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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Video: Keka Scores Fantastic Goal in NCAA D1 Debut

After winning Player of the Year at the Junior College level, Mohammed "Keka" Kemara transferred to UCLA and played in his first game last night against Coastal Carolina, which ironically, is the school that fellow Silverback DZ Harmon now attends.

The UCLA Bruins went on to get the best of the Chanticleers winning 4-0 with one of the goals being scored by Keka when he amazingly chipped the keeper.

Silverbacks General Manager Phoday Dolleh shared the video on his Twitter account, while also adding "they said D1 will be too hard for (Keka), I said he is special. Watch my word America."

 Keka joins a UCLA team that suffered a down year in 2017 with a record of 7-10-1, missing the NCAA Tournament in which they usually qualify for, and win one or two games in a typical season. The Pac 12 is a very competitive conference for Soccer with Stanford being a national powerhouse that has won the last three consecutive National Championships, as well as California, and Washington who regularly make the NCAA tournament. Keka will have his work cut out for him in a tough soccer conference but if this first game is any indication on how his season will go, his team will be very competitive, and he will have plenty of chances to impress professional scouts.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tales From The Road: Say It Ain't So, I Will Not Go (Greenville)

In this second edition of "Tales From The Road" I'll recall the best I can, my trip to Greenville, South Carolina, to see the Silverbacks take on Greenville FC. As a city, I have a huge soft spot for Greenville, and it's a place I could see myself moving to after College if I don't end up staying in Atlanta. The extent of my love for Greenville is to the point where my friends are concerned. Personally, I think they overreact because it's not like I can't just drive the 2.5 hours on Saturdays to watch the Silverbacks with them if it does indeed happen. The moral of this story is that there might be a little bit of bias in this post, but I don't see it as a negative one.

Our story begins at roughly 1pm in Dunwoody, as the same road trip partner from my trip to Asheville is stuck at his side job, I find myself hungry and in need something to do while I wait for him to get off. I decided to eat at the Burger King around the corner from his Complex. Keep in mind I hadn't eaten at Burger King I have no idea how long so I wasn't sure what to expect. Nothing could have prepared me for what might be the best deal I've ever seen: 10 Chicken Nuggets for $2. Sure Burger King's Chicken Nuggets ( and the rest of their food in general) isn't the best but it was still a fantastic deal, and it meant that I would have more Beer Money in Greenville.

We had an extra friend join us for the car ride to Greenville, and somehow, I ended up sitting in the back seat, but once again I was in charge of the playlist, so not all was lost. Unfortunately, my playlist making skills would later be replaced by my trusty pilot getting a Sirius XM subscription, but it was fun while it lasted.

We arrived in Greenville at the Campus of Furman University at roughly 4:30 in the afternoon if I recall correctly.  Furman is a litttle bit further north of Downtown Greenville so there was no shopping or eating to be done, but that didn't matter we found a good tailgating spot near Furman's Football stadium, isolated away from the rest of the event-goers, and then proceeded to have our beers and kick the ball around under the shade of a tree.

This was how the majority of our pregame was spent, and then it came time to go into the stadium. There were two elderly ladies taking tickets at the game, and when it became my turn to go in, Uptown Funk was playing over the PA system and they were jamming away while taking tickets, which I thought was pretty cool. I decided to walk around the stadium and I saw two things I wasn't expecting: A King Of Pops vendor, and someone wearing the jersey of my favorite Bundesliga team, Schalke.

After I got my popsicle and awkwardly complimented a stranger on his Schalke jersey, I went back to join my friends and see what other Silverbacks fans had spotted us and were prepared to join us.
If memory serves me right, there were close to 10 Silverbacks fans that made the trip. One of which attended East Carolina University in Greenville, NORTH Carolina, a place which he has very fond memories of, more so than the South Carolina version at least. I must say I got a real big kick out of him screaming "THIS IS NOT THE REAL GREENVILLE " at the top of his lungs on one or two occasions during the game.

Security at this game was pretty relaxed, to the point where they let some fans stand on the ledges of the walls separating the stands and the playing field. I didn't have much faith in me being able to keep my balance so I tried to stay off of it, but those with better balance seemed to be having the times of their lives.

The game itself ended as a 1-1 draw. The Silverbacks failed to convert an early Penalty kick opportunity but would manage to put one in just a few minutes later. Greenville would then equalize, and the game would end as a draw, but not without a few fireworks. Late in the game, there was a skirmish on the side of the field furthest from where I was standing that nearly emptied the benches. In the end, Ebrima Njie was shown a red card, and to this day I'm not entirely sure what really happened. Someone asked Njie after the game what happened with the red card and he only shook his head and laughed.

So after the game, there was still one more thing to do, find a bar to watched Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which my Washington Capitals were playing in. The closest place was The Pumphouse Grill. It also happened to be karaoke night at The Pumphouse, with most of the patrons opting to cover Country songs, and I figured "hey I'm just here to get some food and watch Hockey with my friends. I can tune this out." The Capitals were well in control of the game and the Buffalo Chicken Sub I ordered was very satisfying, but eventually, it got to the point where I was dying for variety in music, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I decided to channel my inner-Tom Delonge. When I say that I don't mean I tried to chase aliens and UFOs, I'm saying I chose to sing All The Small Things by Blink-182, As I'm singing the chorus of the song I happen to look over at my road trip partners who are sitting at our table reasonably close to the stage, both taking videos of me and cheering me on. It was at that moment I realized just how great of a trip this was. Yes our team had tied a game they probably should have won, and the heat was absolutely terrible that day. But here we were in a bar where we undoubtedly stuck out like sore thumbs having the time of our lives.

After the Capitals won the Hockey game, we decided to head home, but not without a stop at 7-11 so I could get my Slurpee fix. I would like to end the story there, but I feel like I have to point the very next day that I ended up having a Pool Party with a few friends, and I said that I wouldn't mind moving to Greenville after college and one friend's response was "Taylor! We were literally just in Greenville yesterday. Should I have just left you there?" To which I paused for a second, and then replied with "yes."

So there you have it. Now you know how much I love Greenville, how enthusiastic I am about Karaoke, and how good I am at making the most of a disappointing result. Stay tuned for my next post where I will talk about my trip to Nashville. I don't want to give too much away because then you wouldn't read it, but it was definitely the best trip of the summer.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tales From The Road: The Magical Mountain Tour (Asheville Away)

As another Silverbacks season has come and gone, I feel like it's important to reflect on all of the good times that were had while the season was going on, and boy did I have some good times. Whether it be at Silverbacks Park, Tara Stadium in Jonesboro, Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Asheville, Greenville, Nashville (too many "villes"), and at the end Chattanooga; it was so much more than just driving to the game, watching the game, and driving home from the game. I like to think I have enough stories from this season to last me a lifetime, especially from the road trips. I feel like I could make a whole series of posts about my road trips, which is EXACTLY what I'm doing. Hopefully, it'll help make up for how many chances I missed to write articles because I was neck deep in homework after all of my weekends away.

Seeing as how I missed the trip to Knoxville to see the Silverbacks play Emerald Force, this series will begin on a rainy Saturday in Asheville.

After one particular friend I agreed to carpool together for this trip, it came down to the next order of business, constructing a playlist for the ride. The main thing I tried to avoid doing was making it too Pop Punk heavy because I had a reputation to uphold as someone who puts a lot of variety into road trip playlists. I did a good job of this... until about 3 hours before we were set to leave when I added roughly 20 additional Blink-182 songs, to the 3 preexisting songs on the playlist. Not that it mattered in the long run because I had so many songs on a playlist for a relatively short drive so we went a long time without hearing any of those impulse songs

With a full tank of gas in his car and my still decent playlist playing on his stereo, we were on our way. Once you get out of Georgia the typical route from Atlanta to Asheville is pretty scenic. Both years I've gone it ended being a mix of Interstates, State Routes, and Backways as well. The best part is when you get closer to Asheville and the mountains are suddenly in the distance. We made good time throughout the ride and made it before all but one of the other Silverbacks fans we met up with.

When you get to downtown Asheville you will have no trouble finding cool little gift shops, amazing dogs being walked on every sidewalk, breweries in abundance, as well as hipsters doing hipster things, but a parking spot? That's far more challenging to find in Asheville and may involve a couple of trips around the block. When you do find a spot, however, you can walk pretty much anywhere you want in the area. For my friends and I, that was a place called Burial Brewing Company. Burial was where my friends and I hung out before attending the game last year and it left a good impression on us so we decided to return. The main attraction at Burial, apart from the beer, of course, is the fact that their door handle is shaped like the Grim Reaper's scythe, which unfortunately it took me a whole year to figure that out, but better late than never.

Memorial Stadium itself is just uphill from McCormick Field where Minor League Baseball's Asheville Tourists play. It's a multi-use facility so, in addition to Soccer Goals, there are also Football Goalposts. The thing I like the best about the venue it personally is how good the view of the mountains is. What can I say? I have an infatuation with mountains.

The game itself was pretty much gut punch after gut punch because in addition to the Silverbacks losing 3-1, I found out that 3 of Asheville's players were also players from my school, Georgia State University. I hadn't had much time to look up Asheville's roster but I heard the PA announcers mention them by name and I had to do a double take. Sure enough, it was the same people I had watched pretty much every week of College Soccer season. When the reality finally sunk it, I couldn't resist the urge to jokingly yell "you're playing for the wrong team! You go to school in Atlanta" at them. I don't know if they could actually hear me say it but I did get to talk to one after the game. He said he did recognize me, but for some reason, he wanted to say my name was Robert, as opposed to Taylor. Little did I know, next time I talked to him it would be after the game at Silverbacks Park the very next week, and I had to ask him what was going through his mind when he showed Westside 109 his underwear after one of his teammates scored a goal.

One moment that probably sticks out for me more than anything else that happened on this trip was after the full-time whistle. The PA system in Asheville started playing "Come On Eileen" and one of my friends spontaneously changed the lyrics to "Come On You Backs" and we all loved it so we joined in, and it has since become a tradition that we sing it everytime we're either on our way to or from an away game.

 After the game, there was the task of getting home, which was one-half walking back to the car in pouring rain and trying to say all of our goodbyes, as well as one-half driving. My carpooling buddy decided a few days in advance that he didn't want to go all the way back so he suggesting spending the night with some people he knew in South Carolina, relatively halfway between Asheville and Atlanta, which I was totally fine with.

Remember when I said my friend had a full tank of gas in the beginning? Well by this point we did need to stop so we found this gas station, and for the life of me I can't remember the gas station, but it turned out to be the best one I had ever been to. It had been a while since I had eaten so I grabbed a LOT of snacks. The kind of snacks that would cost me somewhere near $12 the gas station nearest to my house, but my some sort of miracle it only cost me half that at this magical South Carolina gas station, which is what I will forever know it as because I can't remember the name.

So that was my adventure to Asheville to watch the Silverbacks. As good of a trip as it was, it was probably the trip that was the least memorable. Perhaps I was still just getting into the swing of things, perhaps I've forgotten about one or two other things that happened (I'm sure one of my friends will tell my right away if that is indeed the case), or maybe Asheville just didn't have as much to offer as the other places I visited did.

In the next part of this new "Tales From The Road" series, I will be telling you all about my trip to Greenville. Stay tuned for more reading about the adventures of a lower division Soccer traveler.