By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith
Saturday, June 2: 3-0 Win
The atmosphere for Pride Day at Yankee Stadium was joyful and optimistic. Rainbow flags and scarves freckled the crowd and a rainbow of 49 colored seat overlays was laid out for the visiting Orlando fans by our own City in the Community youth. Accompanied by a first and second timer to a professional soccer game, I was excited to be back in the Bronx when it wasn’t pouring rain nor arctic cold.
In a surprising move, New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira did not start David Villa, opting for an initial lineup which included Anton Tinnerholm, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo-Inge Berget and Jesus Medina as attacking midfielders/forwards. Was Villa not started in order to rest him for upcoming big games such as the US Open Cup versus the New York Red Bulls and next Saturday’s match versus Atlanta FC?
While NYCFC dictated much of the the pace of play, Orlando City FC‘s physically intense defending made it difficult to maintain extended possession. Tinnerholm’s offensive minded style of play made for an easy transition to this role, as he worked well with Tajouri-Shradi and Medina.
Tajouri-Shradi continues to be our most reliable offensive player, with each touch seemingly calculated and deadly. (He’s scored 7 goals from 8 shots on target this season!) Scoring two beauties in this game with the second goal a banana-style cross which hooked past Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
I was equally amazed on that ball, how all NYCFC players moved out of the path of that shot, somehow knowing its trajectory was the net. Sebastien Ibeagha alone deserves an assist at worst and a Tony Award at best for his decisive deception and screening of Bendik.
Speaking of reliable, no one has been more steady, if not spectacular than goalkeeper Sean Johnson. This was Johnson’s 5th shutout of the season which he pulled out two point blank saves, his 49th and 50th of the season.
The biggest boss move of the game was when Orlando FC’s Sacha Kljestan was awarded a penalty kick and Johnson stood with his arms and legs reaching as wide as possible on the goal line. Kljestan subsequently kicked the shot wide. That PK would have tied the game and who knows how it may have changed the final outcome.
Unfortunately, a great majority of fans have completely lost all remaining patience for Berget. His lack of finishing ability leaves most to scratch their heads, guessing Vieira’s rationale for continuing to start him. Yes, he opens up space, he physically takes defenders on which does lend breathing room to teammates, but a striker’s job is to score. No more excuses. Berget got a chance to play his “real” position of striker and wasn’t able to produce. Please sit him.
On the flip side, was the seemingly eternally benched wunderkind Jonathan Lewis who came into the game for Tajouri-Shradi in the 80th minute. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw his name on the screen and was excitedly shouting to my section “It’s Jonathan Lewis! He’s actually coming in!” Most people smiled back politely as if to say “Okay, strange overenthusiastic person” but they don’t realize how much many of us have been clamoring for him to play this season.
In the 13 minutes he played, Lewis did not disappoint with his speed and ability to maneuver around physical defenders eventually initiating the play that lead to Maxi Moralez‘s goal in the 87th minute. Hopefully, this is the start of the Lewis era in the Bronx.
With the busy and challenging schedule ahead, we will need contributions from everyone. See you after the US Open match against “The Team that Shall Not Be Named”.
All images by Tisha Gale for MLSFemale.
Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith
Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale