Category Archives: New York City FC

New York City FC

#NYCFCInk: These colors don’t run – featuring Jay Jimenez

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

Each tattoo exemplifies an artistic narrative so powerful it is capable of shaping a person’s identity. The temporary pain and permanent markings show the wearers commitment to a specific interest. Tattoos are the only accessories a person always has with them. They are a symbol of our attachment to our inner selves, but they also provide a shared connection to the people and things around us.

The story behind a tattoo can sometimes serve as a great unifier among various groups of people. The ink and the meaning they hold can also be great icebreakers and conversation starters.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Jay at Yankee Stadium. Image: @TishaGale

For Jay Jimenez, tattoos represent a connection to family. His most recent tattoo, the New York City FC monogram, which he had done the same day as the UEFA Champions League final in May of this year, signifies his connection to his NYCFC family.

“I wanted another tattoo and I felt really connected to NYCFC, but mostly the bond with the other fans.” –Jay Jimenez (@dotdawriter)

His only other tattoo features five rectangles in a row, which symbolizes the bond he shares with his four siblings.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Tattoo up close. Image: @TishaGale

Jay sits in section 235 at Yankee Stadium with his NYC 12 family and fellow supporters. He has been a supporter since the club’s formation.

His favorite NYCFC memory comes compliments of the club’s home game against Chicago on July 22, 2017.  On this particular game day, it seemed like everything was going against City. Things started going downhill in the 12th min of play when Yangel Herrera picked up a red card. Chicago then proceeded to hold 66% ball possession throughout the match.

It was a tough game, “but somewhere in the supporter’s section, ‘Come on New York’ started and I swear the entire stadium was singing it. It gave me chills. It felt like we willed the team to win. I’ve never felt so close to something in my life.” –Jay Jimenez (@dotdawriter)

With the true New York grit that we’ve all come to love and admire, and a stadium of supporters bellowing out the battle cry, City managed to pull off a 2-1 win over the Fire.

Jay’s second fondest memory is meeting Jack Harrison’s mom for the second time. His first encounter with Debbie Harrison was at the MLS SuperDraft in 2016, when NYCFC acquired the first overall pick, Jack Harrison, via a trade with the Chicago Fire. Meeting the mother of your favorite team’s new signee is cool, but running into her a few months after at Yankee Stadium, and realizing that she genuinely remembered your first meeting is something extra special. The Harrison’s are undeniably missed in New York.

New York City FC faces off against Chicago again in their next home match on Wednesday, September 26nd, at 7pm.

Aside from cheering on his favorite team, Jay enjoys playing FIFA—although he admits, “I’ve recently been humbled by a friend so I’ve taken a break.”

When Jay’s not focused on all things soccer related, he works as a hotel manager.

Featured image of Jay and friends: Juan Carlos Rubiano @OhCitySaidI

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

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Joy and Pain. In cold NYC rain.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, Sept 8: 1-1 Draw

Sometimes you need fresh eyes to appreciate what you have.  Jess Houwen the MLSFemale reporter for Colorado Rapids arrived in New York City on Saturday and breathed some much needed fresh air into my outlook regarding the New York City Football Club experience. My big takeaway is that sometimes you don’t need to veer too far off your regular path to see things a different way.

After meeting up with Jess and my NYCFC sister Tisha Gale outside Penn Station, we hoofed it to Times Square. Yes, the place that most New Yorkers avoid at all costs mostly due to the slow-moving tourists and scary faux Hello Kitties accosting you for a photo. We had a few hours to spare before the NYCFC game against DC United up in the Bronx.

We popped into the M & M store on Jess’s promise of to-die-for coffee flavored candies. Sadly, they ran out of the coffee M&Ms but the caramel and the mint crunch ones are pretty damn good.  If I’m being honest, the walls covered in giant tubes of brightly colored candies were a sight to behold.  A place I normally zoom past without thought, I can now appreciate.

Another highlight of our pre-gaming tour was Tisha spontaneously juggling a soccer ball in the Adidas store to the amusement of fellow shoppers.

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Onward and upward we headed to the stadium on the 4 train.  Jess, embracing her inner New Yorker, purchased her first NYCFC scarf and became an NYCFC fan for the day (or maybe longer?).  I was excited to catch my first glimpse of Wayne Rooney and see how he and David Villa would match up this time. Of course, I went in low-key nervous as NYC was missing more than a handful of players due to injuries and international call ups and DC has been recently invigorated by the arrival of Rooney.

In the first half, we sat in my seats which are behind the goal, opposite the supporters’ section and we saw strong indications of deep respect and friendliness between Villa and Rooney.  On one occasion where the referee Kevin Stott was considering calling an offensive foul on Villa who was actually taken down by a DC player, it appeared that Rooney was intervening on Villa’s behalf.

Still scoreless going into the second half, we switched it up and watched from the supporters’ section, which is Tisha’s view of the game.  180 degrees from where I normally spectate and a world away, I got completely sucked up in the drums, the chants, the excitement and the frustration.

While we were in the bleachers, City was scored on by DC’s Steve Birnbaum in the 58th minute via a gorgeous free kick service by Rooney.   Then at the 86th minute, Villa leveled the score on his world-class shot, also from a free kick.  Pain and then joy experienced from another angle and with a different crowd.

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The match ended in a 1-1 draw and while fans in the supporters’ section more openly and creatively expressed both frustration with the poor shot accuracy and simultaneous relief at grabbing a point, those same emotions were felt by most NYCFC fans regardless of the seating area. From both of my vantage points, it genuinely looked like both Rooney and Villa enjoyed themselves.  Also from all angles, it was evident how solidly and intelligently James Sands plays in midfield, which is a big deal for the growth and development of the team and club.

It’s worth mentioning that DC United scored on one of two total shots while NYCFC’s finishing continued to seem cursed with only one goal out of  31 total shots.  This is on the heels of NYC’s loss to New England Revolution this week despite outshooting them 27 to 11.

City’s next match is away at Montréal, which I will be attending, on Saturday 9/22.  What we are clearly lacking right now is finishing ability.  We aren’t that far from our early-season dangerous attacking form.  Let’s hope that those players returning will bring a fresh perspective to get the team completely back to fighting form.

Featured image of Jess: Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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A Message to the NYCFC Players

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

With the tough MLS scheduling, a slew of injuries and now international call-ups, we know that our pineapple isn’t looking very pretty. However, greatness is written on the backbone of those who can rise above adversity.

Tomorrow, we want you all to go out and play with tenacity, the same kind of grit you showed us against the New York Red Bulls on August 22nd. We—the fans—need to see the same indomitable spirit you so proudly displayed on that Wednesday night in the Bronx. It is in these moments when our true colors are revealed. Like Terry Bradshaw once said, “When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.”

Tomorrow—our game against the reinvigorated D.C. United—is our challenge. We must remind ourselves of who we are and what we’re capable of achieving. We must show the opposing teams that they still have a lot to fear going into the playoffs. This is New York’s team and New Yorkers never back down from a challenge.

Tomorrow, the fans will be there in full force. The drummers will drum as if they’ve never drummed before. The capos will bellow out chants that will echo throughout Yankee Stadium. We will bring the noise, all we ask is that you bring the grit, and let us have ourselves a good ole New York style party in the Bronx.

Blood, sweat, and tears—leave it all on the field!

#ForTheCity

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

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NYCFC’s season resembling a slowly deflating balloon

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Wednesday, Sept 5: 0-1 Loss

The bright shiny balloon that was the New York City Football Club‘s season is slowly deflating and losing its luster. After this recent loss to the New England Revolution 1-0, it’s hard now to consider early season fan-think that our team is the best in the league and deserves to win “silverware”.

In this match NYCFC took 27 shots, of which 6 were on target, 12 were off target and 9 were blocked.  All of this shooting resulted in zero goals.  New England were able to score one goal off 11 total shots.  Unbeaten at home until tonight, fans are left scratching their heads as to what the core problems are and how they can be addressed to possibly salvage this season.

Yes, more shots were taken in this game than last but they either went wide or directly at goalkeeper Brad Knighton. David Villa seemed to constantly be taking extraneous touches which lead to him being shut down when a one-touch shot would have sufficed.

It’s clear we worked the left wing pretty well to get the ball down to New England’s third but the repeated high crosses from that side were quickly destroyed by the high number of Revolution defenders concentrated in the middle.  It looked like a similar tactic to the one DC United successfully executed in shutting down Josef Martinez in their victory last week over Atlanta FC.

Thus, I am very nervous about our prognosis for this Saturday’s game against the newly invigorated DC. The only silver lining is that our homegrown teen James Sands made his starting debut in midfield and played very well for 75 minutes. Coach Dome Torrent was pleased with his performance and now that he’s back from his short loan to Louisville perhaps we will see more of him on a more regular basis.

Until Saturday. Let’s hope the balloon still has some air left in it.

*Final thought– A noticeable factor for both teams was the embarrassing status of the baseball infield layover of grass. It became an area that both teams had to actively avoid as players appeared to be walking on ice. It seemed impossible to pivot on without one or two players falling in the process.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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Mixed emotions as NYCFC fall to Columbus Crew 2-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, Sept 1: 2-1 Loss

On Saturday, I bore witness to two poorly played soccer matches. The first was the local high school’s varsity team’s first game of the season, played by a team where most teenagers only touch a soccer ball during the 8 week season and the other was New York City Football Club versus Columbus Crew.  In case you were living in a hole, the final score for the latter was 2-1 Columbus Crew.  (And if you’re really curious, the high school team lost 5-1.)  I can’t say that these matches were that dissimilar from each other. The high school team faced one of the best in the league and will get better as the season goes on, but can we say this about NYCFC?

Consistent manpower continues to be an issue for New York City with players injured, out for international call-ups, red cards and yellow card accumulations. I have no doubt that rotating players and lineups messes with chemistry but we played last week with 9 players and moved quicker and faster with more desire than we did with 11 in this one.

Looking at some statistics about the number of lineup changes and its effects on game outcome over the past three seasons in MLS, Dustin Nation (@D_Naish) of American Soccer Analysis (@AnalysisEvolved) correlated the number of lineup changes with the three outcomes: win, loss or draw.  He found that more than 2 roster changes per game generally lead a team to be less likely to win.

I would be very interested in a further study of this data going back 10 years to include a few World Cup years to see if these events are independent variables. My gut says that there is definitely a connection between a “forced hand” (injuries/red cards/international call-ups) reason for changing lineups and strategically changing lineups to improve performance.  Hopefully, this is something that I can research further.

I started writing this match reflection with one part frustration, a half part exasperation and a pinch of collective woe-is-me self-pity.  I mean we wasted a huge rare opportunity to gain points in a week where both the NY Red Bulls and Atlanta FC also lost.  I was thinking about the supporters who take days off work, pack into small cars and travel many hours to give our team a rousing base of support.  I feel for them and the optimistic energy they bring every single game and why does this not translate into wins or at least into performances that we can be proud of?

And then I learned of the passing of a passionate NYCFC founding supporter and saw the immediate response across all parts of the club’s universe to help her family during an extremely difficult time. From the initial communication from New York City Supporters’ Club and setting up of a GoFundMe to which our club president was one of the first contributors, to Blue City Radio donating and raffling off match tickets, the response was swift and full of fierce loyalty to her. As reporter and podcaster Nick Chavez stated in a tweet, “Let us, as the family we are, help look after the needs of the family our beloved Tirzah left behind.” My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Tirza Gonzalez.

As a female soccer fan, it can sometimes be a lonely place in the US. I have very few local friends who follow the sport at all, let alone MLS.  I used to think of fans of the sport as members of my species and then those who support NYCFC as my tribe. I’m seeing more clearly that this connection we have to our team and each other is family.

#SaveTheCrew

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All images: @TishaGale

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#NYCFCInk: These colors don’t run – featuring Colin Harte

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
NYCFC Official Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The tradition of permanently decorating one’s body, whether through simple or elaborate designs, can be traced back through the history of human existence. For the longest while, it was believed that tattooing originated with the Egyptians around 2000 B.C. However, a more recent discovery has proven the invalidity of this belief. Through carbon dating of a corpse with distinctive markings, which was accidentally found in 1991 by two hikers, the current consensus is that human tattooing can be dated back as far as 5,200 years ago (Lineberry, 2007).

Tattooing is an art form that has lived on through time for several millenniums. Today, people from all different walks of life continue to permanently adorn their bodies with unique markings and designs, which are meant to express their personal preferences and individual interests.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale
Image of Colin Harte: @TishaGale

For Colin Harte, tattoos are important because of the stories they tell and the memories they hold. His first tattoo, a clover with the New York Giants symbol in the middle, holds a special place in his heart—“it is a family thing.” (@colinmouth) His family has had season tickets for the Giants since the ‘30s when his grandfather worked for the team. If there is one thing Colin’s family knows how to do, it’s proudly support their favorite teams.

Along with the Giants, Colin’s other teams are the Tottenham Hotspur and New York City F.C (NYCFC), the latter of which he is a founding member.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale
Image: @TishaGale

Colin’s left arm boasts a beautiful display of a few of his favorite things. A colorful guitar accentuates a combination piece featuring the aforementioned soccer teams, which he had done in November of 2016. Together, these tattoos make up the beginnings of a beautiful sleeve.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale
Image of Colin’s arms: @TishaGale

“I have been a fan [of NYCFC] since the moment I heard that the club would exist. My girlfriend and I, as well as another great friend of mine, have tickets in section 233A at Yankee Stadium and we are normally the loudest and most delightfully obnoxious supporters there. We can’t help but be passionate for better or worse.” – Colin Harte 

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale
Colin with girlfriend, Stefanie and friend, Sean at an NYCFC game. Image: @colinmouth

When asked what his fondest NYCFC memory is, Colin couldn’t just choose one.

“First has to be the Thursday night match in the first season where the legend of Poku really took off. Poku sealed the win that night against D.C United with a goal in the 88’ min after already bagging an assist to Tommy Mac.”

Colin’s second fondest memory, “Travelling with the away supporters to Philly last year and witnessing King Villa’s 50-yard bomb into the back of the goal.”

On our stroll through Central Park, Colin beamed with pride as he talked about his favorite teams and what it means to be a supporter. His hope is to instill the same loyalty towards a sports team that his family instilled in him. As his grandfather did with the Giants, Colin’s goal is to pass on his NYCFC season tickets to future generations of Hartes. Traditions are clearly very important to Colin. His tattoos serve as a reminder of those values of loyalty and tradition that are so greatly treasured.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale
“And my heart stays in the lead”. Image: @TishaGale

When Colin isn’t obsessing over his favorite sports teams, he spends his time playing the bass guitar in four different bands.

Reference:

NYCFC x Skull sticker designed by Stefanie Suppa @stefsuppa

Lineberry, C. (2007, January 1). Tattoos. The Ancient and Mysterious History. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tattoos-144038580/ 

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

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The one where we refuse to cry “Unkel!”(NYCFC tie RBNY 1-1)

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Going into Wednesday’s game against regional rival New York Red Bulls, New York City Football Club had a few challenges: Namely 5 injured players and one red card suspension. NYCFC coach Domènec Torrent chose to utilize a 3-4-3 starting formation clearly to work around the absence of injured defender Alex Callens.

The real highlights of this drag down, dirty, chippy fight, also known as the Hudson River Derby, happen to be the reactions by NYC to the obstacles thrown at them in facing the Red Bulls this go-round. In many ways this felt like we were spectating a live action video game, one where the difficulty level for NYCFC was slowly cranked up to the “un-winnable” level:

  • Level 1- RBNY forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scores a goal in the 36th minute putting NYC down a goal.
  • Level 2- In the 39th minute midfielder Eloi Amagat, in his debut game for NYCFC, gets ejected on a straight red card for a “serious foul”. No cards had been shown to anyone prior to this.  City was now playing down a player.
  • Level 3- Goal scoring machine Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is subbed out in the second half bringing in Jo Inge Berget to replace him.  Was this tactical or is Isi hurt again?
  • Level 4- In the 51st minute, David Villa gave the fans another taste of his brilliance with a volley shot on a header pass by Berget which flew under the grasp of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.  Level cleared! Game tied 1-1 but Berget is subbed off 10 minutes later presumably due to an injury.
  • Level 5a- Warning: Nobody has ever gotten past this level Around the 70th minute on a breakaway foot race between Wright-Phillips and Ebenezer Ofori, the Red Bull went down on contact and refused to get up, despite lack of a call and the continued play.  When medics came on to the field to tend to him (and seemed to stay on the field, despite the teams setting up for the re-start), it was clear that Wright-Phillips was not going off the field despite no card being shown.  Fans and players were yelling for him and his medic to leave the field.  It appeared that this angered referee Ted Unkel, who then had a sudden change of heart and sent the play to VAR to be analyzed (by the universally scorned Mark Geiger).  This resulted in Ofori being issued a red card for “stomping” on Wright-Phillips’ leg.  I challenge anyone watching the replay to come to this conclusion.  It’s very hard to stomp a moving object when your eyes are focused elsewhere and you are also losing your footing.  NYCFC was now down 2 players with at least 20 minutes to go, including injury time.
  •  Level 5b- aka Adding Insult to Injury – As Ofori leaves the field, Villa expresses his displeasure with the call and is issued a yellow card.  Somehow Kemar Lawrence goes toward Villa, which Anton Tinnerholm intercepts and gets struck in the neck by Lawrence, who stunningly only receives a yellow card.
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First-row action. Image: Keira Smith

With the game seemingly out of control and all sense of right, wrong, justice and fairness eliminated,  all fans could do was stand, scream and cheer our hearts out in support of our team.  They had to know that we were with them while they played the terrible hand they were dealt.  Every play destroyed by a City defender and every attacking sequence was met by deafening roars from the crowd.  We were going to will the players to survive this battle.

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New York is Blue. Image: Keira Smith

They say a lot of things about what you learn about yourself and your supporters when you’re up against the ropes, facing your greatest challenges.  NYCFC dug deep and boy, did that tie feel like a win.

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Felt like a win. Image: Keira Smith

Images by Keira Smith

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#NYCFCInk: These colors don’t run – featuring Eduardo “Lalo” Ortega

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

For centuries, the practice of tattooing has been prevalent within many different societies. In some cultures, tattooing was a ritualistic rite of passage and in other cultures, it was purely about tradition. Today, tattooing has become more about self-expression. It is an art form that has had to overcome the stigma of being considered taboo.

Tattoos come in a plethora of designs and their significance and meanings are uniquely subjective.  For Eduardo “Lalo” Ortega, tattoos are about love and passion. Lalo is an immigrant from Mexico who moved to New York when he was just a baby. For him, getting a tattoo was a chance to combine his love for New York with his passionate support for his favorite MLS team, New York City FC.

“I got my tattoo right before the start of NYCFC’s second season. New York is the greatest city in the world and I wanted to do something more creative than the club logo. I wanted to celebrate both the city and the club.” -Eduardo “Lalo” Ortega (@E_Ortega18 on Twitter)

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Yankee Stadium. Image: @TishaGale

Lalo has been a New York City FC fan since the very beginning. You can always find him at Yankee Stadium in section 237, or on the road with fellow travelling supporters. He is the current president of the Westchester Chapter of The Third Rail Supporters Group. (@ThirdRailSC on Twitter) When he’s not taking part in NYCFC related activities, he spends his time in the kitchen as a chef.

When asked what his fondest NYCFC memory is, Lalo paused for a pensive moment before he responded.

“Honestly, I can’t just pick one. It has been one crazy ride since year one. The people I’ve met and become friends with have been one of the greatest parts of it.”

With the New York Derby around the corner, Lalo is here to remind us all that his tattoo—like his love for New York City FC, is everlasting. He proudly pumps his fist in the air and flexes his arm to show off the tattoo etched on his inner biceps.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Lalo. Image: @TishaGale

Featured image of Lalo: @TishaGale

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NYCFC goes down 0-2 to Philadelphia Union

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was a day of magical thinking. After a week of constant pouring rain in New York and days of player exit news and rumors, it was supposed to be a big day for New York City Football Club to get an important road win. City had an almost completely healthy team going in against Philadelphia Union and we had a ridiculously large and loud group of traveling supporters there to chant the team to victory.

At the same time, Twitterverse was awash with unsubstantiated but not shocking rumors of David Villa’s contract not being renewed for 2019 as well as Jesus Medina being pursued by OGC Nice and former manager Patrick Vieira for 6.5 million euros. This was on top of recent club announcements of the loan of our first homegrown players James Sands to Louisville City FC, the loan of defender Saad Abdul-Salaam to Phoenix Rising and the upcoming exit of Gio Reyna to Borussia Dortmund.

It was time to exhale, right? We had virtually our whole squad available to face the Union. Praise be, goalkeeper Sean Johnson was back from a shoulder injury. We were going to win the MLS Cup and it has to be this year with our first player, David Villa.

And yet we remained holding our breath after a tight first half with plenty of opportunities for both teams with a halftime score of 0-0. We could definitely let out a nice cleansing breath after the second half. That’s when we always see adjustments and get the mojo going.

Alas, the second half was a nightmare of bad passes, amateurish turnovers, sluggish defending and unimaginative offensive runs. It felt like a night of insomnia where your brain keeps churning out repeated cycles of irrational thoughts that make complete sense at 2 am but with reflection the next morning leaves you scratching your head and wondering why you didn’t get up and read a book to change the thought pattern.

In the blink of an eye, we were down by two goals, Jesus Medina and Alex Callens were out with injuries and Ronald Matarrita gets thrown out on a red card.

An injured Jesus Medina gets tended to. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

I know that I need to do some deep breathing, listen to a “sleep story” or two on my phone’s Calm app and just let everything go. Coming home from a vacation in one of the most relaxed places on earth to collecting your bags in JFK is a shock to the senses. New York City is an incredible place with literally a hundred languages spoken, countless world class restaurants, some of the hardest working people living in a completely horrible climate for most of the year. We truly live in a 24-hour city.

Maybe because of this, New Yorkers at times can have short fuses, are impatient and have ridiculously high standards, particularly with regards to our sports teams. NYCFC players must feel that constantly from both fans and the club’s owners.

I finally let the air out slowly and feel better calling the game a hot mess and allowing the team the courtesy of their humanness. I have reason to believe that they will learn more from this failure than we, as fans, can pretend to know.

And we will need all that wisdom, NYC grit, perseverance, energy and high standards if we are to defeat the NY Red Bulls at home on Wednesday.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

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All-Stars and MLS: From the sidelines

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The MLS All-Star Game is the third biggest, yet most controversial event in Major League Soccer’s arsenal of annual festivities.  In the grand scheme of things, a midseason friendly, no matter the opponent, has very little to no clout and offers more risks than reward. However, this is America, and an All-Star exhibition game is about as American as you can get.

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Juventus player, Alex Sandro toe-pokes the ball away from MLS All-Star, Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy). Image: Tisha Gale

This year, the midseason clash between the MLS All-Stars and the Italian bigwigs, Juventus, led us to a showdown in rainy Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. In the weeks leading up to the match, the topic on everyone’s minds was the overall significance of the All-Star Game. I asked a few friends and colleagues to weigh-in with their opinions of the All-Star Game and here’s what they had to say:

“I’m of two minds when it comes to the MLS All-Star Game. On one hand, pitting our best players against a well-known European powerhouse draws more fans to our league, and ideally shows that we’re progressing in ability and quality with how we acquit ourselves in the friendly. The continued growth in fandom and support make MLS more viable as a major sport with key younger demographic groups. If you’re a fan of the league, you really have to appreciate that.”

“On the other hand, it’s a meaningless friendly in the middle of the season, where the players selected have little time to prepare and gel as a squad, making the possibility of a cohesive, well-drilled game plan difficult to realize and execute. There’s very little upside for selected players and greater risk of injury, especially when the game is played on turf. The game is held midweek during a brutal part of the schedule which doesn’t incentivize participation (so much so that a rule was created to punish those who skip it, even due to injury).”

“If I had a vote, I’d push for . . . a return to East vs. West [format] and make the outcome meaningful (e.g. home field advantage in MLS Cup Finals, or decide which leg to host in MLS Cup playoffs).”  Dave K. (@kilsey on Twitter)

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLS All-Star captain, Carlos Vela, wins a 50/50 battle with Juventus star, Emre Can. Image: Tisha Gale

The last time Major League Soccer hosted an East vs West All-Star showdown was at the 2004 game in which the East defeated the West in a 3-2 match at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. In fact, there have been six “East vs West” All-Star games to date, with the East holding an impressive 4-1-1 record. As a proud supporter of one of the best teams in the East, New York City FC, I would be happy to see the return of East vs West format.

My MLSFemale colleague, Keira, echoed Dave’s opinions. However, her biggest complaint has not to do with the game itself, but with one of the rules surrounding it.

“A change must happen to the rules regarding missing the All-Star Game (ASG) for a documented injury. If you miss at least two games prior to the ASG due to injury, you should not be suspended from the next regular season game due to missing the ASG. It’s a punishment to players and their teams. The ASG should be a celebration of excellence in MLS, not a burden.” –Keira M.S. (@keiramunsmith on Twitter)

This ASG rule sparked some outrage in New York when it was announced that David Villa would have to miss the NYCYC’s regular season match versus Vancouver Whitecaps because he had to bow out of the All-Star game. Villa was coming off a six-game injury spell.

There is clearly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the way the ASG is executed. While some people think a little restructuring would do the trick, others believe that a completely new blueprint might be the best option.

“I mean, All-Star games really are an American thing overall. The idea of this one kinda comes from MLB’s mid-summer classic . . . Personally, I think trying to Americanize soccer hurts it here; from scheduling to roster limits . . . What they should do is create an American Super Cup that pits the MLS Cup winners and the Open Cup winners together to start the season. Like the rest of the world does with their league winners and domestic Cup winners.” –Jeff W. (@J_Weisinger on Twitter)

For the players selected to represent MLS, the All-Star Game is the ultimate pick-up game. It is a chance for them to get together with their friends across the league, to set rivalries aside and enjoy a night of the beautiful game.

When Dudes in Blue co-host, Anthony Scarcello, asked Alex Ring what it was like to attend his first All-Star game, the New York City FC midfielder stated, “I think it was a nice couple of days seeing the guys from the other teams in the league. Playing a little bit, having some fun.” All in all, the game provides “a good opportunity to enjoy yourself a little midweek.”

#tishaalexring
Alex Ring, the only player to represent New York City FC at the 2018 All-Star Game, after Villa’s injury ruled him out of the lineup. Image: Tisha Gale

With the debate seeming to end in a stalemate, at least until things undoubtedly heat up again next year, on what side of the coin do you land?  Should the powers that be package the MLS ASG in maple and drape it in the stars and stripes, or will a simple restructuring make it a more appealing event for players and fans alike?

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Sami Khedira aerial challenge. Image: Tisha Gale

As for me, this was my first year attending an MLS All-Star game, and I was fortunate enough to do so while representing MLSFemale. The All-Stars also presented a unique opportunity for me to network with other fans, photographers, reporters and podcasters from across the league, including a few of my MLSFemale colleagues.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Cooligans Crew: Robyn (ATL), Jess (COL), Eve (IMFC), Aya (ATL), Tisha (NYCFC) 🙂

ATL All-Star 18 - Tisha - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Pointless or not, the atmosphere inside the stadium was electrifying; all my senses were heightened. The thrill of flashing my “Photographer” media credentials to security as I roamed the belly of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was enough to give me the best heart palpitations. By the time the game started, I was already on cloud 9. The photographer sitting next to me who kept quietly chanting, “This is boring,” could do nothing to lull me out of my perpetual state of bliss, and neither could the star whose bulb blew at the absolute wrong time.

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale

Tisha Gale - MLS All-Star/mlsfemale
Image: Tisha Gale

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

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