Austin, TX (July 9, 2020) If you've visited Austin Bold FC's social media accounts or even this very site, you've seen the work of Matt Bradford. The Austin based photographer has been a fixture at Bold Stadium in the club's inaugural year, capturing everything from downtime at practices to lifting the Copa Tejas. We asked Matt to choose some of his favorite photos from the 2019 season and explain their significance.
It has been one of the great photographic joys of my life to shoot the inaugural season for the Austin Bold FC. Watching this team and these fans come together through first-year growing pains, the passing of an invaluable teammate, and ultimately coming soooooo close to advancing to the USL Championship quarter-final is a testament to the fantastic people that support The Bold.
I've chosen some of my favorite images from the 2019 season. Some photos capture the crowd's enthusiasm, the remarkable athleticism on display, the people in our lives that keep us grounded and feeling loved, the excitement of the game, and the collective grief and release through our struggles.
Though there won't be any raucous crowds at COTA for the foreseeable future, I'll be sending pictures and my good thoughts to you and yours! Do what you can to take care of yourself, those around you, and your community.
The fans: Wow. You are awesome and never cease to amaze me. I've loved taking photos of y'all screaming your heads off, celebrating with players after a goal, seeing your reactions to meeting the team after the games, and coming onto the field to celebrate a victory or a trophy! You make the Circuit of the Americas feel like home.
Family: I don't think I can ever get enough of Ryan Thompson and his infectious smile. His family loves him. He loves his family. And, despite the palpable stress and anxiety that every game brings, when the games are over, Ryan and his family find each other for a big hug win or lose. It's beautiful and is a great reminder that there are much bigger things than a favorable scoreline.
I love this photograph because I happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness Francis Atuahene's rip into the corner from 20 yards out. The skill required to take on a defender, cut to the middle, and then put the ball precisely where you want it out of reach of the keeper is mind-boggling.
Ahhh, the sunsets. How I have missed those! It seems like each night out at COTA; we're blessed with beautiful sunsets over the rolling hills of Central Texas. I try to work dusk into photos as much as possible by positioning myself on the far side of the field. The contrast of onfield excellence with the natural splendor of the area is intoxicating. If you haven't had a chance to sit back and soak up the evening atmosphere with some concessions, please, give it a try!
Somewhere near the mid-point of the season, the players started jumping into the crowd after goals as a COTA version of the Lambeau Leap. It puts the players right next to the fans when the fans are at their craziest. It's a bit of a mad dash getting into position to photograph these, but seeing fans grab onto Sonny or Lima is just life-affirming.
I'd like to make a formal request right here and now on the Bold website that all players jump into the crowd after goals. I'll be there to capture it. Deal?
The spectacle of watching Sean McFarlane is such a joy. His speed, his control, his dynamic tackling, and his love of the game always keeps me on my toes and wishing that my shutter speed was just a bit faster in the evening light. In the picture below, I caught Sean in pre-game jumping with HIS HEAD OVER THE CROSS-BAR. How is that possible? Just absurd. He may need to be tested for robot parts.
The night of the Copa Tejas was huge, and the fans and players showed up for it. Representatives from all USL Championship Texas clubs and supporters groups were on site to witness The Bold win 3-0 against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and capture the inaugural cup.
Photographing the guys after a goal and then the players and fans holding the cup afterward was just electric. Plus, Diego is a total marvel with his Spider-Man skills in goal, and who doesn't love that heartthrob holding the cup?! It should be your computer's desktop wallpaper.
Promise: Going back through photos, it was once again clear the impact that Promise had on the field but, more importantly, on the teammates and people around him. Universally loved and respected, he was a soft-spoken cheerleader that made an impact wherever his talents took him.
Lastly, the picture that left the biggest mark on me was during the Bold's first home game back after Promise's death. The players had been working through their emotions in the weeks prior as they played a difficult road schedule. They returned home with Promise banners unfurled, and the crowd always behind them, beating a very strong LA Galaxy II side 2-0. After the second goal, the team celebrated together and pointed their fingers to the sky, which was Promise's trademark.