Between three home NYCFC games and the final rounds of Wimbledon and the World Cup last week, there was little spare time last week to do anything but take in the sporting spectacles. And were they long ones- from 6-hour men’s Wimbledon matches to Croatia going to penalty kick shootouts in back to back matches, the key word was stamina.
Our own New York City Football Club tested their own stamina and fitness this past week with three games in seven days and came away with glowing marks earning three wins – all shutouts. Last Wednesday, while walking into the press box, “Mama Said Knock You Out” was playing in the hallway and I immediately knew it was a good omen. I mean who could forget the previous visit local legend LL Cool J made to Yankee Stadium?
This past Saturday New York City dug into the depths of the roster and into the magic of coach Domènec Torrent to pull out a huge 2-0 win over the visiting Columbus Crew. You cannot talk about New York City’s success right now without adding the cherry on top which is that the team is winning without the injured David Villa. This was unimaginable in prior years.
For the first few years of our club’s existence, he was our Obi-Wan Kenobi – our only hope. In this match the team had to face Columbus without Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget – basically the whole forward line. In the absence of many obvious options, coach Dome started Rodney Wallace, Ronald Matarrita and Jesus Medina up top.
Watching the first half of the game at Yankee Stadium behind Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Medina. He was everywhere trying to create plays, open up space, apply pressure, running at Steffen, making crosses and rebounding shots. He was working his tail off.
Medina is only 21 years old and I know that NYCFC fans are impatient for a Designated Player to quickly start making “contributions” to the goal scoring rolls but I see a very calculated and cerebral player. He looks like he’s always thinking and strategizing, yes sometimes to his detriment, but I believe he plays much better when NYCFC coaching and players give him the freedom to be creative on the field.
Jesus Medina, NYCFC
Jesus Medina, NYCFC
In the second half of this match, Medina executed beautifully on a pass from Jonathan Lewis, smartly taking an extra second to hammer a shot accurately past Steffen. Wingback Anton Tinnerholm added an insurance goal on a counter attack in which he successfully cut past the Columbus defender and Steffen, easily knocking the ball into the goal. Looks of shock switched to giggles as he celebrated by karate kicking the corner flag.
Despite the score and the smart play of NYCFC, the game could have easily gone the other way as Columbus had 11 shots in the first half with 5 of them inexplicably going over the top or wide. This was not an easy game by any means.
Much of this depth is due to Vieira’s building of the team last pre-season but the level and versatility of play seems to have improved in the past few weeks under Dome with game results speaking for themselves. Torrent has the expertise to see what the team is doing well and what needs to be adjusted pretty quickly and he must give incredible half-time talks.
All three games went to halftime with 0-0 scores and ended with shutouts. Dome also has been giving young players like Lewis and Kwame Awuah chances to contribute and switched things up by putting Matarrita into a more attacking role, something he’s done very successfully for his previous club and for the Costa Rican national team.
Sean Johnson, Jonathan Lewis and Kwame Awuah
So was LL Cool J there in person last week bringing his previous good vibes or were they coming through via musical inspiration? NYCFC’s next game is July 26th away at Orlando City Soccer Club. I’m optimistic that the team can carry this successful momentum to the road. And Mr. Smith, please feel free to come to any and all games.
David Bingham; David Romney, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik; Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen, Jonathan dos Santos; Ashley Cole; Giovani dos Santos; Ola Kamara, Romain Alessandrini
Justin Vom Steeg, Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Daniel Steres, Sheanon Williams, Baggio Husidic, Emmanuel Boateng, Ariel Lassiter.
My fellow LA Galaxy friend, Leslie Chavez, invited me to her 31st birthday party where I met several other fans and Twitter people. Some I’d met before, but they were mostly new. She chose Common Space Brewery for the setting so we could watch the match. It definitely turned into a viewing party where we could all share opinions and talk soccer, including the World Cup, other MLS teams, players, and other leagues.
New England Revolution vs the LA Galaxy at Gillette Stadium on July 14, 2018, was bad soccer except for the last few minutes. But, first things first:
The Galaxy wore black armbands in honor of Sports Psychologist, Dr. Ken Ravizza, who passed away the week before.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t make the trip. There wasn’t a point when the team would have to fly back to LA and train, get a day of rest, and then fly back to the East Coast to Philadelphia where they will play the Union on July 21st. Plus, it wouldn’t be good to wear out Ibrahimovic by having him play on that artificial turf and risk injury.
So, I thought it looked like a good starting XI with Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini up top. The blaring concern turned out to be the back three when it should’ve been four in the back for better defense since that’s the Galaxy’s major problem. The G’s Keeper,David Bingham, had to work extra hard with saves and his frustration was showing as a result.
NE Keeper Matt Turner stopped to save a ball, but when Antonio Delamea Mlinar slid to defend, he almost scored an own goal.
The Galaxy conceded a goal in the 28th minute after the Revs were already down a man when, due to violent conduct, Cristian Penilla, got sent off on a red card. Still, New England was able to attack.
Chris Pontius scored in the 38th minute on an assist from Ashley Cole, leveling the match, but that lasted less than 10 minutes when L.A. Caicedo scored a header in the 45th minute to make it 2-1 Revs.
Throughout the match, it seemed anytime the ball got near Kamara, it bounced off his back heel and he didn’t seem to be having a good game. We kept losing possession.
In the second half, Ashley Cole double yellowed and once he was ejected, we really thought the match was over. We were all negative, resolving that we would lose. My hope had been snuffed out like the flame of a candle, only smoke where there was once a spark.
Suddenly, Dave Romney scored a header in stoppage time, assisted by Alessandrini. It was a consolation goal and us fans would’ve been satisfied with a draw. I told everyone at the table to wait, that we still had two minutes of stoppage time to lose.
A minute later, Pontius scored again also from an assist from Alessandrini!
We erupted with celebration and the bartender even said it was a crazy match. Our level of excitement made her think it was a playoff match. The whistle blew and the Galaxy had stolen three points, the final score was 3-2.
Pontius’ positive impact the last several matches is a fantastic streak in itself: he has now seven games with a goal or an assist. In my opinion, he was the man of the match.
Hopefully, the Galaxy can continue their unbeaten streak. Next match is another away game this time against the Philadelphia Union. Kickoff is at 4pm PST.
Featured image: Chris Pontius and Romain Alessandrini celebrate the winning goal (Alessandrini’s Official Instagram)
After crashing down to Earth with a sobering 3-0 loss away to NYCFC, the message from coaches and players alike was “We want to bounce back.” Saturday’s match against San Jose Earthquakes, who are currently bottom of the Western Conference standings provided a perfect opportunity for the team to accomplish their goal.
After rotating the squad for the mid-week loss, Rémi Garde elected to field his A-team at home. Rudy Camacho, Ken Krolicki, Alejandro Silva, Matteo Mancosu and Chris Duvall returned to the starting lineup. A notable absentee was Rod Fanni, who missed out through illness. Some fans were concerned about whether a central defensive pairing of Camacho and Jukka Raitala would prove as effective as Camacho-Fanni, and there was only one way to find out.
The Impact started the match brightly, with some fantastic give-and-go play between Mancosu, Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taïder leading to the Algerian’s fourth goal of the season. The chemistry between Taïder and Piatti was perhaps best evidenced by the first-touch passing between the two, the confidence that the other would be there to receive the ball. Mancosu, despite his abysmal goal tally this season, also deserves credit for his placement on the left side of the opposing 18-yard box when Piatti moved to the centre of the attacking group, as he was, therefore, ready to pass the ball to Piatti who laid the ball off for Taïder.
In the celebration of that goal, Piatti and Taïder came together to hold up an Impact jersey — Marco Donadel’s #33. Donadel was waived by the Impact a few weeks ago, and this match was the last he would be attending before his rumoured return to Italy. Piatti and Taïder chose that moment to recognize the significant role he had played in the team during his three and a half seasons with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir.
Although ‘keeper Evan Bush was called into action at the end of the half, the real talking point of the game would not be the Impact’s superior collective performance.
Instead, all eyes outside of Montréal are on the implosion taking place – very publicly – within the Earthquakes’ team. Two early substitutions, Anibal Godoy and then his replacement Fatai Alashe, perfectly encapsulated the level of discord with that team and likely made the Impact’s win all the easier. The frustrated body language of the visiting players on the pitch betrayed some deep internal problems which undoubtedly contribute to their current position in the standings.
Despite Piatti scoring another goal to end the match on a positive note, with Alejandro Silva notching yet another assist, arguably the biggest highlight of the match would be when the referee tackled Samuel Piette to the ground.
Thankfully, it will take more than that to take out the defensive midfielder! Somehow, the referee escaped a booking for his blatant attempt to play the man and not the ball!
I had the immense pleasure of being present at Stade Saputo this match as well, in Section 132 with the Ultras de Montréal 2002. The capo was on fire, and got several other sections involved in chanting for the team! And woe be unto you if they caught you taking a break.
The Impact are about to face a lot of Western competition, with Vancouver Whitecaps visiting Stade Saputo for the first leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final on Wednesday, July 18th. On Saturday, July 21st, the Impact will attempt to improve their MLS road record and take on a stingy Portland Timbers defense in the Rose City. The road trip will wrap up with the second leg of Canadian Championship semi-final at BC Place on Wednesday, July 25th.
Los Angeles FC shares points in their first-ever scoreless draw against the Portland Timbers at Banc of California Stadium.
Tyler Miller was pressed early in the match with the Timbers maintaining possession for the first twenty minutes. It was a battle of the “Diego’s” beginning with Diego Valeri being denied by Miller from close range in the fifth minute. Diego Rossi would, in turn, watch his chance fall short as the ball fell too close to Jeff Attinella.
Adama Diomande came close to scoring the opening goal in the 30th minute – but his shot was knocked over the net by Attinella. Dio would get another chance just moments later, however, this time his attempt flew just over the crossbar.
The black-and-gold would get another chance before the half when Walker Zimmerman sent a header from the center of the box off a cross from Carlos Vela – unfortunately, it was too high sending both sides into the half scoreless.
While still looking for a breakthrough, the black-and-gold would endure a new challenge late in the match after Lee Nguyen is shown a red in the 84th minute for a challenge with Sebastián Blanco.
With an absent Nguyen, Valeri sought to get one past Miller off a set piece but Miller was quick to secure the ball before it could leave Valeri’s foot.
The final moment came during stoppage time when Vela had a header right in front of the goal, but his shot flew straight at Attinella, who caught it giving the 10-man team their first-ever scoreless draw.
LAFC will host the Timbers again on Wednesday for the Open Cup quarterfinals. The match is set kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT.
Just days after a 2-1 ‘friendly’ loss to Costa Rican club Saprissa, Minnesota United FC took the field again on yet another hot evening in Minneapolis. Fans who have seen more than their fair share of temperature fluctuations over the years flocked to TCF Bank Stadium in the hopes of being cooled off by a solid Loons performance… But hopefully not a cold one. They wanted to sing Wonderwall again after facing the team that gave them their first chance to sing last season: Real Salt Lake.
The first half was a mixed bag for Minnesota. The back three, especially Brent Kallman, made some big clearances and the attacking trio of Chris Ramirez, Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra provided plenty of sparks. Unfortunately, no one could get into position in the final third to finish the job. The Loons’ best chances came from Ibarra’s speedy runs and Quintero’s newly unlocked long-range shots. Too bad they were up against Nick Rimando this week. Oh, wait…
Too bad Rimando was up against Darwin Quintero this week.
Minute 52: Quintero finds space, turns with the ball on a tight angle near the right post, opts to cross it in front of Rimando where the inside of Ibson’s right boot is waiting. Goal.
Minute 62: Quintero receives a beautiful ball from Calvo and turns to fire it from long range between the heads of two defenders and over Rimando. Yes, over. Another long chip from the Scientist finds the upper left corner. Goal.
Minute 68: Ibarra, on the run, one on one with Rimando. Rimando goes to the ground. Ibarra passes him and slots the ball into the net. Goal.
Jeff Rueter, of The Athletic, led the press box into the Twilight Zone.
Then, it nearly all came crashing down when Plata scored for RSL in the 77th minute (a set piece, go figure) and 85th minute. A nearly sterling defensive performance broke down, allowing two goals inside of ten minutes.
And just as three points were nearly tossed away, so were most of the words I had written before heading downstairs to coach Heath’s presser and then on to the locker room.
After Heath stormed away mid-interview with on-field reporter Jamie Watson; after he sent the players’ kids out of the locker room and gave his team a dressing down which could be heard through the concrete walls (“Nothing I can really repeat,” said defender Michael Boxall); after he settled down just enough to sit in front of the media, Heath was asked to describe the takeaway: “Three points. Did our best to throw it away. Tried to throw away 75 minutes of good work by people deciding that they know best. They’ll do what they want rather than doing what we know is right.”
What does he want from his players moving forward? ” For them to understand that they don’t know everything. And do what’s asked of them. And they’ll be okay. There are too many people in and around this football club that have an opinion on it.”
Neither Boxall nor Miguel Ibarra (who was once again one of the strongest Loons this night) could shine any light on that last statement from their coach. But both spoke of the mental lapses and lack of focus in the dying minutes of both this match and the win against Toronto FC last week. Ibarra added, “I think we’re fine. I mean, we as a team talked about it right after [Heath talked]. He’s right, we gotta do better at closing out games, but we got three points which is the most important thing.”
A win is a win is a… Well, sure, couldn’t it always be better?
After what seems like entirely too long, the New York Red Bulls (11-5-2, 35 points) returned to Red Bull Arena. They welcomed Sporting Kansas City (9-5-6, 33 points) for a rematch of the 2017 Open Cup final. The Red Bulls haven’t defeated SKC since 2014.
THE REAL VIKING ARMY: I had promised the members of the Red Bulls Supporter Group the Viking Army that I would stop by and crash their tailgate at some point. So I made my way to the back end of the vacant warehouse on the gentrification chopping block to where their tailgate party is held.
I snapped some pictures and learned some stories. They talked about jerseys of players traded and gone. They spoke of the moment they fell in love with the team and the passion of a supporter’s group that stands and sings for ninety minutes plus. They shared the sense of family that makes their gatherings on and between game days so special.
LOVE WINS: Does anyone know why the Red Bulls’ Pride Night is in July? Just kidding– I don’t care. They do it right. The rainbow lasers are straight fire. The scarves and running sleeves they gave away are great. And it’s never a bad time to remind everyone that anyone can play. There was a discussion panel about supporting all athletes prior to the game, and in a time where it is still difficult for people to be themselves, we do need the reminder.
EVENLY MATCHED: Of course Bradley Wright-Phillips scores the opening goal (5′). He’ll hit 100 goals as a Red Bull very soon. But he was called offside. (Drink every time you read ‘Enter VAR’ in my article… or better yet, don’t.) The Red Bulls’ signature High Press tactic often catches an attacker offside, but that wasn’t actually the case here, and the Video Assistant Referee corrected the call. “Goals after VAR, it’s annoying, you don’t get to celebrate,” BWP lamented after the game.
And celebrate, the team could not. Johnny Russell (8′) leveled the match and both sides held each other at bay the rest of the first half. Then Roger Espinoza practically started off the second half getting SKC the lead (51′). Something had to change for the Red Bulls to not let history repeat.
RBNY IS FOR THE CHILDREN: Battling back from injury and fighting for minutes, RB Salzburg exchange student Marc Rzatkowski was subbed in for “Kaku” Romero-Gamarra in the 60th minute. Fans, knowing what Kaku is capable of, were surprised by the move from newly promoted head coach Chris Armas. After the match, Armas explained:
“Marc, he had a great week of training. In every session, he brought energy… Going into the game we thought that he would be a guy we’d rely on in some capacity.”
And boy, did he seize the day! He tallied a brace that leveled and then put RBNY ahead (72′ & 79′). He was named man of the match, and took home the game ball. And yet…
I was part of the huddle of reporters who went to RZA (so nicknamed by fans as a reference to a member of NY hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan) in the locker room after the game. Usually, Rzatkowski ducks out of the locker room as soon as he’s changed while we speak with captain Luis Robles or BWP. He had turned towards his locker to get something and looked genuinely shocked when he turned back around and saw us all there. A real team player, he shared credit with Tyler Adams and Sean Davis, the midfielders who assisted his goals.
(If you don’t catch the reference in the heading, click here)
So: same time, same place, same chance for revenge when the New England Revolution come to Harrison and face RBNY for the second time this season.
Fresh off an exhilarating win at home against MLS defending champs Toronto FC, Minnesota United flew to Houston and quickly rediscovered their reality. The Loons’ 3-0 loss to the Dynamo on Saturday night was the club’s eleventh on the season, with most of those losses coming on the road.
Despite the Loons’ poor performance in set pieces being an overwhelmingly obvious factor in the loss, coach Adrian Heath told the media, “I don’t think we were sharp enough all evening. Overall it was just another indication that we have issues on the road. I am disappointed with the level of commitment considering where we were on Wednesday.”
Fans were disappointed with Heath’s lack of ownership in the loss and Minnesota soccer Twitter succumbed once again to a barrage of #HeathOut statements, including one from the #HeathOut barometer:
Another quick turnaround to yet another hot, humid, Wednesday night match brought seeds of hope, but also anger. The international friendly against Costa Rican club Saprissa, planned long before United’s recent woes, nonetheless came at a very inopportune time.
All the usual starters got a rest or rode the bench, except for centerback Francisco Calvo (having rested in Houston on yellow card accumulation) who captained the squad of young or untested players. Frantz Pangop, a high profile signing in the preseason, was a bright spot that night, scoring his first goal in the Black and Blue (yes, I know the shirt’s grey, but the song has been ‘Boys in Black and Blue’ for as long as Minnesota has been horrible in set pieces). Unfortunately, that was their only goal. The Loons would give up two goals to the visitors, both on mistakes from Pangop’s countryman, Bertrand Owundi Eko’o.
Fans and analysts all agree that United’s defense desperately needs help and the midfield needs effective coordination. These were the expectations as the transfer window opened. Signing announcements came quickly. And, just as quickly, criticism followed.
First came 23-year-old Romario Ibarra of Ecuador, an attacking midfielder from Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica. But he is neither the Ibarra (“His brother is better,” said nearly everyone on Twitter) nor the midfielder (they just signed a DP mid who likes to score so why add another?) the Loons so desperately need.
Next was 29-year-old Colombian, Angelo Rodriguez. The forward for Club Deportes Tolima (Columbia) signed as Minnesota’s second Designated Player. These additions are confusing considering their positions and their international status. Jerome Thiesson received his green card this week, clearing the way for Ibarra to fill Minnesota’s seventh and final international spot.
Someone will have to go before Rodriguez clears up his visa paperwork and arrives in Minnesota. Rumors cite an end to Alexi Gomez’s transfer deal to clear the way for Rodriguez.
International slots aside, the signings are confusing in light of these most recent displays of MN United’s problem spots. Why splash money on goal scorers when your defense is leaking goals? When you have a striker in Christian Ramirez who you have held on to despite bids from MLS and Liga MX clubs? Heath’s praise for the two signings offer no real explanation other than stressing each player’s ability to score.
On Rodriguez: “He is a big-time player. We have just added a difference-maker to our roster. He’s a player who is physical, skilled and knows how to score.. He causes stress on defenses by closing down and pressing.”
On Ibarra:“We have been looking for some change-of-game pace for the team and that’s one of the best things Romario does: He changes games with his pace and he challenges defenders.”
Maybe there is a huge surprise, a big change, in the works for the defense. The Loons did shock everyone earlier this week when they drilled on set pieces in training ahead of Wednesday’s friendly so…
The Montréal Impact were coming into an incredibly busy July schedule on a hot streak, with four consecutive wins and 5 in 6 matches. With the impending load of 6 matches in 17 days, eventually Rémi Garde was going to have to rotate the team, whose lack of depth he had previously deplored. The first opportunity to see several players make their return – or their début, as in the case of Shamit Shome – to the starting lineup.
The lineup also featured 5 Canadian players (Piette, Shome, Jackson-Hamel, Edwards and Petrasso) which is of interest as the upcoming Canadian Championship competition requires a minimum of 3 Canadian players in the starting lineup for each team. Whether their presence was preparation for those matches, simple rotation, or a chance for some bench players to compete for more playing time, only coach Garde can say.
What anyone who watched that match can say is that none of the players on the pitch rose to the occasion. The Bleu-Blanc-Noir failed to register a single shot on target and capitulated in the second half to lose 3-0 to a heavily rotated New York City FC.
Although none of the Canadians returning to the lineup will want to remember their performances, two notable disappointments were Homegrown PlayerAnthony Jackson-Hamel and Raheem Edwards. Jackson-Hamel had made a name for himself last season as a supersub who could come off the bench and score goals late into games. With starting striker Matteo Mancosu’s aversion to scoring goals continuing into its second season, Jackson-Hamel was given a chance to claim a position which is very much up for grabs. Meanwhile, Edwards had lost his starting position on the right wing when Alejandro Silva‘s form picked up, and also had his moment to prove his worth.
Both players had previously been publicly criticized for a lack of effort during training earlier this season. Initially, it seemed, they responded to criticism with strong performances in a 4-2 win over New England Revolution. However, in the pair’s first start since May, fans were subjected to watching them play at a jog, with little effort put into winning 50/50 balls and a distinct lack of creativity and tactical awareness. Coach Garde was equally unimpressed, as Jackson-Hamel and Edwards were both substituted in the 59th minute.
On a final note of interest, ownerJoey Saputo was present at the match. Rémi Garde will hope that the man holding the purse-strings appreciated the opportunity to witness first-hand the difference in quality of players on Montréal’s bench and that of NYCFC.
On Saturday, July 14th, the Impact return home to face San Jose Earthquakes, a team whose quality has also been deplored … by one of their players. It should be interesting to see how the two squads crying for an injection of talent face off.
It may seem like it has been awhile, but it was only in April that we saw our first MLS Cup winner of the year… an eMLS Cup winner. The buzz and hype around the eMLS Cup in Boston this past year was just something I couldn’t get enough of. Seeing supporters of all clubs actively backing their professional gamers to defeat opponents game after game was awesome.
I couldn’t help but be curious as to this notion of signing a professional gamer to MLS clubs and how people even got there. As a teacher, I see middle school students trying to play video games in class. I’m actually pretty sure if I brought in my XBox and allowed them to play FIFA in class, we would have an all-out tournament. However, according to Forbes.com, esports is on track to bring in $900 million in revenue this year. You guys… $900 million.
It’s no wonder that MLS has started signing their own eMLS players as this is a huge market that any business would be crazy to not touch.. So, my next challenge? Talk to the FC Dallas eMLS player who made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, Alan Avila.
Check out my interview – with former FC Dallas youth player turned eMLS star!
Okay so, let’s start with a little bit about your soccer background. You played for the FC Dallas youth system as a midfielder in high school. When did you start playing soccer and can you tell MLSFemale readers a little bit more about your soccer background?
I started playing soccer ever since I was four. My dad made a local team and coached me all the way up until my club soccer years. My first club team was the Dallas Texans. I started traveling 5 hours to Dallas and Frisco just to play my league games on the weekends, so it was a sacrifice I had to make, but it was all worth it. 1-2 years later, I joined FC Dallas’ Youth system and played in the Classic League. I played at Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas. I was on Varsity since my Freshman year. Unfortunately, my sophomore year of High School I tore my left ACL and had to miss most of the season. I then went on to play my junior year. My senior year, I tore my right ACL and unfortunately had to sit out my entire senior year. I had surgery again and recovered just in time for collegiate soccer at the University of Texas of The Permian Basin. During preseason I re-tore my right ACL. I had surgery, recovered, but then started focusing more on FIFA and YouTube.
I read in your interview with FC Dallas that you started playing FIFA after your third ACL injury. Surely to be as good as you are, you were playing the game before you decided to start competitively. Was playing video games always a hobby of yours?
Playing FIFA was definitely a hobby of mine ever since I was in elementary school. My soccer mates and friends would always get together and play against each other and have tournaments. It was something I really enjoyed to play whenever I was not playing actual soccer because I just love soccer so much. FIFA, the video game, helped me learn more about the game of soccer. I would always try out new moves or passes that I would see in FIFA on the field. FIFA was a nice hobby to have as a soccer player because during the offseason or whenever I wasn’t playing actual soccer, I would start up FIFA and start playing. I believe many soccer players love to play FIFA.
With that, how did you decide to become a professional FIFA player? What is the process for those who didn’t know this e-world existed?
I got very fortunate with timing because, during my third ACL surgery recover, FIFA 17 introduced a new competitive game mode called “FUT Champions”. It is a competitive game mode where you play 40 games a weekend against the best players on your continent and compete with everyone from around the world. I started finishing in the Top 100 in the World leaderboard by winning 38, 39, or even 40 games out of the 40 we were required to play. It was no easy task by any means and it still continues to be very difficult. I then started qualifying for FIFA tournaments through FUT Champions and that’s how I made a name for myself. I posted YouTube videos and people started subscribing and really enjoying the content. In FIFA 18, the current FIFA, I did the same thing. The eMLS was introduced and luckily FC Dallas was able to scout me as a local Elite FIFA player and that’s how I signed my first professional contract. I stayed ranked among the best 100 players in the world. I qualified to the biggest tournament in Amsterdam hosted by EA Sports FIFA. It’s a continuous craft that I need to keep practicing and mastering.
When you saw other teams in MLS start to sign eMLS players, what were your thoughts? Did you initially reach out to FC Dallas about playing for them? How did the actual signing for you happen?
I have always brainstormed the idea of the eMLS becoming a thing long before it actually became an official thing. I saw other leagues around the world have their own FIFA leagues and it was something that I wanted to see in the USA and Canada with the MLS. When I found out about the eMLS actually becoming a thing, I was super excited because I knew that it would attract many people and that it was a great thing for competitive FIFA and the league. Like I stated in the previous question, FC Dallas did their scouting and found out about me through media sources and all of the FIFA rankings there are. They found out that I was a part of the actual FC Dallas youth program so it was just a great match for their program. I was invited to come down to Toyota Stadium and talk to everyone involved with FC Dallas and that’s where it all began.
Tell us more about the first eMLS Cup. I saw online that only current MLS players are available for teams. What were the other guidelines? How did you decide what squad to field? As a general fan, I didn’t know that you weren’t playing with the full FC Dallas squad. Tell us more about what goes into choosing the team you play with. How does your knowledge of playing soccer give you an advantage while playing people who maybe never have touched a ball in their life?
The first eMLS Cup was a success and a great experience. The guidelines were that we had to have three MLS players on the field at all times, two of which had to be from the MLS club you were representing. When I found out about this, I knew that I had to plan correctly and make a squad that would most benefit me. There is a lot that goes into making a squad to play with on FIFA. Many people want the fastest and most technical players.
In FIFA, there are 6 different categories that distinguish a player. There is Pace, Shooting, Passing, Dribbling, Defending, and Physical. As you can probably tell, everyone competing wants the players with the best overall attributes. FIFA has done a great job in making the game very realistic. This means that the players seem to perform as they would in real life.
Ronaldo, Messi, and Sergio Ramos are players that mostly everyone had on their squad in the eMLS. So if you are knowledgeable in soccer, making a squad in FIFA would become much easier because you will know what you are working with and how to use the players in each position to their best possible potential. I decided to use Kellyn Acosta and Urruti from FC Dallas because Kellyn had the physical and defending aspect of a midfielder and Urruti had the goal scoring ability. My third MLS player was Alessandrini because of his speed and ability to score. Many competitors selected Alessandrini for that exact reason.
How was the first eMLS Cup? What were the vibes like? Did you previously know any of the other eMLS players from the gaming community and your previous competitions?
The first eMLS cup was a great experience even though I was eliminated in the Western Conference Final. I definitely learned a lot and cannot wait for the next one. The vibes were great. Everyone was excited to get the first eMLS cup underway. It was an honor to be representing the club. Many players including myself played with immense passion for the club and wanted nothing but the best for all the fans and club. The vibes were honestly everywhere. Excitement, curiosity, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, thrill, and a whole lot of adrenaline was seen by everyone throughout the eMLS cup.
I did know most of the players from the online leaderboards, previous tournaments, or even social media. It was nice to be able to actually meet up with them in person and share a great experience. Some of them even knew me from watching my videos on YouTube so it was really nice being able to meet everyone that I hadn’t before.
So now that this tournament is over, what’s next for you? How long are you in a contract with FC Dallas in this position? What are your overall goals?
Now that the eMLS Cup is over, I need to focus on any major EA Sports tournaments I have. I also need to focus on being more active on social media whether it is via YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat to build a close community of great people. I also need to continue practicing a bit for whatever tournament is next. Most tournaments are over with for FIFA 18 so now I can take a little break and focus on starting strong in FIFA 19 in September.
I am in a contract with FC Dallas for a year but I’m hoping to sign again for the FIFA 19 season. There are many goals that I wish to accomplish. I want to win the eMLS Cup and any other major global tournaments. I also want to really build a community on YouTube and social media as a whole to help others in FIFA, their life, or whatever the case may be. Someone that they can look up to and enjoy being a part of the experiences.
For all of the aspiring eMLS players out there, what is one piece of advice you would give so that they could be the next eMLS player for their team?
One piece of advice that I would give to aspiring eMLS players is to never give up and learn from every loss. That is how you not only grow as a player but as a person as well.
And finally, if you could field your perfect 11 (not within the confines of eMLS Cup), who would your lineup be?
My perfect eleven would have to start off with David De Gea in goal. Marcelo at left back. Sergio Ramos and David Luiz at the center back positions. Kyle Walker at right back. Modric, Pogba, and Iniesta in the midfield. Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar up top.
You can follow Alan Avila on Twitter at @AlanAvi_ to see everything he’s up to and keep an eye on his gaming!
New York City FC has a tight schedule this week and faced the second of its three opponents on July 11th at home versus Impact Montréal. The game was a snooze fest in the scoreless first half, with very little happening offensively besides some fruitless crosses by NYCFC wing Rodney Wallace and some relentless verbal tormenting of Montréal goalkeeper Evan Bush.
Something happened during half time though, (besides this wedding proposal, ripe with a “Marry Me” NYCFC jersey!)
After the second goal, Montréal seemed to lose all their energy, barely pressing forward. Recently lethal striker Ignacio Piatti did his best to make runs, looking for something magical to come his way but City defenders Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha easily shut him down. Montréal’s lack of high (or even medium) press, allowed NYCFC to play out of the back for much of the game, which thankfully gave goalkeeper Sean Johnson something to do as he didn’t need to make a single save.
Some intel I learned postgame:
Jonathan Lewis, despite being “half English” is rooting for France, admires the playing style of Kylian Mbappe and Raheem Sterling and “said [a while back] that Croatia would go to the [World Cup] finals.”
In a week with three tightly scheduled games, Sean Johnson spoke of the importance of rest to stay sharp and the team’s focus on tactics. Interestingly, Johnson regularly incorporates yoga and pilates into his training year-round.
Ronald Matarrita is “always trying to score goals” and hopes that we all get to know him a bit better as a player.
NYCFC faces the Columbus Crew on Saturday July 14th at home. Remember when we had to play them at “home” at Citifield? Related to that, a New York Times article was released during the Montreal game about another possible stadium site.
BREAKING: Developers say they have an agreement to buy the GAL Manufacturing factory on East 153rd Street, and lease the land to NYCFC to build a stadium. (via NY Times)https://t.co/pWcu9bb9dx