Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez dropped the soccer balls and ... everything stopped for Daniel Pop.
Standing on Atlanta United’s training pitch in Marietta, holding hands with his wife, Loredana, Pop’s brain quit wondering if their gender reveal, the first of its kind orchestrated with Atlanta United players, was going to end with twin boys or girls.
Instead, Pop clicked off as the balls started to fall, and the legs of Almiron and Martinez started to rise to strike the powder-filled spheroids.
If blue powder erupted from the balls, the Pops are going to have twin boys sometime between the middle of December and middle of January 2018.
Pink, and they are going to have girls.
“I thought I knew they were going to be boys, then I knew they were going to be girls,” Daniel Pop said. “I was nervous. I was excited.”
“His hands were cold and clammy,” Loredana Pop said.
“I just had so much emotion, but it was like time stopped,” Daniel Pop said. “’I need to know. I want to know.’ Then they popped and reality came back in.”
Finally, the feet hit the balls and …
If not for tomatoes – Daniel loves them, Loredana hates them -- Tuesday’s gender reveal on a sweltering hot day wouldn’t have happened.
Daniel Pop is a native of Melbourne, Australia. Loredana grew up in Georgia.
Pop was vacationing in Atlanta in 2011. A friend of his from Australia knew a family in Atlanta. It was suggested that he stay longer, and that the family would take care of him.
During his holiday, Pop’s friend needed to pick up some tomatoes from Loredana’s family, who lived in Gwinnett County.
Pop and his friend pulled into the driveway. Loredana came out, wearing a baggy shirt and long capris, which she quickly points out were the style then.
She saw Pop, who waited in the car while his friend went to get the tomatoes. “Weirdo,” Loredana remembers thinking when she saw Pop still sitting in the car.
Pop had a different reaction to seeing Loredana.
“She impressed me from the first time since I saw her,” he said.
Still, they left with no spark. Just tomatoes.
Pop returned to Melbourne. Loredana remained in Georgia. But they connected through the internet and started talking.
Loredana began going through tough times – her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer while she was going through nursing school – and, though he was 10,000 miles away, Pop was always there for her with an encouraging word or prayer thought.
Sometimes Loredana said she replied. Sometimes she didn’t.
Pop kept reaching out.
Four years later, something clicked.
They fell in love.
They didn’t wait long, getting married in downtown Atlanta just a few months later in 2015.
She wasn’t going to move to Australia. He was more than happy to move to Atlanta.
All because of tomatoes.
“I was just trying to get rid of the tomatoes,” she said.
“It’s the weirdest thing ever,” he said.
The two are still very much in love.
They spent as much time looking into each other’s eyes while talking about their romance and the gender reveal for their babies as they did looking at anything else.
When they learned of the pregnancy, Loredana knew she needed to move fast if she wanted to do something fun for the reveal.
She reached out to Atlanta United three months ago, just a month into the pregnancy and shortly after they learned they were having twins, about using her husband’s favorite players as part of the gender reveals.
They wanted soccer because Daniel Pop grew up playing soccer in Melbourne. A team, Melbourne Victory, joined Australia’s A-League in 2005. It became Daniel’s favorite.
When he moved to Atlanta in February 2015, Atlanta United existed only as a franchise. Its ongoing first season, have helped him feel more at home in his new country.
Still, they didn’t think anything would come of their request to the team to help reveal the gender of their children.
Gender reveals using baseballs and footballs have become fairly common on social media, but they had never seen one done using soccer.
Atlanta United liked the idea and set it up with Pop’s two favorite players, Almiron and Martinez.
“I didn’t think Atlanta United would care,” Pop said. “The fact that they did shows how much respect they have for family and values.”
Martinez didn’t kick his ball as hard as Almiron, who struck it like he was attempting a 50-yard shot, showering those close by with pink dust.
The Pops are going to have two girls.
Daniel Pop said at first he wanted boys because they could grow up and possibly play for Atlanta United. And then he realized that at some point Atlanta United could eventually have a women’s team.
“They are in training,” Loredana Pop said, touching her abdomen. “They are growing right now.”
“At the end of the day you are happy as long as they are happy,” Daniel Pop said.
They have names picked out.
No, they won’t be named Josefina and Miguelita.
They will be named Daniela and Emmanuela. Daniela after Daniel. Emmanuela because Emmanuel is Hebrew for “God’s with us,” which they thoughtwas appropriate because it’s a high-risk pregnancy. They may call their girls Emma and Ella for short.
Atlanta United gave the soon-to-be mom and dad two baby jerseys with “Pop” on the back.
Between now and the births, the Pops plan to attend as many Atlanta United games as they can. He said it’s not a matter of Atlanta United making the playoffs. The question is how far the team will go. The playoffs will likely start in late October. The past five SuperCups were played in December.
“We plan on going the whole season,” Loredana said. “I’m hoping to go all the way.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.