Category Archives: Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference

“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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

2018-09-24 17.09.55 1875721048566009062_6788401467

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

2018-11-05 00.31.47 1905689454222244475_6788401467

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

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

 

 

Save the Empire

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, November 4th: 1-0 Loss 

Eastern Conference Semifinals, Leg 1

Fresh off a first-round bye, the New York Red Bulls traveled to MAPFRE Stadium to face the Columbus Crew. The Crew had to battle through 120 minutes and a penalty shootout to eliminate DC United from the 2018 MLS Playoffs.

So, I have been a part of the #SaveTheCrew movement. And it seems to have worked. But now… it’s time to Save the Empire. (The initial name for the NY/NJ MLS team was Empire Soccer Club.)

DISCLAIMER: One of my favorite players (my 10-year-old) had a game about the same time as the playoff game. I had to listen to the Crew radio play-by-play to get any sense of what was happening in Columbus.

It wasn’t pretty.

WHAT’S WITH TODAY, TODAY?: The only goal of the game was scored for the Crew by striker Gyasi Zardes. While RBNY had a handle on the possession and attack throughout the match, they couldn’t finish their chances. Their set pieces didn’t yield any useful results, and a momentary lapse was all it took for the Crew to get behind the defense. 

I feel as if I have said this before. 

WE MUSTN’T DWELL: There are plenty of serviceable cliches that can be used now. “It’s only halftime.” “Down but not out.” The team has to focus on the things that have brought them this far. Supporter’s Shield winners. CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals. Open Cup runs. They’ve fallen short. There is no shortage of articles from any soccer outlet quick to point this out. This is the moment to flip the script. And if they can do it, nothing will stand in their way. 

DAMN THE MAN, SAVE THE EMPIRE: The second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be back at Red Bull Arena, a fortress for the team. With the fans behind them, the team is ready to give it all they’ve got. They will have their Rex Manning Day.  

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

The Crew: Pushing through the Playoffs

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Knockout Game

Thursday, November 1: 2(2) – 2(3) Win

Columbus Crew SC started their playoffs on a Thursday just four days after their final game of the regular season.  Due to a lackluster end to the season, Crew SC played the team currently ending their season on a hot streak and one of the Crew’s original rivals, DC United, in a knockout game away from home. 

If I had to pick a word to describe this game it was reminiscent.  It was reminiscent of the Crew’s knockout game in Atlanta last year.  It was a physical game.  It was a tough game, and it went to penalty kicks.

After 90’, the game was tied 1-1 on a DC goal from Brillant in the 21’ and a goal from Federico Higuain in the 30’.  In extra time, Higuain, typically a master with the ball at his feet, headed home a goal in the 96’.  Then, DC’s Nick DeLeon scored the tying goal off a poor clearance from the Crew in the 116’.  The game’s extra time ended in a 2-2 tie and proceeded to penalty kicks. 

Zack Steffen repeated his masterful performance during PKs last year in Atlanta, by blocking both Wayne Rooney’s and Luciano Acosta’s shots.  Gyasi Zardes’s shot was blocked by the DC keeper, and Patrick Mullins knocked his off the post.  The PKs ended, not by a Crew player shushing the crowd as Adam Jahn did last year in Atlanta, but as DeLeon, the hero of the extra time shot his PK over the net. 

Thoughts on this Game:

Pipa, who is fantastic much of the time anyway, has turned it up a notch in the playoffs scoring 3 goals (one a PK) in this match.  He definitely is showing his hunger for an MLS Cup. 

DC was a tough opponent, but we gifted them the two goals.  The first when Steffen allowed a cross to go through his fingertips and drop to Brillant and a poor clearance by Crew led to DC’s second goal.  We need to minimize these errors to keep moving forward in the playoffs.

My heart can’t handle these overtime, go to PKs, knockout away games against strong teams.  However, the Crew continues to win them. However, during this game what shocked me the most was when Gregg Berhalter was stopping a ball that had gone out of bounds and Acosta shoved and then tripped him.  Now, I’ve seen Berhalter do this in many games, but I’ve never seen a player respond in that way.  I don’t know if it resulted in any discipline for Acosta, but it should have.

Conference Semifinals—Leg 1

Sunday, November 4: 1-0 Win

Gregg Berhalter showed why he is being considered for the USMNT coaching position after the Crew’s 1-0 result against the Supporter’s Shield winners the New York Red Bulls.  

Again, the Crew were playing on shorter rest than their opponents—playing only 3 days after their lengthy game against DC.  Berhalter shifted his line-up from the DC game into a free-flowing 4-4-2.  Pipa started the game on the bench.  Patrick Mullins and Gyasi Zardes started up top, and rookie Luis Argudo started out right. 

While there were a few chances for both teams, the more memorable one in the first half was by the New York Red Bulls in the 27’.  The ball was headed off a corner, bounced off the post toward the goal line, went off the head of a diving Zack Steffen, and then traveled out of the goal area.  Despite the close chance for New York, the first half ended, 0-0.

In the second half, Pipa came off the bench, and the tempo of the game for Crew SC changed.  In the 59’, New York’s Daniel Royer had a breakaway that ended as Steffen ran 35 feet up the field to tackle Royer.   Then the Crew scored their goal in the 61’, and it was a thing of beauty.  Milton Valenzuela sent a ball across to Higuain who flicked the ball across to Zardes who finished off the shot.

Both keepers made important saves in the waning minutes of the game.  Luis Robles saved a hard shot from distance from Pedro Santos in the 89’, and Steffen made a fingertip save of a Bradley Wright-Phillips header in the 93’.  This final save sealed the 1-0 win for the Crew.

Thoughts on this Game:

In the playoff games played thus far, the Crew have shown why they should not be underestimated.  While they did not go into the playoffs on a winning streak as in years past, they have apparently found their playoff mojo.  They did a nice job minimizing the Red Bulls scoring threats.  If our defense can keep up the defense they showed in this game, the Crew can go deep into the playoffs. 

Today, it was announced that Zack Steffen was MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.  While some other fans don’t seem happy with the result, I think he has definitely earned the accolades this year.  I’m not saying the other keepers didn’t deserve it—being a professional goalkeeper takes skills—I am proudly a fan of Steffen. 

Finally, it is clear that Gregg Berhalter’s meticulous strategizing brings positive results.  Let’s see those results continue this Sunday when the Crew take on the Red Bulls in the second leg of the Conference Semi-Finals.   

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

NYCFC looks ahead to face Atlanta United in MLS Eastern Conference Semifinals

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It’s deja-vu all over again as New York City Football Club tops Philadelphia Union 3-1 for the second time in a week, this time in the MLS Playoff Knockout Round.

From the beginning, NYCFC dominated the Union, sticking to their high possession strategy which was lighter and more precise with the return of midfielder Yangel Herrera. Herrera’s ability to anticipate opponents’ next moves and superb skills in transitioning between defense and offense allowed David Villa, Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to work smoothly together.

All three goals were scored on attacks down the middle with three different types of finishing touches by Tajouri-Shradi, Villa and Moralez. Additionally, a late substitution of Valentin (Taty) Castellanos for Villa was strategically very important in maintaining the win as Castellanos drew two, sometimes three defenders which freed up Moralez to maneuver and keep NYC in possession of the ball.

This was a huge win and a morale lifter for NYCFC and its fans as we look ahead to face Atlanta United in the MLS Eastern Conference semi-finals.  New York City has been gaining momentum and confidence after a dismal two months and Atlanta is showing some cracks in its previously impenetrable foundation. Atlanta is now in a situation familiar to NYCFC with its coach Tata Martino rumored to be leaving the club for “greener” pastures, as well as, player personal conduct and team chemistry distractions.

In the past two years, the two teams have been evenly matched with each team credited one win, one loss and two draws. New York City is back to full strength with a clean bill of health and will face an Atlanta squad who will be close to full strength, especially if midfielder Miguel Almirón returns to match play.  (Almirón returned to training this week.)

I predict Atlanta will utilize a 4-4-2 formation with Brad Guzan, a returning from injury Greg Garza, Leandro González-Pirez, Michael Parkhurst and Franco Escobar as defenders, center defending midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, center attacking midfielder  Almirón, Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe on the wings and both Hector Villalba and Josef Martinez up top.

image00019
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi celebrates his goal. Image: Tisha Gale

For New York City, I see coach Dome Torrent sticking with a similar lineup and formation as the last two matches with the exception of perhaps starting Jesús Medina at left midfield over Ronald Matarrita as Medina’s style of play may be a better matchup against Atlanta’s tactics.  The past two matchups utilized a 4-2-3-1 with Sean Johnson, Ben Sweat, Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm, Herrera, Alex Ring, Medina, Moralez, Tajouri-Shradi and Villa.

Make no mistake about it, this will be an extremely tough match for City, especially after Atlanta’s recent embarrassing loss to Toronto FC which cost them the Supporter’s Shield.  They will be out to prove to everyone that the recent loss was a fluke.  However, I have no doubt that our Boys in Blue are in fine form and are capable of taking a big decisive win and sowing more seeds of doubt for Atlanta.

Images by Tisha Gale

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

With a 3-1 Loss, the Union Limp into the Playoffs After All

Cait Costello - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Cait Costello // @caitcostello

Well, that’s one way to end the regular season.

The Philadelphia Union fell 3-1 to NYCFC in Yankee Stadium on Sunday night in a disappointing end to what is definitively the team’s best season in its history. From the start, the Union felt disjointed and gave up a goal to Maxime Chanot off a corner kick in the 8th minute.

Two minutes later, Auston Trusty scored his second own goal of the season while running toward the Union’s goal line, and two minutes after that, Trusty was shown the first yellow card of the match. The 20-year-old is a great addition to the team—playing every single minute of the regular season—which only makes these rookie mistakes hit harder.

It felt like the Union may be able to recover when Cory Burke scored a goal from the center of the box in the 14th minute with an assist from Borek Dockal. This was Burke’s 10th goal of the season, tying with Fafa Picault, and Dockal’s MLS-best 18th assist.

David Villa took back the momentum by scoring for NYCFC in the 34th minute. Then, Burke picked up a yellow card in the 40th minute and exchanged heated words with Dockal. Burke started the second half on the bench in tears as Ilsinho took his place on the pitch.

A foul by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson gave the Union their best chance to pick up another goal with a penalty kick by Fafa, but Johnson guessed right for the save. The Union’s offense couldn’t capitalize on any of the other opportunities they made, and the score stayed at 3-1.

Throughout the match, the Union’s defense felt off, with the back line consistently playing way up the pitch in a possible failure to adapt to Yankee Stadium’s smaller dimensions. Despite being left on his own and giving up two goals, Andre Blake did make some big saves to stop the bleeding. This match easily could have been a draw without the own goal and with the penalty kick, but it was not to be for the Union.

After starting #DecisionDay with the opportunity to finish in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, the Union instead fell from 4th to 6th in a disappointing decline for a season in which the boys in blue netted more wins, more points and clinched a spot in the playoffs earlier than ever before in team history.

The loss dashed their hopes for a home match in the knockout round of the #MLSCupPlayoffs, so the Union head back up to the Bronx for a Halloween rematch at 7pm.

It’s good to see that the Union have cut their practice pitch down to the appropriate size as they prepare to face NYCFC again, but the pressure is on if the team wants to win its first playoff game ever and get payback for Sunday’s loss. We’ll have to see whether that pressure will keep them focused as a team or knock them out of the running.

Featured image:  @steph_rex408

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @caitcostello

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

With missing pieces in place, NYCFC defeats Philadelphia Union 3-1 on MLS Decision Day

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, October 28: 3-1 Win

New York City Football Club was finally back home on Sunday, playing with a full, healthy squad taking on Philadelphia Union. Not only was it Fan Appreciation Day but most importantly, MLS Decision Day, which determined the draw for the knockout round.  NYCFC needed a victory to secure a number 3 seed and a first-round home game.

Amid rumors of David Villa’s looming end-of-season retirement and with the possibility of an away first-round playoff game (depending on the result of this game), fans were aching to enjoy every moment of Villa on the home pitch. Our captain did not disappoint with his deep crossing runs, elegant ball movement and, of course, a goal.  Villa played the entire 90 minutes which resulted in a 3-1 NY City victory over the Union. Other goals were scored by Maxime Chanot (NYC), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia own goal) and Cory Burke (Philadelphia).

1T1A2466
David Villa maneuvers past a Union player in the 2nd half. Image: Tisha Gale

The game was not just a result of excellent tactics and effort by Villa but also by the triumphant return of Yangel Herrera in midfield.  Herrera missed most of the season due to an injury.  With Herrera’s calm yet aggressive presence on the field, the team looked tight and complete.  Herrera made the transition from defense to offense look smooth.  Is this what we have been lacking for these past few months?

IMG_4512
Post-match Yangel Herrera. Image: Tisha Gale

One of the most exciting moments of the match was executed by goalkeeper Sean Johnson when he made a flying save on a penalty kick awarded to Philadelphia for a foul called on Johnson himself. Johnson was pumped, the crowd was pumped and the save seemed to put the final nail in the Union’s coffin.

1T1A2787
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson celebrates the victory with fans. Image: Tisha Gale

With the win in hand, NYCFC will next face, yup, Philadelphia Union on Halloween.

With Halloween being a big holiday in the New York and Hudson Valley region, many fans discussed the disappointment in finding out that the playoff game was taking place that night rather than November 1st.  The date was determined by the television networks who do some version of drawing straws and taking picks for game coverage.  It seems that we got tricked while the #4 seeded DC United got all the treats.

Looking forward to the rematch with Philly on Wednesday.  I think Yankee Stadium will be a House of Horrors for the Union with NYCFC getting through to meet (a suddenly beatable?) Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference Series.

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

 

Columbus Crew SC Playoff Bound

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Sunday, October 28: 3-2 Win

The game was about as shaky and unpredictable as the Ohio weather.  Columbus Crew SC took on the Minnesota United FC in the final game of the season in Columbus. 

Before the game, the sun shone down and prepared the teams and fans for a game that determined the Crew’s playoff possibilities. However, nine minutes in, Ohio weather being Ohio weather, decided to change tactics.  Lightning and rain caused a delay–foiling the MLS’ plan that all games end at the same time leaving every teams’ playoff fate unknown until the final minute of all those synchronized games.  Well, as MLS has learned this year, Columbus rarely does it the way they want us to.

After about an hour delay, the game resumed in the blustering wind, rain, and a significant temperature drop.  Crew SC jumped back into the match quickly with a short corner from Federico Higuain to Milton Valenzuela.  Valenzuela sent in a cross, which Gyasi Zardes headed into the goal in the 11’ of the game

In the 41’, a scary scene emerged, as Columbus Crew’s Gaston Sauro in an effort to stop a streaking Angelo Rodriguez, collided with keeper Zack Steffen leaving both Rodriguez and Steffen on the ground for several minutes with Rodriguez being subbed out.  Steffen returned to the match with a collective sigh of relief leaving all Crew fans.

The first half ended with Crew SC up 1-0 and a playoff spot clinched as the Montreal Impact lost to the New England Revolution.   Despite the guaranteed playoff spot, it was important for Crew SC to get the win as they have struggled to get results as of late and need to get into form if they want to go deep into the playoffs and make a run for the MLS Cup.

Gyasi Zardes scored quickly again in the second half slotting a ball in the 49’ after following up a free kick from Higuain that bounced off of Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson, but Minnesota had no desire to make this easy for the Crew.  Francisco Calvo, a Minnesota defender scored in the 68’ unmarked off a free kick, and again in the 77’, as a ball skipped between Harrison Afful’s legs right to Calvo.  Minnesota had evened up the score. 

However, Zardes decided that it was time to score his first career hat trick and scored the final goal of the night in the 83’ off a beautiful ball from Niko Hansen putting the Crew SC in fifth place.

Other thoughts:

I haven’t written a lot of articles this season about Crew SC.  First, I can’t watch away games at home due to some bizarre blackout rule that I have yet to figure out.  Second, my personal life outside of soccer has been a bit more crazy than normal.  And third, this was an emotionally hard season.  Due to the possibility of the Crew’s move to Austin, every game felt more emotionally draining than normal.  It was difficult to want to relive that in recaps and articles. 

However, it looks likely, due to a local ownership group that includes the Edwards and Haslam families, that Crew SC may remain in Columbus with Austin getting its own team.  Now until the final i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, I will not feel completely calm, but it helped me enjoy this game a lot more. 

Zardes scored his first professional hat trick in this game and ended the regular season with 19 goals.  I have a lot of respect for Sigi Schmid, but I’m not sure what he was thinking trying to play Gyasi at leftback last season when Zardes was with the Galaxy.  Gregg Berhalter has a proven system that helps make his forwards successful goal scorers. 

As this was the last regular season home game, it always makes me pause and wonder who we are possibly watching for the last time as a Crew SC player.  Will Steffen and Wil Trapp head to Europe?  Will Berhalter be named the new USMNT head coach?  The answers to these questions, for now, remain unknown but I am very thankful that these men have played a part in Columbus Crew SC history.

Typically, Crew SC is on a hot streak going into the playoffs.   This season, we have not seen this streak.  In fact, it’s been pretty much the opposite.  If Crew SC can’t find their top-level form and make the mistakes they made against Minnesota, their playoff run will be short-lived.

Let’s hope Crew SC bring their A-game against a very tough DC United team this Thursday in the playoff knockout game

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

New York Red Bulls and the Decision Day Drama

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

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Decision Day.

This isn’t a day to just build momentum for the playoffs. Not a time to sit back and prepare for a couple of months off. No one is here to just contemplate his future with his club. The Supporter’s Shield is not absolutely decided yet.

There’s a party to be had. Or one to crash.

Orlando City SC sits in last place for the Eastern Conference. Former Red Bull New York captain Sacha Kljestan is ready to keep his former team from the prize that he once lifted for them.

Just north of the border, Toronto FC hosts Atlanta United. The reigning MLS Cup Champions and current Shield holders have been edged out of the playoffs. With a win by ATL, Atlanta could take both the Shield and the season points record at BMO Field.

Red Bulls rooting for Toronto? Atlanta rooting for Orlando?

This is one strange party.

SUPPORTER’S DAY: From the Fan-designed scarves to the supporter group bubble soccer match at halftime, today was for the fans. They are the reason the Shield is a thing. In other leagues around the world, today would be the final game of the season. They don’t “do” playoffs. And with the Shield within reach, the team was compelled to give it all they had.

NOT SO FAST: Scoreless on both sides in the first half, this wasn’t going to be easy. Toronto FC was nice enough to score two goals, which would do the job. But an actual win would be much more satisfying.

THAT’S THE STUFF: Derrick Etienne, Jr., RBNY’s “Haitian Messi,” who missed a penalty kick in the first half, made a beautiful goal in the 53rd minute. He’s had a rough season, unable to finish the chances he’s had. But he was able to sneak the ball under Orlando goalkeeper Adam Grinwis‘s arm and into the net.

Dom Dwyer found the back of the net ten minutes later, but…… (here we go again…)

ENTER VAR.

The Assistant Referee called Dwyer offside, and VAR confirmed it. So while a scoreline of 1-0 isn’t incredibly sexy, it accomplished the mission. (Oh, and did I mention Toronto ended up winning 4-1? Because yeah they did.)

WHEN IN DOUBT, IMPROVISE: Who doesn’t love a good trophy raise? Only trouble was, the trophy won tonight was out of town. But the team had a banner. They had confetti cannons. They even plasticated the locker room for the champagne showers (plasticate is a word, don’t @ me). So what do they do?

Seriously, though: Congratulations to the New York Red Bulls. The most home points, the most home wins, a league record for points earned, and the third Supporter’s Shield in 6 seasons. A hell of a way to close the season. On to the playoffs!

Featured image: Bill Twomey

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

Montréal Impact keep the Playoff dream alive with win over TFC

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Result: 2-0 Victory vs TFC

It was a matchday like no other. Rivals Toronto FC were visiting Stade Saputo looking to put the final nail in the coffin of Montréal Impact’s playoff hopes. Elsewhere, DC United were officially claiming the fifth of six playoff spots, while Columbus Crew continued a tie game with Orlando SC, a team which boasted the most porous defense in the league.

With TFC eliminated from playoff contention several weeks ago, the match was more about pride than anything, as most had written off the Impact’s playoff hopes, even if mathematically the Bleu-Blanc-Noir still had a chance to make the cut. With Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore sidelined through injury, TFC still brought out a strong lineup, looking to play spoiler to their enemy.

For the home side, left back Daniel Lovitz, whose offensive spark contributed to a goal and five assists on the season, found himself injured and unavailable for selection. Jukka Raitala entered the starting lineup at left back and Rudy Camacho, whose previous performances against nimble opponents like Sebastian Giovinco or Lucho Acosta were nightmarish, returned to central defense.

Regardless of what would happen in the match, the supporter groups 1642 Montréal and Ultras de Montréal were ready to stand behind their team with season finale tifo displays.

With the Impact having firmly established their identity as a counterattacking team, it comes as no surprise that TFC enjoyed the lion’s share of ball possession during long stretches of the first half. Evan Bush was called into action as once again Camacho allowed Giovinco to slip behind him, but the Italian’s one-on-one shot lacked any conviction and Bush smothered the ball. In the 35th minute, the Impact had the ball in the back of the net, but following a VAR consultation, referee Baldomero Toledo ruled the goal offside and the teams retreated to the locker rooms in a deadlock.

Following the break, it was clear that Rémi Garde’s request for more aggressivity from his team was heard loud and clear. Several times the Impact hit TFC on the counter, but both captain Ignacio Piatti and striker Quincy Amarikwa wasted their opportunities, and keeper Alex Bono made a heroic save on a header from Saphir Taïder.

Finally, in the 71st minute, VAR was called into action again. Substitute defender Eriq Zavaleta, who has long struggled when facing Piatti, was found to have pulled on the Argentinean’s jersey inside the TFC box, and this time VAR ruled in the home team’s favour. “Nacho” stepped up to the spot and calmly converted the shot.

In the 88th minute, the Impact sealed a 14th victory of the season when Piatti beat a defender and the goalkeeper to casually slot the ball into an empty net, marking his 16th goal of the season. Unbeknownst to the team, results elsewhere allowed the Impact to remain in the playoff race, with Orlando claiming their first win in over a dozen matches in the last seconds to leave Columbus only 2 points above the Impact and that vital red line.

With the last home game of the season in the books, it was only fitting that coach Garde, whose adaptation to the team and the league was painful but has now blossomed into something beautiful, rang the North Star Bell to celebrate the victory.

Since the playoffs are still in reach, the Impact must travel to New England Revolution and claim a Decision Day victory, while hoping Columbus lose or draw in their match versus Minnesota United. No matter how the 2018 campaign ends, to still be in the playoff discussion after such a dismal start speaks volumes to how the team has flourished over the course of the season and fans are waiting for that do-or-die match with baited breath.

Featured image: Montréal Impact

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

The Hunt for a Home Playoff Match Continues

Cait Costello - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Cait Costello // @caitcostello

Fresh off an international break that saw both Andre Blake and Borek Dockal serving as captains for their respective national teams, the Philadelphia Union faced off against the New York Red Bulls for their home season finale.

The Union’s defense thwarted Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls’ offense, holding them scoreless until the 69th minute. A hand ball in the box by Alejandro Bedoya and a lengthy VAR review resulting in a penalty kick gave Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra all the opportunity he needed to get one goal up on the Union. Though the Union took more shots throughout the game, they weren’t able to turn any of their chances into a goal, and the match ended in a 1-0 win for the Red Bulls.

The Good

Homegrown hot shots Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty yet again proved themselves as valuable members of the Union’s defense. At only 19 and 20, Philly may not have much time left with these two, but it will be exciting to watch them grow in their careers.
The Union held up well against the No. 2 team in the league, leading both in shots and possession. Before the penalty kick, a 0-0 finish and 1 point felt like a real possibility.

The Bad

Bedoya’s hand ball dashed the Union’s hopes for a draw, but an earlier tangle with Fafa Picault in the 40th minute cost them a chance at a goal when Bedoya inadvertently blocked Fafa’s shot.

It was a rough game all around, with both teams each netting 13 fouls. Three of the match’s five yellow cards went to the Union—CJ Sapong (37’), Auston Trusty (47’), and Picault (66’).

The Ugly

The tension on the pitch only increased when a scuffle broke out just as the first half ended. Luckily for all the players, the shoving didn’t result in any further penalties or cards, and the teams headed into the locker rooms to cool off.

After the match, Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin took some time out of their post-game remarks to take the Union front office to task for Sunday’s field conditions, with Medunjanin going so far as to say he’d prefer an away playoff berth unless the situation improves.

Longtime Union fans know that this is a team that does better while playing consistently, and they tend to come back from a bye week or international break below peak form.

This Sunday, the Union face off with NYCFC in Yankee Stadium for their last chance to secure a home playoff game, and they’ll be doing it with DC United breathing down their necks. Let’s hope they can get back into their groove this week.

Featured image: Ardell McDuffie

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @caitcostello

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x