rd minute. Billy Hale punched a corner kick clear to Junior Sandoval on the right flank. Sandoval took off, outrunning the Chattanooga players and setting up Sanchez, who beat the charging goalkeeper with a shot to the far corner.

Sanchez struck again in the 34th minute. A cross from Alejandro Duque found an unmarked Sanchez near the top of the penalty area. He settled well and finished low to the far corner.

Duque played provider one more time in first half stoppage time, sending in a dangerous ball from the left side. Sandoval outran his defender, flicked the ball over the charging goalkeeper, and finished into the open net.

Chattanooga was able to get one back in the second half, through Omar Cooke in the 64th minute, but did not threaten much more after that. Atlanta could have added to their lead, if not for big saves from Chattanooga’s goalkeeper.

“Tonight was the best performance ever by an Atlanta FC team since we started the club,” said coach Ricardo Montoya. “We now have to focus on the smaller details, like killing a game off, to get where we want to be. The atmosphere from the crowd was excellent, our hosts were very professional tonight. We hope that we can get the same type of support back home in Atlanta.”

Region III qualifying for the US Open Cup is next for Atlanta FC in Jacksonville, Florida from Friday, May 22 through Monday, May 25. Their schedule will include games at 4:00 pm on Friday, 10:00 am on Saturday, and 4:00 pm on Sunday. The championship game will be played at 10:00 am on Monday. The top two teams will qualify for the US Open Cup, while the winner qualifies for the United States Adult Soccer Association national finals in Orlando, Florida in July.

Follow along with updates from Jacksonville on the official Twitter page of Atlanta FC, http://www.twitter.com/atlantafc.


Saturn FC took advantage of a slow starting Atlanta FC, winning 3-2 in the first meeting between the local rivals in the NPSL.  Mohammed Bah was the danger man for Saturn, scoring their first and last goals.

Saturn came out with high intensity, which forced Atlanta to adjust.  Bah scored his first goal off an excellent cross from the right side.  Goalkeeper Billy Hale made a spectacular initial save, but could not prevent the rebound from falling to Bah.  Atlanta came close to equalizing in spectacular fashion, as Leo Sanchez’s diving header was saved by Saturn keeper Brian Johnson.  Sanchez did get the equalizer a few minutes later, finishing off a free kick by Robert Munilla.  While Atlanta’s play improved after the score was tied, Saturn took advantage of miscommunication in the back and took the lead once more through Chiddy Mgbor.

Atlanta picked up the pressure to start the second half, only to be caught out once again.  Padriag McDonagh broke free down the right side and sent in a beautiful cross, Bah was on hand once again with the finish.  With no other choice, Atlanta was forced to throw numbers forward.  Paul Buckley clipped the post with a shot, Robert Munilla narrowly missed wide, but the goals would not come.  Saturn’s Dos Santos Carrington was sent off for a second yellow card offense, opening things up even more.  Finally, a dangerous cross from a free kick was headed in by Saturn’s Alex Badilla for an own goal.  The pressure continued, but the equalizer was not found.  Saturn took the three points with a hard fought 3-2 win.

Atlanta FC is next in action on May 16 in Chattanooga against NPSL Southeast newcomers Chattanooga FC.  Kickoff is at 7:00 pm, you can follow the match via updates on our official Twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/atlantafc.


Saturn FC:  Johnson, Wolf, Carrington, Touray, Christie (Page 77), McDonagh, Skinner, Bah (Badilla 63), Florez (Aramovic 76), Davidson (Burleson 83), Mgbor (Madegwa 63)

Atlanta FC:  Hale, Estrada (Calderwood 46), Rodriguez, Silva, Liza (Marquillo 71), Gutierrez (Duque 55), L. Sandoval (Montalbetti 71), Munilla, Buckley, Canovas, Sanchez (Juarez 62, Mercado 86)

Goals:  Bah (McDonagh) 11, Mgbor (Wolf) 40, Bah (McDonagh) 54; Sanchez (Munilla) 19, Badilla (OG) 85


I was explaining to a friend about our goals with Atlanta FC and why we created the club.  It’s definitely not to make tons of money.  It’s a way for us to give back to the game, which has given us so much in our lives, and to provide opportunity to others.  rama goal

We provide opportunities for professional training to players at no cost. Ricardo Montoya is an ‘A’ licensed coach with the USSF. Our assistant Alejandro Pombo is now a ‘D’ licensed coach and we’re preparing him for the next level. Our reserve coach Alexis Ubillus has just begun his coaching career after retiring as a player (he played in Peru and the Copa Libertadores) and is also a ‘D’ licensed coach. We did the state’s first ever ‘D’ licensing course in Spanish in December, and over 30 local coaches were able to receive licensing, with half of those ready to move on to national courses.

In 2007, we brought Monterrey FC of Mexico up for a youth combine. Over 125 kids participated at no cost to them, with ten being identified by Monterrey. They are still being tracked by the team with possibility of joining them on trial. We took five players to a trial with 1899 Hoffenheim in Alabama last summer. We recommended players to the Silverbacks all the time. We’re preparing a combine with Traffic Sports this summer for 16-18 year olds with Fernando Clavijo. These are all done at no cost to the kids.

We try to give the guys who don’t have money to play for expensive youth clubs a chance to be seen and move on to the next level. 4 players have moved on to the professional level from our teams. At least 3 more will be attending college this fall after a tryout we arranged in the winter.

We also try to provide our fans the opportunity to see an exciting, dynamic team that they can support. We play an attacking style, usually in a 4-3-3 formation. We never play for a 0-0, we never just bunker and hope for a long ball to rescue us, it just doesn’t suit our style. If you score 2 goals, we want to score 4.

We believe in the beauty and passion of the sport.  We’ll celebrate like mad, and also be down after a loss.  We’ve spent countless hours discussing the smallest details of the game, the club, and our players.  It comes down to the fact that we deeply love this game.  Atlanta FC is our representation of that.  A team for the love of soccer, a team with passion, and a team that you can support.

Come be a part of el equipo naranja, support Atlanta FC in 2009!

Season opener is Saturday, May 9 at 6:00 pm at Georgia Soccer Park against Saturn FC.  We’ll return to Riverwood HS for our home opener on June 6.


Atlanta FC scored midway through the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Unfortunately, storms hit the area as the teams came back to the field to begin the second half. The referee held off the start of the second half for the players’ safety when lightning was seen in the vicinity. After discussion with the promoters and the visiting team, it was decided to end the match with only 45 minutes played.
atlfc-esfa pregame
El equipo naranja took the initiative from the opening whistle, creating more chances than their English visitors. Paul Buckley, captaining Atlanta FC on his birthday and against his native country, sent in a cross from the left side that both Junior Sandoval and Fredy Juarez attacked. It was Juarez with the final touch and the goal, beating the keeper to the dangerous cross. Atlanta created six offensive chances in the first half to two for the English.

After lightning was spotted when the teams and referees came back to the field for the second half, Atlanta FC staff conferred with the referees and stadium management about the storms in the vicinity. The weather forecast showed no let up in the storms.

The first half lineup for Atlanta FC was as follows: Billy Hale, Paul Buckley (captain), Ramiro Canovas, Javier Rodriguez, Lalo Liza, Arturo Gutierrez, Luis Sandoval, Junior Sandoval, Julio Anzueto, Robert Munilla, Fredy Juarez.

Atlanta FC apologizes deeply to its fans who came out to support their team on Friday night. While the Atlanta players and staff wanted to continue the game, ultimately it was the decision of the game promoters and the English team not to continue.

In order to make it up to those who came out, Atlanta FC is offering two for one tickets to the NPSL home opener on June 6 against Rocket City United. If you buy one ticket at regular price, you will get a second one for free. Atlanta FC thanks its fans and looks forward to their support as they begin defense of their NPSL Southeast championship.

Atlanta FC will be in action this Saturday at the Georgia Soccer Park against Saturn FC. It is the first NPSL match for el equipo naranja of 2009. Saturn is 1-0 after defeating Rocket City United 2-1 last weekend at Georgia Soccer Park. Admission will be free for the match.