A big West coast showdown awaits tonight, but before that kicks off here’s everything else you should know in Thursday’s Morning Tea.
The Charlotte Independence’s Hugh Roberts hasn’t been shy in using his voice to try and create change. Through his From the Pitch essay “Justice” published on this site last month to his Back Yard Footy podcast – and especially its two Black Lives Matter specials (you can find Episode 1 here, and Episode 2 here) – the former All-League selection has been an essential voice in the discussion on systemic racism in America, and soccer.
On Wednesday, Roberts took another step with the launch of his own foundation in collaboration with the Queen’s English Podcast – also based in Charlotte – that he said will see the two “combine to create a non-profit organization here, giving better opportunities for minorities, black soccer players and black communities.”
The initial fundraiser for the foundation is a new Black Lives Matter t-shirt that features the City of Charlotte’s crown emblem at its center, created in collaboration with Charlotte menswear company Ole Mason Jar.
Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt, which is now available for presale online and estimated to ship in less than two weeks, will benefit both the Roots in the Community Market Foundation – a Charlotte-based foundation looking to find solutions to ensure that everyone has access to fresh healthy affordable food by funding food subsidies for healthy food, scholarships and community outreach such as after school cooking classes – and the Creative Player Foundation, which provides access to sport education and educational enrichment opportunities, removing the socioeconomic and cultural barriers that prevent children in at-risk urban communities from participating due to cost.
Roberts’ work off the field is mirroring other initiatives that are currently ongoing in the Championship, but the personal dedication put into this project while also working toward a return to play on the field with the Independence continues to be an outstanding example of how players can become leaders for their clubs and communities.
- Orange County SC is going to get a major national stage on Thursday night, not only as it hosts Phoenix Rising FC on ESPN2 at Championship Soccer Stadium, but also through the premiere of the documentary series Path to Glory. I spoke with Director Sean-Michael Smith and OCSC owner James Keston about the project that focuses on the top young players from either side of the Atlantic looking to reach the top of the game.
- The latest edition of Steele Some Time is now available, as Kelsi Steele and Scott Stewart take a look back and a look ahead on all of the on-field talking points from the Championship’s return to play. They also welcome OKC Energy FC’s Cody Laurendi as a guest ahead of his side’s visit to Austin Bold FC on Friday night.
- Austin Bold FC announced it will be without two of its notable attacking pieces from the 2019 season as the season resumes, with Brazilian forward Andre Lima electing to remain at home in Orlando with his family and local standout Kris Tyrpak also electing not to participate. The side will also be without Edson Braafheid for the time being as he remains at home with his wife as she prepares to give birth next month.
- We were expecting a good contest from El Paso Locomotive FC and New Mexico United on Wednesday night at Southwest University Park, and the two rivals delivered with a back-and-forth clash that saw both sides hold the lead before ending in a 2-2 draw. The heat between the two sides is going to be worth watching as they square off another three times in Group C before this regular season concludes.
- In Wednesday's other contest, rookie Bruno Lapa had quite the professional debut as his two goals and one assist led Birmingham Legion FC to a 3-0 victory against rivals Memphis 901 FC at BBVA Field. A former standout in USL League Two at NC Fusion U23s and for Wake Forest, Lapa could be one to keep an eye on moving forward.
- The build-up to the kickoff for the new USL League One season continues, with Jason Weintraub picking out a newcomer from each club that fans should keep an eye out for in 2020, including Guam international Travis Nicklaw (Chattanooga Red Wolves SC) and veteran forward Wojciech Wojcik (Forward Madison FC).
- The League One team-by-team previews continues as well, with the second in the three-part series looking at the five teams that missed out on the postseason last year, and what their prospects might hold in 2020.
- The Charlotte Independence added another solid piece to their squad with the return of Aaron Maund for a second season. The former Real Salt Lake defender made 24 appearances for the Independence a season ago.
- North Carolina FC’s Academy pipeline continues to turn out strong professional prospects. The latest is Adam Armour, who after being signed to a USL Academy contract for the last two seasons is now joining the professional ranks in Germany. My colleague Cameron Koubek took a look at Armour’s rise, and how NCFC has been able to build a path for the top talent in its ranks.
- Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley had plenty to talk about after his weekly conference call with reporters. Pittsburgh Soccer Now has his observations on Ropapa Mensah’s debut, Robbie Mertz’s progression and much more ahead of their game with the Philadelphia Union II on Saturday.
- Hartford Athletic will have fans at Dillon Stadium this season, with the club announcing it will open 25 percent of its home venue starting with Monday night’s clash on ESPN2 against Loudoun United FC.