New Year. New season: LAFC gears up for 2019 following roster moves and match announcements.

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

In 55 days, the Los Angeles Football Club will kick off their 2019 campaign at the Banc of California Stadium – looking to repeat a historic inaugural season.

Major League Soccer released a list of the 2019 home openers on Thursday, December 20 and listed LAFC’s match for First Kick on Sunday, March 3 against Sporting Kansas City. Sporting KC delivered the black-and-gold’s first home loss on August 11 and suffered a 2-1 defeat at Children’s Mercy Park on Decision Day.

Before entering this marquee match, LAFC will host Japanese club Vissel Kobe in a preseason friendly match on Thursday, January 31. The star-studded team from the J-Leauge features world football legends Lukas Podolski, Andres Iniesta, and David Villa – whom recently left New York City FC to join the top division team.

With the friendly fast-approaching, the club continues to strengthen their roster. Shortly before the holiday break, the week of December 12 proved to be challenging for the club, as the black-and-gold found themselves on the other side of trades.

LAFC was spared in the expansion draft though not everyone had a chance to relax when Chicago Fire selected Marco Ureña during the waiver draft shortly after, including, having to endure a trade and two new signings all within 24 hours of each other.

João Moutinho goes to Orlando via trade for Mohamed El-Munir 

Last season, LAFC was suffering from their lack of defenders. Could El-Munir be the solution?

The 26-year-old defender appeared in 26 regular season contests (23 starts) for Orlando City SC, registering two assists in 2,089 minutes during the 2018 season. El-Munir also played in all three of Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup contests, playing all 300 minutes of the competition.

LAFC selects Ricky Lopez-Espin in Waiver Draft

Lopez-Espín’s signing comes as a surprise since the young forward only appeared in one game for Real Salt Lake last season. However, he did appear in eight matches for Salt Lake’s USL side, Real Monarchs – logging just two assists.

Still inexperienced, he could have the potential to develop. Even though an official contract has not been offered yet, all things considering, I think Lopez-Espin will be offered one following January’s camp. And he could possibly be loaned to a USL team – although the club recently severed ties with the USL side, Orange County SC who hosted a wide range of players.

New Contracts

Thus far, three players have inked new deals with the club for the 2019 season. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta and Jordan Harvey are all staying put in Los Angeles.

Kaye and Harvey took to social media to express their gratitude and excitement for the new season:

*Atuesta is not very active on social media and expressed his gratitude via statement.

Miller remains the lone keeper

No goalkeepers have yet been added to the roster, still leaving Tyler Miller the lone keeper. I assume LAFC will make more moves before the draft, if not find a few keepers in Chicago.

LAFC is rumored to be seeking to bring back Luis Lopez on loan from Real Espana and could be interested in keeper Cody Cropper from the New England Revolution. The 25-year-old has earned nine clean sheets in 29 appearances. But it seems the club is good at keeping secrets. Anything can happen at this point.

I would hope another keeper is signed soon, since Miller, along with Christian Ramirez and Walker Zimmerman, all received call-ups to the USMNT’s January camp. The camp will begin on January 6 in Chula Vista, California. Miller and Ramirez will be seeking their first cap when the USMNT compete in two friendlies against Panama on January 27 in Glendale, Arizona, and Costa Rica on February 2 in San Jose, California.

Featured image: Araceli Villanueva

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Sounds for the New York Red Bulls Post-Season

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

I’m coming to you from the comfort of my couch once again with an overview of the Eastern Conference competition. Usually, I integrate songs or movies into my articles, but this calls for a more onomatopoeic approach.

Heh

The New York Red Bulls had secured a first-round bye even before winning the Supporter’s Shield on Decision Day. The knockout round was between the Columbus Crew and DC United. While a classic Atlantic Cup matchup would have been amazing, it was the Crew who emerged victorious following 120 minutes and a PK shootout.

Hmph

Leg 1, at MAPFRE Stadium, ended with Columbus ahead by one goal. RBNY fans were bracing themselves for disappointment. Was the team going to crash out in the playoffs after the euphoric Shield win?

HAH

The Empire struck back. A deflection from Alex Muyl (17′) and a brace from Daniel Royer (73′, 76′) put the Red Bulls through to the Conference Finals (3-1 aggregate). Flames shot out from pillars on the goals with every score, and the crowd was equally fired up.

#@&%!

There was an International break that took Aaron Long and Tyler Adams to Europe for friendlies with the US Men’s National team. Kemar Lawrence, Kaku, and Derrick Etienne, Jr. were called to International duty as well. So there was a break in playoff action.

Not really worth complaining about, although I’m sure plenty of people did. The final had been settled before the break anyway. Atlanta United made quick work of NYCFC for their semifinal round. But they had never defeated RBNY before. And while the Red Bulls never took that record for granted, no one was prepared for what actually happened.

Eastern Conference Final (Leg 1) – Mercedes-Benz Stadium

First, RBNY announced Lawrence was injured and put homegrown defender Connor Lade in his spot in the lineup. Then the defense was outrun by Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Tito Villalba. But the first and the second sentences are unrelated. If anything, Lade slotted back into the defense wonderfully. It was… hard to explain, really.

To say that they didn’t look like themselves is a sort of cop-out, a cliche that gets trotted out for any loss. But this is the only way to explain it. The Red Bulls push up the field, and the ball spent way too much time near their goal to say they were doing what they do.

Did they keep Atlanta from getting particularly fancy? Sure. But ugly soccer can win, too. And that’s what happened. With a three-goal deficit, RBNY had a lot of work to do in this Eastern Conference Final.

*Sigh*

The Red Bulls scored four or more goals in thirteen matches in all competitions this year. They were able to hold opponents scoreless at home three months solid. So while it was not impossible for the team to pull off something downright magical, the fear crept in.

Eastern Conference Final (Leg 2) – Red Bull Arena

The game itself was good. There was movement. There was pressing. There was also cursing and shoving and yellow cards and a last-ditch goal at the death from Tim Parker that hasn’t gotten half the credit it deserves. Had they been able to hold Atlanta scoreless in that first leg, fans would still be partying and Parker would probably never have to pay for another beer in the NY Metro area ever again.

But instead, Atlanta will be hosting the Portland Timbers for the MLS Cup Final. I’ve watched it the past couple of years, even as I’ve seen RBNY crash out. But this year…? I don’t think I can do it. I’ve never thought the Red Bulls deserved to be there more than they did this year. For them to not be hosting is devastating.

Exit interviews are scheduled for Monday, December 3rd. The team was required to submit roster on Friday, November 30th.  But the first major announcement has already been released:

I’ve met and spoken to Adams once or twice. He is exactly who he seems to be, and the Red Bulls organization has helped to shape that. Not only that, but his career with the USMNT is a bright spot that should mean great things in Qatar and North America for the upcoming World Cup cycles. I look forward to seeing him with RB Leipzig.

As for the rest of the team? I’m not going to make predictions (never been that good at them, anyway). But I do know that I’ll be back to talk about it all next season. I hope you’ll be there to read it.

Featured image: @kakuromero17

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Sporting Kansas City’s season ends in 3-2 loss to Portland Timbers in Western Conference Championship

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City‘s 2018 season came to an abrupt end on Thursday night in a devastating season-ending 3-2 loss against the Portland Timbers in leg two of the Western Conference Final at Children’s Mercy Park.

In front of a sold-out, energetic crowd Sporting KC delivered a solid performance filled with chances, goals and controversial calls.

Sporting KC kicked off the match maintaining strong possession that later helped Daniel Salloi earn the chance to claim an early lead for the home side in the 20th minute.

However, things turned sour quickly after the restart when Sebastian Blanco blasted a strike into the top corner, to level the match in the 52nd. Blanco’s strike would stun fans and even fellow captain Diego Valeri – who gained a surge of energy to double the Timbers lead nine minutes later.

Now trailing 2-1, the home side had to rally quick. In the 81st minute, Sporting KC would get a glimpse of hope as Gerso Fernandes scored the equalizer after a brilliant combination from the team. On the cusp, of potentially scoring another goal to advance, the match went into sudden death for the final remainder of the half.

Despite all effort, Sporting KC’s offseason would begin deep into a grueling nine-minute stoppage time after Valeri’s breakaway finish – claiming the Western Conference Champion title and stamping the Timber’s ticket to the MLS Cup.

As fans thanked one another for their dedication, several Sporting KC players took to Twitter to express their disappointment and gratitude:

Even Daniel Salloi appeared to have hinted to be returning to the Blue Hell next season following speculation of transfer rumors for Europe:

Not even 24 hours after the loss, the club dug a little deeper into fans’ wounds by announcing which players have had contract options declined: forward Kharlton Belmar, midfielder Cristian Lobato, defenders Amer Didic, Brad Evans and Colton Storm.

At the end of the day, the contract options didn’t come as a shock to fans, since most of the core group (Matt Belser, Graham Zusi, Seth Sinovic, Roger Espinoza, and Ilie Sanchez) had recently re-signed. And with the addition of long-time veterans like goalkeeper Tim Melia, next season is shaping up to be a promising one.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

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And then there were 17…

Aaryn Vivian - Vancouver Whitecaps/mlsfemale
Official Vancouver Whitecaps Reporter

By Aaryn Vivian // @aarynvivian

The Vancouver Whitecaps first wave of roster moves under new manager Marc Dos Santos came this week as it was announced on Tuesday that options had been picked up on seven players, while another nine would be packing their bags and leaving Vancouver.

Among those picked up were striker Erik Hurtado, midfielders Nicolas Mezquida, David Norman Jr., and Yordy Reyna, defenders Doneil Henry and Brett Levis, and goalkeeper Sean Melvin.

The club will be bidding adieu to striker Myer Bevan, midfielders Marvin Emnes and Aly Ghazal, defenders Jose Aja, Roberto Dominguez, and Aaron Maund, and goalkeepers Stefan Marinovic and Spencer Richey

Last but certainly not least, the Whitecaps elected not to exercise the option on Brek “Public Enemy #1” Shea.  Shea faced harsh criticism during his time in Vancouver largely surrounding status as a designated player (DP) in 2017, his salary and the complete and utter lack of return on investment.  As the second highest paid Whitecaps player, Shea made 28 appearances and scored 3 goals during the 2018 season.  He struggled to stay healthy throughout his two seasons in Vancouver and was not a regular starter under former club manager Carl Robinson

The people of Vancouver have been rejoicing since the announcement that Brek was on his way out of town:

But there are many in the Twitter-verse who are hoping their teams pick up Shea in the offseason, including Minnesota United FC and his former clubs Orlando City FC and FC Dallas.  Only time will tell if he lands back in the MLS but if Vancouver has any advice at all to offer the other teams in the league: Check yourself before you Brek yourself.

Featured image of Marc Dos Santos: @WhitecapsFC

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Finding a New ‘Home’ in DC

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Soccer has the power to transcend differences and create a vibrant community. This is just one of many reasons I am a DC United fan.

The DC Metro area is one of the most diverse in the nation, with 29% of residents speaking a language that is not English. We come from all over the country and the world to work and live here. Some of us were born and raised here.  None of that matters when DC United takes the pitch though. Our differences fall away as we enter the stadium, where we are only soccer fans.

When I first moved to the DC area, I had just finished my time on active duty in the Marine Corps. I was searching for work and adjusting to my new life outside of the military when I found DC United. I had always loved soccer and played avidly growing up. As I got older, I enjoyed connecting with friends over matches. It was refreshing to take time out of a busy day to sit together and share our thoughts, often loudly, about a game.

Watching DC United’s games, either on tv or in person, helped me to find a new sense of home in the DC area and gave me something positive to look forward to on a regular basis. Work and school took me away from the District for a few years, but since returning, the community around DC United feels as vibrant and welcoming as it ever did before I left.

I was fortunate enough to attend DC United’s final match at RFK Stadium. I remember seeing a middle-aged, hijabi, mom, who was attending the game with her teenage son, start the wave. She was met with nothing but enthusiasm as she got up on her feet to support our team. Of course, we all followed suit.

This moment stands out so clearly in my mind from that day. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you who scored or who made the best plays in the game. But I remember the feeling I had when I saw the way fans were interacting with each other that day, brought together by a mutual love of the Black and Red.

In July of 2018, United moved to their new home at Audi Field, a beautiful, state-of-the-art stadium at Buzzard Point. While the venue is different, the overwhelmingly positive sense of community that was built at RFK has stayed the same. The fanbase is still incredibly diverse, inclusivity is key to events the club holds, and everyone is always welcome.

For me, whether at RFK or Audi Field, when DC United is playing, I know I’m home.

Featured image: Sarah Kallassy

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Standing Alone and Representing Many: Collin Martin

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

It may have been a less than stellar sophomore season for Minnesota United FC, but our Loons gave us plenty to be proud of off the pitch in 2018. Inspiring stories of players giving back and taking a stand only go so far in balancing out a non-competitive product, but they can reassure us of one thing: the Club places community on the same playing field as business.

Two Loons who did not receive much attention for actions on the pitch (and not because of poor performance, but because they did not have many opportunities to perform) made national headlines this season for two very different, but equally important, reasons. Matt Lampson is the other Loon who shines out of the water. Read his story here. 

Among the banners in Minnesota’s Supporters Section is a rainbow flag reading “All Fans Welcome.” It has been on display since the club’s tenure at NSC, before the promotion. It is not an empty statement: If you are a human who wants to stand and support the club, you will be treated as a human. But at one match each year, it means more. This year, on June 29, an announcement by a quiet, young midfielder, added even more depth to that statement.

In response to a slew of homophobic comments and allegations that Collin Martin’s announcement was orchestrated by the club as a political statement, owner Dr. Bill McQuire responded by calling the announcement a “human statement.” The club affirmed their message of inclusion to the entire LGBTQ+ community, awarding the L’etoile du Nord (Star of the North) to Dot Belster, Executive Director of Twin Cities Pride. And Belster isn’t the only LGBTQ+ Star recipient. The first L’etoile du Nord, awarded on March 17, went to former Minnesota Viking, Esera Tuaolo, who came out in 2002 after his retirement from the NFL.

It is no small thing that the country’s only openly gay male athlete active in professional sports is one of ours. And it is no small thing that our club supports him so strongly.

For Maggi Heyer, a Dark Clouds member and self-proclaimed Token Queer Capo, the club’s handling of Martin’s announcement reinforced the positive aspects of MNUFC.

“For me, this year was a lot of ups and downs. I think overall the lack of progress from last year was frustrating. Some of the moves that the FO made, while I understand the need for them, were especially frustrating because the FO failed to handle them well,” she explained. “I’m not sure that Collin’s announcement changed my feelings, per se, as affirmed what we knew about the club. I have found our supporter culture here to be so open and welcoming and it was great to see that this extends to the team.”

The message goes well beyond this MLS season. Martin will make an impact on a new generation of athletes, fans and human beings.

“I am the mom of two kids and I think the visible support that the club has shown for Collin goes a long way to showing kids that they are welcome in sport, regardless of how they identify,” Heyer said. “Visibility is so important. I would love for an athlete coming out to not be headline news a few years from now, but for now, I truly appreciate Collin’s bravery and the clubs welcoming culture.”

During his time in Minnesota, Martin has taken an active role in advocating for human rights issues, even campaigning for, now governor-elect, Tim Walz. And the state and its greater sporting community have thrown their support behind Martin as well. At the 2018 Minnesota Sports Awards, Martin received the Courage Award.

Sure, the numbers don’t look good, but while we are all waiting for that famous Three Year Plan to come to fruition, we have plenty to appreciate and lots to look forward to.

“This years’ Pride Night did seem a little different [from previous years], especially from the supporters perspective,” Heyer told me. “I think the tifo really helped to set the tone and with Collin’s announcement earlier in the day there was just this amazing energy. I’m excited to see how we can top it next year in Allianz though.”

Featured image: fox5ny.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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The Survivor Between the Sticks: Matt Lampson

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

The lists of players who have been cut by their club usually includes at least a couple players who fall into either of these categories: ‘dead weight’ and not expected to stay, fan favorites who are poor performers, or great performers who are not fan favorites. More rarely, there is a player who, regardless of performance, is an incredible human being who you don’t want to let go. Matt Lampson is one of the latter.

With only two wins in nine appearances through a season bookended by 2-3 losses (in San Jose on March 3rd and Columbus on October 28th), Matt Lampson’s time in Minnesota was not fantastic on the pitch. His work off the field, however, was worthy of recognition.

A cancer survivor himself, Lampson founded the Lampstrong Foundation to brighten the lives of childhood cancer patients and their families. Since coming to Minnesota from Chicago, he has built a relationship with the U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital, and with the son of a Minnesota United supporter who was ready to walk away from the out-of-reach club.

A few years ago, Nate Howells’ support for United was cemented when a number of the NASL club’s representatives threw their support behind his youngest son after a traumatic brain injury. Broadcaster Chris Lidholm and forward Christian Ramirez were among those who contributed to his fund. “And one player, Brian Kallman [the older brother of current defender Brent], came to the PICU at Children’s and sat with my family. It was an incredibly meaningful experience,” said Howells. “Because of these actions, I have a loyalty to the club.”

But a lot has changed since the jump to MLS. Fans are no longer able to linger on the touchline with the players after a match, they don’t have the same opportunity to become a surrogate family for international players. And the competitive product is no longer… competitive.

“In early August, my frustration with Minnesota United was at its highest. I tweeted angrily that I was considering cancelling my season tickets. How I’ve never hated this FO more,” Howells said. But the next day, while I was up at Masonic Children’s at the University of Minnesota with my 10-year-old son who is being treated for embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, Matt Lampson and Michael Boxall made a special trip downstairs to see my son. This was such a positive moment. They showed up wearing Loons attire, representing the club, doing something meaningful in the community.”

A goalkeeper himself, 10-year-old Xavier (a.k.a. Iggy) looks up to Lampson as both a player and a survivor. Lampson’s visits broke up the monotony of chemo treatments. “Week-long hospital admissions can get quite boring and Iggy, as positive as he most certainly is, sometimes feels that he is missing out on the normal, fun things that his friends and siblings take for granted on a daily basis,” his dad explained.

The Loons’ work off the pitch is certainly more inspiring and impactful than their play. “Soccer in Minnesota is more than a sport,” Howells said. “It is culture and it is community. It brings people together and shows that we can do good.”

Lampson’s representation off the pitch – and the club’s support of it – went a long way in patching up the Howells family’s support of MNUFC after the trade of fan-favorite Christian Ramirez and the squad’s flat-lining performance. But that complex relationship was dealt another blow on Monday when United released a list of players whose contract options were not being exercised. The third name on that list: Matt Lampson.

I reached out to Nate for his reaction to the news. From home, where Iggy is resting after his first five-day hospitalization of this chemotherapy cycle, Nate expressed the return of the same frustration he felt with sporting director Manny Lagos and the FO after the Ramirez trade: “This is incredibly discouraging,” he said. “This is actually devastating. I can’t tell my son this.”

“Xavier has said that when he gets older, he wants to do the same thing for other kids,” Howells said. “He hopes to provide hospitalized kids with opportunities to do the special or normal things they want to do.”

No matter what badge Lampson wears in 2019, his work in Minnesota will live on.

Featured image: mnufc.com

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Sporting KC claims 0-0 draw in Leg One of the Western Conference Final

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Sporting KC Contributor

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Sporting Kansas City earns a scoreless draw against Portland Timbers for leg one of the Western Conference Finals at Providence Park on Sunday night. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and the rest of the top-seeded team shutout Portland in front of a sold-out crowd.

Despite ending in a draw, this match had no shortage of drama. Tim Melia was immediately called into action just a few seconds after the whistle blew – arguably setting the tone of the game. Melia would go on to record six saves, a clean sheet, and a first postseason shutout. Including, the final save that would decide the faith of the game.

Is the curse of the post finally broken? Maybe. In the sixth minute, Timber’s defender Jorge Villafana sends a low ball towards the ball only to see his effort bounce off the post that helped Portland win the knock round match in 2015.

Portland was forced to make an early sub in the 18th minute when Bill Tuilmoa replaced Larrys Mabiala. However, the early substitution did not slow Portland down as they continued to press Sporting KC’s defense. Fortunately, with the fast reactions from Melia, Zusi, and Besler, they were able to take Sporting KC into the half scoreless under pressure.

Sporting KC appeared to have adjusted from a choppy first half when Johnny Russell gets a great first touch after the restart. However, he sees his chance fly over the bar. Russell again would create more opportunities throughout the second half but fail to capitalize on his chances.

Russell was not the only one who almost opened the scoring. Ten minutes after Russell’s first attempt, Seth Sinovic struck in a 20-yard volley going straight into Jeff Attinella‘s arms – marking his first save of the night.

Portland came close to taking the lead in the 70th minute after David Guzman was able to get past Melia after Liam Ridgewell’s header came off the post, following a scramble in the box. However, Guzman’s goal was called offsides, giving Sporting KC a sign of relief. Still scoreless with less than 20 minutes of regular time, both sides pursued.

Manager Peter Vermes made an out-of-character decision to sub in Yohan Croizet for Russell in the last minute of stoppage time. Croizet’s addition did not make much of a difference as they ended the first leg in a scoreless draw.

Sporting KC will now host the Portland Timbers for leg two of the Western Conference Final on Thursday, November 29.

Featured image: @sportingkc Instagram

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My Christmas Wish this year: David Villa stays at NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

We’ve all seen the click-bait headline posted on MLS.com which basically is paraphrasing quotes from Spanish publication Sport.

This “news” and another article posted by NBC.com, utilizing a different publication out of Spain, again with no source, came out this week as fans wait to hear if New York City FC will negotiate a new contract with striker David Villa.

Villa was brought in as the club’s first signing in 2014 and his contract was $5.6 million per year for 3 years.   It was then extended in 2017 by one year, taking him through the 2018 season. Fans seem to fall into two camps since he missed 11 games, about one-third of the season, due to a knee injury: bring him back as a Designated Player or pay for him with TAM dollars in order to free up that DP slot.

Age seemed to, unfortunately, become a factor even to the seemingly eternally young “El Guaje”, who will be 37 in December.  To those watching his play closely towards the end of the season, there were through balls that he just didn’t get to which he would have taken in stride in years past. With each unsuccessful one-on-one duel with defenders,  the question was, “Is it age or injury?” all the while knowing he should have won the battle.

1T1A2625

And then there were the end of season appearances with fans.  According to Tisha Gale, official photographer for MLSFemale and member of Third Rail supporter group, who attended and presented at the NYCFC awards on October 22nd, said unlike almost all previous public appearances, Villa was one of the last to leave the event.  “It was as if he was consciously trying to cherish every last moment with the fans.”

Likewise, many fans treated the last home game on November 4th as the last chance to see the captain play at home. The last two losses were particularly hard for the fans as they were aware that those games might have been Villa’s final outings for NYCFC.

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Tisha Gale and David Villa at awards

To be clear, New York City FC striker and captain David Villa has not made any public statements as to his future with the club.  Villa is the foundation of the club and is a major component of fandom.  Not only did he start with the club from the beginning but he also embraced the core of NYCFC identity from Day 1:  Being a New Yorker.

He embraced New York and all of its cultural gifts and the city embraced him back in the way that most of us do:  We leave you alone to live your personal life with as much privacy and normalcy as possible and celebrate or criticize you when you are on-the-clock.   Villa not only cherished the city culture but wholeheartedly gave his all to help the team win games – a true competitor who expects excellence.

These are all characteristics of someone who we would want staying within our club system in some capacity going forward.

I would expect that City Football Group would go to any lengths to explore all options with Villa to keep him playing with our club, perhaps outside of a DP capacity. The truth is we don’t yet know what David Villa will decide to do.  I do know that he is revered by fans all over the world as a hero, magician and veteran.  Why would NYCFC not try their hardest to hold onto Villa’s brilliant skills, experience, poise and high standards?

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Dear NYCFC Front Office,

This is my Christmas wish:  Find a way to hold onto Villa before he is gone from the field, and from a future developing and building the club further. His past and future influences are not to be diminished.

Love,

Keira

Images by Tisha Gale

2018-04-30 19.10.35 1769237150284159279_6788401467
David Villa’s 400th Goal Celebration

Featured image: @TishaGale

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“For Honor. For Glory. For the City.” A photo essay recap of my 2018 Season as an NYCFC fan.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The 2018 season has officially ended for our boys in blue, and though we are all sad and somewhat disappointed that the season has ended, I think we have a lot to look back on and a bright future ahead. Please journey with me as I highlight some of my favorite moments of the 2018 season.

Best of 2018

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For me, the season begins on a cold, rainy day in February. The anticipation of NYCFC’s first home game has been building; I’m bursting at the seams, literally. The new kit has arrived in style, from the Adidas HQ in Germany to the Etihad HQ in Abu Dhabi, and finally to NYCFC’s home in the Bronx, NY.

The jersey has traveled a long way to get to the players who will put their blood, sweat, and tears into every fiber, and the fans who will proudly rock it every chance they get. We’re not all sure how we feel about the new design. Some fans argue that it’s a carbon copy of a couple of popular international kits, but one thing is for sure, we all want it!

However, amid the buzzing chatter comes a different conversation—a murmur that quickly gets my attention. Why are there no women supporters in the “Kit Release Video?” 

This simple, yet important question leads to the creation of the “We Are NYCFC: Women Supporter’s Photo Project.” The project highlights the women behind the crest; the women who help make up the heart and soul of NYCFC’s fan base. A group of 20 women, many of them strangers, meets with me at Grand Central Terminal. The main topic of conversation, representation matters. The video and corresponding images are shared on multiple social media platforms with the hashtag #WeAreNYCFC.

February 24, my phone chimes. It’s an Instagram notification from Jon Patricof, President of NYCFC: “Thought your project was terrific and important…hope to connect soon.” A few days later, I get a call from Sam Cooke. He’d like to discuss the project.

March, 9. NYCFC host its first ever 24 Hour Game at Rockefeller Center. I proudly represent Team Vieira. #SoccerNeverSleeps

soccer never sleeps

March 15, Keira Smith (Official Reporter for NYCFC at MLSFemale) and I meet with Patricof at NYCFC HQ, it’s my first trip to the 30th floor of 600 Third Ave. I feel like I’ve been called to the principal’s office. However, the meeting is everything but intimidating. We discuss the project and my motivations. Patricof thanks us for the constructive criticism and apologizes for the lack of proper women supporter representation in the video.

NYCFC’s season officially starts on March 4, with an on-the-road win versus Sporting Kansas City. The boys in blue go on to win four of their first five games. The season is off to a great start. Regular trips to Yankee Stadium means my seasonal depression has faded away like the mosaic of colors after a fireworks show.

NYCFC supporter, Deyanira Perez, enjoying a game at Yankee Stadium on March 17

March 31, Keira Smith publishes an article about the We Are NYCFC project and me on MLSFemale.com

#WeAreNYCFC. I’ve Got All My Sisters With Me 

April 29, my photo press credentials application is approved and I shoot my first game from the endlines. David Villa bags his 400th and 401st career goals. NYCFC defeats F.C. Dallas 3-1.

May 16, MLSFemale brings me on board as their official photographer covering NYCFC.

Image: Juan Carlos Rubiano

May 19, NYCFC celebrates David Villa Day on a rainy day in the Bronx with a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Villa Scores in the 22′ and 74′ min of play. Other goals scored by R. Matarrita 49′ and M. Moralez 56′.

June 13, Keira and I encourage fans to vote Sean Johnson onto the MLS All-Star team. Our blurb is published on nycfc.com.

All-Star: Vote for Sean Johnson

July 5, NYCFC hosts a Q&A with new head coach, Domenec Torrent.

June 30-July 15, NYCFC partners with Telemundo. Together they host a World Cup viewing party at Rockefeller Center.

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August 1, my photo press credentials are approved and I attend the MLS All-Star game in Atlanta. Read all about my experience here.

MLS Digital HQ. L-R: Lalo Ortega, me, Alexis Guerreros, Robyn Saghini, Christian Polanco Jess Houwen, and Eve Powell.

August 21, September 4 & 21 respectively, my #NYCFCInk mini-series is published on MLSFemale.com

#NYCFCInk Featuring Lalo Ortega

Lalo Ortega, Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale

#NYCFCInk Featuring Colin Harte

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale

#NYCFCInk Featuring Jay Jimenez

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale

September 24, I attend my first away game in Canada.

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October 11, Nat Bekeo gives me a tour of NYCFC’s training facility in Orangeburg, NY.

Every second counts🤙🏾 💙 #nycfc

October 15, NYCFC opens 10 new mini pitches across the five boroughs. I’m hired to cover all the action on Staten Island at IS72.

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October 23, NYCFC host its first ever Awards Night. I present the first award to James Sands, who won Academy Moment of the Year. 

Kwame Ibeagha

October 31, NYCFC advances to the MLS Cup Semifinals after a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.

November 4, our last game at Yankee Stadium, until next year.

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My 2018 season as an NYCFC fan was absolutely amazing! I’d like to thank MLSFemale, NYCFC players and FO staff, and all my friends who supported me on this incredible journey. You are all so deeply appreciated.

Of note: I picked up my first DSLR camera on December 15, 2017. Photography has always been something I wanted to explore, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge. I could not have asked for a better way to harness my skills.

All images, unless specified: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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