Category Archives: New York City FC

New York City FC

Winning While Waterlogged

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Saturday, June 17: 2-1 Win

This game should not have been played.

It’s great that it was, considering NYCFC came away with three crucial points to propel them to third place in the Eastern Conference and overall, but at the end of the day it really should not have continued past half-time. It poured buckets on Yankee Stadium, and the pitch more resembled a small lake than anything else. Players were kicking up waves of water when they went for the ball, which often skidded to a stop long before it reached its destination. At one point is was said that the match would be suspended if the ball stopped moving entirely.

Which… happened. And yet the match continued! Whatever, I guess. Let the water ballet commence.

Both teams had difficulty acclimating to the conditions, which made for a match that was somehow both extremely sloppy and woefully boring to watch. Aside from the slow-motion loping across the pitch that led to Cristian Roldan‘s goal, very little in the first half stood out. NYCFC’s best (read: least awful) chance came during stoppage time, when David Villa pinged the ball off the crossbar.

There was some concern bubbling up that it would be another one of Those Matches for NYCFC, coming hot off the heels of the U.S. Open Cup loss to the New York Red Bulls. Missed chances, deflections off the post, and bad luck compounding on top of awful weather. Nobody wanted to see that again. We came to be entertained.

Villa heard the call, come on New York, and he responded in kind.

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Image of David Villa courtesy: @NYCFC

Debate all you want about NYCFC’s equalizer, which came off a penalty call early on in the second half. Contention over referee decisions is the most boring part of football to me. The only hill I’ll die on is that Villa wasn’t diving — in fact, he clearly gets up and keeps going for the ball after he gets knocked down. Which, you know. Kind of defeats the purpose of a dive. He’s grown a lot since he was going for Olympic gold in diving back at FC Barcelona, guys. He isn’t that guy anymore. (Thank god. I hated that guy.)

But nobody can deny the majesty that was Villa’s second goal of the night. Jack Harrison was at his Jack Harrisonest, coolly fighting off Seattle Sounders FC defenders to create space where no space previously existed, and when he sent the ball across the face of the goal, an entirely unmarked Villa was there to chip it in.

I find it funny that teams don’t mark Villa every second of every game. He’s the greatest DP in the history of the league, guys. If you don’t want to mark him, that’s fine, more goals for us — but it makes you look pretty foolish when he’s consistently wide open.

Regardless, that sealed the deal for NYCFC. Ugo attempted to net a third toward the end of the match, but after a great save from Stefan Frei, the ball ping-ponged about in the box to no result. Chad Marshall had Seattle’s best attempt at a final equalizer in the very last seconds of the game, but it wasn’t meant to be. After Villa’s second goal, the clouds broke over Yankee Stadium and the sun shone down on the boys in blue, weak but insistent. A sign, surely, that things were meant to go their way.

A few bits and bobs, while I have your attention:

  • David Villa now has over fifty goals for NYCFC, and you can watch them all here. Can you pick a favorite? I can’t. Every little thing he does is magic. (Also a cool stat: He’s never gone longer than a playable month without scoring since NYCFC began. What a guy.)
  • I’ve seen conflicting reports on the length of Alex Ring‘s contract with NYCFC, but whether it’s one year or two years, here’s my suggestion: Extend it for five more and keep him forever and never ever let him leave. Despite Villa’s brace, Ring was my Man of the Match against Seattle. I don’t even know how many duels he won. At some point it feels futile to keep count.
  • Alexander Callens is currently my favorite NYCFC player on social media. Why? That boy loves Dragon Ball Z. He loves it. And now he’s graduated from snapping himself drawing watching DBZ episodes and drawing DBZ characters to posting DBZ fanart of himself. I’m so endeared, it’s absurd.
  • (Disclaimer about how you could not pay me enough to care an iota about either of the US NTs goes here, and how writing about MLS does nothing to change that.) T-Mac and Sean Johnson have been named for the Gold Cup provisional squad! Who knows if they will make the final cut or not. It’s an honor just to be nominated.
  • A bit preemptive, but in July I’ll be guesting on the hilarious Blue Balls podcast! Gaby Kirschner guested on their most recent episode and it’s my favorite so far. If you’re a NYCFC fan, please give them a listen!

Next week is the Hudson River Derby (again?) at Red Bull Arena (again??) and… yours truly will be MIA due to moving house. But fear not! We do have Sylvana over in the NYRB section, who I’m sure will do a bang-up job writing about the match no matter what color New York ends up being next weekend.

It’s blue, though. It’s always blue.

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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U.S. Oh, Who Cares?

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, June 14: 1-0 Loss

Honesty is my only policy, so let me start this as honestly as possible: I just don’t care about the U.S. Open Cup.

Is that a side effect of New York City FC never making it past the first game? Probably. But even if they did manage to make the third time the charm and pull through, I can all but entirely guarantee I still wouldn’t care. Cups don’t have to feel like afterthoughts to leagues — the Coppa Italia sure isn’t — but this one absolutely does. It isn’t enthralling, it isn’t interesting, and if clubs themselves don’t care, why should I?

But here we are. And to their credit, NYCFC did care this time. Patrick Vieira put out a full-force starting eleven, and the New York Red Bulls responded in kind. Looking at the lineups, you could easily mistake it for a derby in the league. (By the way, that’s in a week and a half.) So that’s nice! Great to see both teams taking the Cup seriously!

That’s about where the great things end.

The boys in blue found themselves victims of utterly terrible luck. Early on in the first half, David Villa delivered an inch-perfect pass that landed gracefully at the feet of an unmarked Tommy McNamara. T-Mac wound up, T-Mac kicked, T-Mac somehow managed to ping the ball off the crossbar, then the ground, then the crossbar again, then the ground again. A perfect vertical arc that kept the ball squarely out of the net.

From that point on, it was fated to be that kind of game. As the first half was dying down, Villa’s otherwise brilliant shot on goal deflected off the post and went straight into Ryan Meara‘s arms. At the other end of the pitch, the Red Bulls did their fair share of testing NYCFC as well. Sean Johnson made several stunning saves, and all told, it was a strong showing from both sides over those first forty-five minutes.

Then Maxi Moralez went down with an injury before the break, and things rapidly fell apart.

There’s not much that can be said about the second half. With John Stertzer coming in to replace Maxi (and only lasting twenty weak minutes before getting subbed off himself) the midfield couldn’t connect, and NYCFC were pinned back in their own half more often than not. It was only a matter of time before the Red Bulls beat them back, and god, did they ever.

In typical gutsy fashion, Johnson came off his line to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips, leaving an open goal that Daniel Royer capitalized on. Though we could all feel a Red Bulls goal coming, I wish it hadn’t been that kind of goal. It was embarrassing to be caught with an empty net, and what little FrĂ©dĂ©ric Brillant did to try to defend the line in Johnson’s stead was… well, too little by far.

Losing to the Red Bulls is familiar in the worst way. But, you know… It’s the Open Cup. Who cares?

Get it together for the derby, boys. Hit them where it really counts.

I can spare you a random thought or two:

  • Maxime Chanot picked up a hamstring injury during the international break, and I don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say I want to burn down our back line without him. Too much? I don’t care. Bring back Mad Maxime!
  • Obvious observation is obvious, but Stertzer’s substitution was useless and wasted a potentially valuable slot that could have been used to bring in Jon Lewis or Ugo sooner. I want to understand Vieira’s substitution logic, but sometimes I just don’t.
  • Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders also happens to fall on NYCFC’s Pride Day. In general, the commercialization of Pride is something I am entirely against — but NYCFC does a good job of not turning it into a cash grab, which they so easily could. As a queer football fan, seeing a team acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ history of the city they inhabit and the very real, very passionate sector of their fanbase is so heartening. To be acknowledged and validated is invaluable. Personally, I can’t wait for NYCFC’s first ever Pride Day. I have a feeling it’s going to be something really special. (And if we win on top of it, all the better!)
  • Anyway, who here’s seen The Producers? When I think of NYCFC and the U.S. Open Cup, I think of this:grx32x04r7yxez

For the next few days I’ll be salting the earth and praying that Nicolás Lodeiro doesn’t do Nicolás Lodeiro things to us when the Sounders come to town. Please, join me.

See you then!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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They Shaved Paradise

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Saturday, June 3: 2-1 win

New York City FC came up from behind to defeat Philadelphia Union with late game goals by defenders Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens, propelling them to second place in the Eastern Conference.

This pleases me. This pleases all of us.

However, there cannot be too much jubilation. It’s important to remember that this week, NYCFC suffered a tremendous loss.

Cult favorite, club legend, West Nyack’s own Tommy McNamara cut his hair.

If you’re suffering anywhere near as much as I am, I’d like to offer you a brief respite:

(Though TMac did earn his first USMNT call-up after shearing himself, so maybe his hair isn’t the source of his power? No. I refuse to believe this.)

Stay strong, everyone. We’ll all get through this together. See you next week for the U.S. Open Cup!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Mid-Week Mediocrity

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, May 31: 2-2 Draw

Let’s not beat around the bush: New York City FC should have handily won this match. New England Revolution are a bit of a mess this season, having only won four games so far — and all four were at home, to boot.

Despite early energy and pressure that led to a brilliant piece of link-up play between David Villa and Jack Harrison to give Jack his sixth goal this season, NYCFC couldn’t quite keep a grip on a lead. The Revs scored their first equalizer off of a set piece… which is a point of endless frustration for NYCFC this year. Sean Johnson made several spectacular saves on his birthday, but he wasn’t able to keep out Kei Kamara‘s header. NYCFC’s extremely poor marking during the corner didn’t help him at all. That’s why set pieces break us. We just don’t know how to handle them, so it becomes a cheap and easy way for opponents to get goals.

NYCFC seemed to play two separate games during this match. In their own half of the pitch, they were sluggish and lackluster. But once they crossed that midfield line, the fire was lit and the chase was on. Even a little bit of that attacking energy being present in the defending half would have made all the difference.

 

A little more focus during attack wouldn’t hurt either. There was a moment toward the end of the first half when Ben Sweat and Villa both whiffed clear chances right in front of goal. It’s those missed opportunities that come back to haunt you after the scoreline is finalized, and NYCFC will definitely be battling off those ghosts tonight.

Cometh the hour, cometh the one bright spot in this match: Miguel Camargo entered to take Tommy McNamara‘s place, and scored his first MLS goal not three minutes later. He found himself on the end of a gorgeous long cross from Maxi Moralez and headed it straight into goal. It was a lovely moment, and hopefully the first of many Camargoals to come.

#CM2
Image courtesy: @NYCFC

Had the Revs’ second equalizer not come quite so late, I do think NYCFC could have pulled off a last minute win. But with just four minutes left in the match, there simply wasn’t enough time for NYCFC to pull off a coherent counter attack. They tried their absolute hardest, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe if there had been another ten minutes or so on the clock. Maybe. Shoulda, coulda, woulda — didn’t.

So, after four road matches in two weeks, an exhausted NYCFC only managed to squeak out one point at home. That’s a crying shame, and the boys in blue know it. They hurried off the pitch after the final whistle, made their way to a dressing room filled with silent tension. There’s nothing worse than letting down the fans at home — because even though it was a draw, it still felt a hell of a lot like a loss.

Before I go gently into the good night, a few stray thoughts:

  • RĂłnald Matarrita is still too injured to be on our bench, but not too injured to be called up for Costa Rica’s World Cup qualifiers next week? Okay…
  • In the vein of international football, a quick tip for commentators: Balkans really hate it when you talk about what a great national team Yugoslavia would have, had they only managed to keep those pesky wars from ripping the country apart. Maybe don’t do that. (This came up because the Revs have Antonio Delamea Mlinar, the first Slovene to play in MLS. That fact made me feel positively toward the Revs for the first time in my life.)
  • Until the Revs scored their 2-2 equalizer, NYCFC remained the only club in MLS yet to concede a goal in the final fifteen minutes of a match. And then there were none.
  • Camargo aside, the name of the game this time around was Questionable Substitutions. FrĂ©dĂ©ric Brillant coming on for Harrison could hypothetically be seen as an attempt to preserve our lead, as attack off/defense on subs often are, but then you remember that Brillant is Brillant and that logic doesn’t hold any water. But sure, in some alternate universe that substitution made sense. You’ll never sell me on poor erstwhile John Stertzer for RodWal in the dying minutes of regulation time, though. If the idea was to try for a last ditch winner, why take off one of the most tenacious players on the pitch for Stertzer? Why? Why, Grand-Père Patrick? Please tell me why.
  • Speaking of, the rumors about Vieira leaving to manage Some French Club (because to speak its name would give it power and we simply cannot have that) can chill out anytime now. While I like to critique (read: backseat manage) him occasionally, there’s no denying that Vieira has been integral to NYCFC’s success, and he should at least be able to finish out the season.

And that’s a wrap on another week of mediocrity at best, bitter disappointment at worst! In just a few days, the boys in blue will take on Philadelphia Union at home.

Which happens to overlap with the Champions League final.

So if I survive that, I’ll meet up with you all here on Sunday, hopefully with three points to celebrate.

(Forza Juve!)

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Happy Birthday, NYCFC!

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Sunday, May 21: 0-3 Win

NARRATOR: Previously, on Reverse Psychology FC…

SEPIA FLASHBACK C.M.: I fully expect NYCFC to roll over and show their belly and lose 17-0. Wink.

NARRATOR: Finally, our intrepid heroine has learned from her mistakes.

Four years ago, New York City FC was officially announced as an expansion club. May 21st is, for all intents and purposes, NYCFC’s birthday — and what would be a better birthday gift than breaking the Orlando City SC curse?

That’s right, the sixth time’s the charm! Wins have always eluded the boys in blue when they make the trip down to Orlando — indeed, wins against Orlando City have eluded them in general this season alone, having already suffered two defeats. But finally, finally, they walked into that purple dungeon and came away with all three points.

Patrick Vieira continued to rotate his squad during this rash of away games, albeit a bit more cautiously than he did in the previous match. Maxime Chanot and Ben Sweat slotted in to bolster the defense, the usual attacking trident of Jack Harrison, David Villa and Rodney Wallace returned well rested and ready for action, and perhaps most excitingly, Mikey Lopez got his first start of the season to replace an injured Andrea Pirlo in midfield.

Mikey has been one of my favorite NYCFC players since his first match last season. I have a weakness for spritely, intelligent midfielders. Plus, his energy on and off the pitch is pure positivity. Mikey is fun. His injury and subsequent ankle surgery back in January were a huge blow for NYCFC. While he may not always feature regularly as a starter, Mikey is a mercenary in the midfield and we were all looking forward to having him around to help jump start the season. Now that he’s back, he’s providing exactly what I hoped: Frenetic energy, relentless pace, and quite a few risky slide tackles. (Hey, I’m not mad at those.) I’m so happy to have him back, and I know I’m not the only one.

David Villa opened the scoring early in the second half after a handball from Kaká drew a penalty for NYCFC. Orlando City never let off the gas and did their best to pull one back, but before half-time Rodney Wallace found himself on the scoring end of a truly glorious team goal. Jack Harrison laid off a beautiful pass to Ethan White, who delivered an inch-perfect cross straight across the face of goal for RodWal. It was a thing of beauty.

Orlando City had a chance to claw their way back in the second half with a penalty of their own, but it was never meant to be. Cyle Larin shot straight at the post, and to be frank, it felt like a bit of karmic justice for the three goals he’s already scored on us this season. Villa eventually wrapped it up with a lovely little one-on-one against the keeper, and that was that. NYCFC scored three goals and netted three crucial points. The curse has officially been lifted.

The match wasn’t NYCFC’s strongest for the full ninety minutes and Orlando City put up more than their fair share of a fight, yet we still managed to pull off the win. Sometimes I enjoy that more than a sound thumping of the opposing team. The loss against Real Salt Lake may have been a wake up call for the boys in blue to play with conviction again, and they delivered.

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Image courtesy: Alex Ring’s Instagram

Here, have a few stray thoughts:

  • Mikey Lopez was a wonderful complement to Alex Ring in the midfield. They both worked themselves to the bone to recover the ball throughout the match, and it was beautiful to watch them in tandem. I want to see more of this pairing in the future!
  • Ethan White went down in the first half with what looked to be cramps, managed to keep playing long enough to assist RodWal’s goal, and then got substituted off. Let’s all cross our fingers it isn’t anything more serious — our back line needs him (along with Maxime Chanot, who put in a superb showing to neutralize Larin throughout the match).
  • If NYCFC was brought into the world on May 21st, then that means NYCFC is a Gemini. Suddenly their hot-and-cold nature makes sense. Astrology really does answer every question!
  • On a personal note, within twelve hours I watched Juventus clinch their sixth consecutive Scudetto, Real Madrid win La Liga for the first time in five years, and NYCFC wallop Orlando City in their own home. It was a good day to be me.

Next week there’s one last away game against Atlanta United! Full disclosure, this one may slip through the cracks as I’ll be on vacation, but if it turns out to be an interesting match I’ll do my best to catch some highlights.

In the meantime: Rest, boys. That was a grueling seven days.

Featured image courtesy: Orlando Sentinel

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Misery in Sandy

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, May 17: 2-1 Loss

NARRATOR: Previously, on Hubris FC…

SEPIA FLASHBACK C.M.: Not to get ahead of myself, but I sense a road win for the boys in blue…

NARRATOR: She had gotten ahead of herself.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, gang. That was an unconscionably bad match!

For the second of New York City FC‘s three back-to-back away matches in one week, Patrick Vieira decided heavy rotation was the way to go. I’m all for rotation; it’s what keeps regular starters rested and fresh, and it lets the backup players shine. But for squad rotation to be an effective strategy — a strategy that produces wins — it helps to have a deep bench.

Instead, NYCFC’s lineup resembled a newborn deer trying to run on its wobbly legs. Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring and captain Tommy McNamara did their best to provide stability and structure, but it never quite came together. Even with Ugo Okoli‘s first MLS goal coming just three minutes in, the boys in blue couldn’t find their footing to keep up the pace.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale
First MLS goal!

Vieira did his best to mitigate the leaking ship after Real Salt Lake scored their second goal of the night and made a quick double substitution, letting David Villa and Jack Harrison off the bench and onto the pitch with their eyes on the goal. NYCFC looked markedly better in that final half hour with Villa and Harrison’s combined magic, but it was still too little, too late.

The result would be disappointing but unsurprising if it came from a team that soundly outplayed us, but ultimately Real Salt Lake weren’t even particularly strong. NYCFC just happened to be much worse. It made for a resolutely boring match that was frequently cringeworthy to watch. Between NYCFC’s defensive blunders (Maxime Chanot, you were sorely missed) and a solid performance from RSL’s veteran keeper, there was just no way we could come up from behind on this one.

To his credit, Vieira took responsibility for the thrashing NYCFC received almost immediately after the final whistle. He admitted flat out that his squad selection was off, and that he bears the blame for the loss. Disappointment in the result aside, I’ll take a manager who owns his mistakes and doesn’t throw his players under the bus any day of the week. Obviously the hope is that this was a learning opportunity for Vieira and the entire team — that player dynamics have become clearer, that it’s just as valuable to learn what doesn’t work as what does.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Here are a few good things to wash the bitter taste out of your mouth:

  • Ugo’s first career goal did well to show his strength and ability to hold off defenders. Of course, we all wish it had led to an avalanche of more goals — nobody likes their first tally on the score sheet to still end in a loss — but if it’s a sign of things to come from Ugo, I’m happy.
  • Alex Ring, Alex Ring, Alex Ring. Every day I grow more convinced that he’s the signing of the season for NYCFC. I can’t sing his praises enough. He’s such a solid, all-around midfielder and I’m thrilled we have him. (Also, I’m a huge fan of any footballer who encourages his daughter to play.)
  • Playing in the snowy, high elevation of Sandy isn’t ideal, but if absolutely nothing else, you have to admit that the training photos that come out of these away matches are gorgeous.
  • …I mean, nobody spent their entire match trying to stomp Maxi down into the ground this time, so that’s a plus.
  • Oh cool, we drew the NY Red Bulls for the Open Cup, of course we did, never mind, everything is fire and pain and suffering.

God only knows if we’ll see the fruits of such a painful labor this weekend against Orlando City. NYCFC has still never won there, so no pressure.

Since I clearly cursed this match last week, what if we try it the other way around this time? It’s worth a shot, right? In that case, I fully expect NYCFC to roll over and show their belly and lose 17-0. Wink.

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Drawing 101 With Professor McNamara

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Sunday, May 14: 1-1 Draw

Sometimes a draw on the road is the best you can hope for. I’m not sure anyone had delusions about New York CIty FC being the ones to put an end to FC Dallas‘ impressive unbeaten streak at home. A win would be preferable, of course, but just not losing would be enough.

NYCFC made the trip out to Dallas and fielded a lineup that’s becoming familiar, with one major change: Tommy McNamara took the place of Yangel Herrera, who played admirably in his back-to-back starts before heading off to the U-20 World Cup. Despite a rocky first half, Patrick Vieira‘s men kept their wits about them and managed to gain enough confidence to keep the home team on the ropes for good stretches of time, even after conceding early on.

Maxi Moralez boasts an impressive record that I didn’t know about until this match: He’s the most fouled player in MLS this season. It makes sense, of course. Not only is he a whopping 5’3″, but he refuses to stay out of the action. Maxi is everywhere, constantly, orchestrating play from the midfield and throwing himself into the attack. It’s easy for players to gang up on him — and that’s exactly what FC Dallas did. No small amount of their game plan could be summed up by “get Maxi on the ground at all costs”. In the end, it meant that Maxi was ineffective at best and in the way at worst. It was far from his best showing in the NYCFC shirt.

Right as things were starting to get nervey, with David Villa lining up for his free kick and Miguel Camargo poised to come on for Tommy McNamara, the match took a turn.

I’ve extolled the virtues of T-Mac before. I think he’s emblematic of the club, and I know I’m not alone in that. The NYCFC fanbase has mad love for Tommy, arguably moreso than any other current player. There’s just something about that kind-hearted, mulleted man we all resonate with. And in the 68th minute, he did not disappoint us: When Villa’s free kick pinged off the crossbar, T-Mac was there.

I mean, he was there.

He didn’t just score a header off the rebound. He careened into goal, leaping to avoid a collision with Matt Hedges as he attempted to clear it off. He found himself in the back of the net along with the ball, like a glorious tuna being raised from the sea. T-Mac did what T-Mac does best: Whatever he wants. That goal was pure graceless guts and glory. It was the Tommy we all know and borderline worship. Thanks, T-Mac. As usual, we owe you one.

@cm2
Image courtesy: nycfc.com

Man of the Match accolades undoubtedly go to Sean Johnson, who put on a goalkeeping masterclass. Due to the combined efforts of FC Dallas’ united attacking front and NYCFC’s disorganized back line, the scoreline could have easily been 5-1 by the end of the night. Johnson was the main thing that stood in the way of such a heartbreaking result. (Also, all the shout outs to his mom by the Fox Sports commentators were cute as heck.)

Credit where credit is due: FC Dallas put up an impressive fight, and we were lucky to eke out one point in their home. It was one of those games that I would have been thrilled to watch as a neutral — without the suffering and stress, it was enjoyable fast-paced football on both ends.

Before I go, here are some stray observations:

  • Between the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United matches, David Villa signed a contract extension that will keep him at New York City FC through the 2018 season. This was a quiet decision that was met with very little fanfare– JUST KIDDING, WE ALL LOST OUR MINDS. Stay forever, capĂ­.
  • With all the talk of Herrera and the U-20 World Cup, I found myself revisiting my biggest problem with MLS. Objectively, I understand the varied reasons for a schedule that does not follow the rest of the footballing world (seriously, I understand, please do not explain it to me ad nauseam) but I’ll never accept it. Having only actively followed the league since 2015, I’ve not yet experienced a summer where MLS and the World Cup are happening simultaneously. And I just can’t fathom how one is supposed to focus on club football when the World Cup is happening elsewhere. Guess we’ll find out next summer! Still, the overlap is weird and it will always be weird.
  • Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot were as solid as they ever are. It only bears repeating because I don’t want to take it for granted. Ring is a true joy to watch in the midfield, and somehow Mad Maxime has become the rock of our defense.
  • We had the triumphant return of Mikey Lopez, as heralded by the Twitter prophecies! He saw about fifteen minutes of the game and didn’t have any standout contributions, but honestly? I was just relieved to see him on the pitch again. Hopefully he’ll see a nice amount of minutes in the coming busy weeks.
  • I am a connoisseur of bleach blonde footballers. It’s my favorite hair mistake! So it’s worth noting that during his injury time, RĂłnald Matarrita has hit the peroxide hard. I actually think it’s a good look on him, but that could be my extreme Mata bias talking. Please return soon to bolster our defense and blind us with your tresses, Mata.
  • On a personal note, I apologize for the spotty every-other-week recaps lately. Mono is a heck of an illness that’s made keeping my eyes open even for my favorite thing in the world a Sisyphean task. I’m doing my best to keep on the mend!

Next week, except by next week I mean next match week, but actually Wednesday: We travel to Sandy to take on Real Salt Lake! Not to get ahead of myself, but I sense a road win for the boys in blue…

Featured image T-mac courtesy: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

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Comeback in Columbus

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Saturday, April 29: 2-3 Win

Much was made of New York City FC entering Mapfre Stadium, where Columbus Crew had been unbeaten this season. It doesn’t take much for a winning streak at home to get blown out of proportion, for a stadium to garner comparisons to a fortress, a hall of kings. To say that of the Mapfre when this season’s match days are still in the single digits was presumptuous at best — honestly, this isn’t the Sánchez Pizjuán, where Sevilla famously lost one home match during the whole of the 2014-15 season.

In other words: A “streak” like that doesn’t impress me much, and I’m delighted NYCFC were the ones to break it.

With RĂłnald Matarrita and Khiry Shelton still out with injuries, David Villa sidelined by the flu and Andrea Pirlo taking the bench for a spin, this was NYCFC’s most experimental lineup yet. Several players got their first starts for the team — Sean “Ugo” Okoli, Yangel Herrera and Ben Sweat all broke into the first eleven and all did remarkably well. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

I admit, I had my doubts looking at the lineup. It strikes me as funny that even with all of the notable absences, Tommy McNamara still didn’t make the cut. This time he wasn’t even used as a super sub — though, in fairness, Patrick Vieira‘s (extremely late, one of my biggest pet peeves in football) substitutions focused on bolstering our defense, not on going for more goals. Still, it’s strange. I worry a little for T-Mac.

Regardless, this side did remarkably well with what they had. They kept possession, created plenty of chances, and put pressure on Columbus at every opportunity. Even when they slipped up, they were better at regaining possession than they usually are. There was confidence in this NYCFC side where they could have just as easily been new, shaky legs.

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Image courtesy: nycfc.com

Jack Harrison netted his first career brace. The first goal was inarguably the best: A gorgeous pass from Maxi Moralez landed perfectly at Jack’s feet, and he chipped it in at a difficult angle like it was as easy as breathing. His second and the match-winning goal was mostly due to an incredibly defensive screwup by Columbus and there was no way he could have missed it, but still. A brace is a brace, and Jack is incredible. I’m not entirely convinced he isn’t a footballing robot. The kid is just that good.

Sandwiched between the two, Yangel Herrera scored the equalizer (and drew a little blood) with an assist from Ben Sweat. Good job, debut boys! There could have been goals from Ugo and Rodney Wallace as well, but luck wasn’t quite on their side. Still, everyone looked strong in their attack, and that was the most heartening thing to see.

NYCFC isn’t a team I associate with comebacks, but this was a lovely bit of remontada magic from the boys in blue. I know better than to get used to it, of course. Even if it was a one-off fluke, you have to commend them for not giving up when they were down.

Unless you’re a Columbus fan. Then you probably hate them for it. But why are you reading this? Go check out our new Columbus Crew reporter instead!

As always, here are a few random thoughts:

  • As a Real Madrid and Juventus fan, I will literally never get used to hearing MLS fans chant for HiguaĂ­n. Wrong Pipa, guys! There truly was nothing Sean Johnson could do to stop his stunning volley of a goal, though, so I guess Lanky Pipa has his merits too. It’s still weird.
  • We do not speak of what an absolute mess Alexander Callens made that led to Columbus’ second goal of the night. If every defender has to have one epic blunder per season, please let that be his. (Yes, I know he’s had plenty of other blunders so far — but god, none quite so painful as that.)
  • Yangel Herrera completed my personal debut trifecta: First yellow card, first assist, first goal! I feel like a proud mama hen.
  • Huge shout out to the YES Network for having a microphone right by the Columbus Crew supporters section. I love it when my matches are set to the crystal clear soundtrack of drunk men screaming the usual uninspired chants. So enjoyable!
  • Maxime Chanot wears the captain’s arm band well. Just a little something to keep in mind for the future, maybe.
  • Dear Mikey Lopez, please rise from your grave and return to us. I miss watching him play so much. Every week I think this is the week he makes his glorious return, but it never is. Eventually, right?

Next week we host Atlanta United, and I fully expect it to be a mess. A fun mess, of course!

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

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David Villa Did That

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Friday, April 14: 2-0 win

I had a different article in my head.

Finding narrative threads in football is what connects me most to the game. I can’t turn it off; in the back of my mind during every match, there’s a little machine whirring away, trying to spin a narrative out of the beautiful game. It’s come in handy with match reporting, and I often find myself forming the skeleton of an article while the game is in progress.

That’s what I was doing while New York City FC was grinding out a win on the road against Philadelphia Union. Between chaos and dashes of bad luck in front of both goals, heroics from both Sean Johnson and Andre Blake, and Jack Harrison’s goal scored in the 52nd minute, I had an idea of where I was going to go with this. Something about a scrappy win still being a win. Something about the morale (or lack thereof) of the stadium and how it did Union no favors in staving off NYCFC. Something about the metaphysical importance of picking up these points on the road beyond just crunching numbers for conference standings. Something, something, something.

Then, in the last dying moments of the game, David Villa wiped out everything I had planned.

I’ve mentioned Villa’s goal in the 2010 World Cup against Chile before. It was the moment that threw football into sharp relief for me, the moment I knew I was in deep. Beyond that, it was a stunning goal: A curling shot off his weaker foot from 50 yards out. Gorgeous. I think about that goal all the time. I never considered he could outdo it.

As the clock turned to the 90th minute, Villa was on the break. Flanked by two Union players, he barely broke stride as he took a shot on goal. A ridiculous shot, the kind attempted in training for the thrill of it (in fact, the kind he attempted last season only to have it hit the crossbar). Nobody thought it was going in, least of all Villa himself.

But he is David Villa, and even at 35 years old, the laws of physics still occasionally bend around him. He shot from 53.5 yards out, chipped the goalkeeper, and clinched NYCFC’s victory in the most impossible way.

I have watched this goal upwards of fifty times tonight trying to understand it. I still can’t. It’s beyond my comprehension. David Villa did that.

Just see for yourself:

On top of all this, when Villa was interviewed post-match about the goal, he said he was tired from running so he just tried the shot. Who does that? Who feels the ache in their legs, the burning in their lungs, the inescapable exhaustion and decides to go for glory rather than peter out? Our captain does.

New York City FC, in its current iteration and with Patrick Vieira’s philosophy running through its veins, its a stubborn club. They will play the way they want to play, consequences be damned. While it may not always work out, it does allow a goal like this to happen. Vieira has said many times that he wants them to have fun with their football. That’s a concept that doesn’t come up too often in professional sports. Have fun. Take that preposterous shot. Why not? Even if it doesn’t work, it’ll be fun — and if it does work, it’ll be legendary.

The goal was all Villa’s and nobody can argue that. But I’m incapable of watching anything — even a goal as jaw-dropping as this — and resisting the urge to pull a narrative out of it. It’s a goal that’s emblematic of the club, of the foundation Vieira has built for this team to play on, of the tenacity to play our way no matter what.

It’s the sort of moment that overshadows all else in the match. However, there were 89 other minutes, so here are a few random thoughts:

  • I’d be remiss not to give Jack Harrison credit for opening the scoring — without that boost of confidence, who knows if we’d still have that screamer at the end? RĂłnald Matarrita fed Jack a lovely through ball, and NCYFC’s wonder kid beat his defender and Andre Blake to find the back of the net. It was a classic bit of magic from Mata and Jack, and I loved every second of it.
  • I’m waiting on pins and needles for Alex Ring’s first NYCFC goal. He wants it, he wants it so badly, and you can tell the fans want it for him too. Every time he pushed forward, I held my breath hoping that this would finally be his moment. I know it’s coming, I just hope it’s soon. He deserves it.
  • My messy notes for the second half of the match include “RODWAL. OPEN GOAL. AND YOU DIDN’T! AND THEN MAXI DIDN’T!” followed by angry pen scribbles. Yeah… Maybe Villa’s goal will erase Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez’s point-blank, empty net misses from our minds?
  • Is the return of Mikey Lopez imminent? I miss him.

Well, now that Goal of the Year is all wrapped up, I think we deserve a week off to celebrate. Next weekend the boys in blue host Orlando City SC. Until then, you can find me forcing everyone I come across to watch Villa’s goal.

Featured image courtesy: ESPN

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The Pirlo Problem

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 8: 2-1 loss

While I was on my way to San Jose to watch the Seattle Sounders bottle their lead in the 90th minute, DC United got their revenge on New York City FC.

I kept up with the match in live time as best I could via Twitter, and honestly? It felt a bit like the olden days of supporting NYCFC.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing.

From a first half filled with possession and chances but no actual finesse on the finish to disastrous defensive blunders in the second half, it was vintage NYCFC at its worst. I’ve now watched and rewatched the error between Maxime Chanot and Frederic Brillant that led to DC United’s first goal upwards of twenty times, trying to figure out where the communication breakdown between defenders occurred. My ultimate conclusion: It never existed in the first place, and that’s the crux of the problem.

Ethan White, who’s been a phenom for NYCFC’s defense in his last three starts, was inexplicably benched for Brillant. Now, do I think that switch alone was what doomed the boys in blue? Not at all. Club over players, always. The team was low-energy, and to lay that blame at the feet of whoever is sitting at right-back would be foolish at best.

When Tommy McNamara was substituted on at the hour mark, I know I wasn’t the only one waiting for his patented brand of McMagic. After all, it worked last time, didn’t it? Unfortunately there’s one huge difference between this match and last week’s comeback. Last time, T-Mac took the place of Andrea Pirlo.

Again: I refuse to ever pin the result of a team on one player, for better or for worse. Even if someone’s a superstar or a total flop, it does a disservice to the rest of the team to only laud or blame one member. Pirlo is not the problem for NYCFC.

But he is most certainly a problem.

Even with Tommy’s presence, NYCFC’s pace still left a lot to be desired. After a sloppy giveaway in midfield from Pirlo, DC United scored their second goal of the afternoon. Alex Ring does an admirable job covering Pirlo for the most part, but he shouldn’t have to do it for the full ninety minutes of every match. Leaving Pirlo exposed for a moment shouldn’t mean we’re open for such an aggressive counter-attack. It was messy, frustrating, and somehow exactly what I expected.

The tempo of the game changed palpably just one minute later when Pirlo was subbed off for Khiry Shelton and for the first time all match, NYCFC looked alive. David Villa managed to carve out one goal not long after that, and they never stopped looking for an equalizer, but by that point it was too late.

For next week’s match against Philadelphia Union, I want to see a different midfield from NYCFC. It’s clear that unless the team is structured around him, Pirlo is more of a liability for NYCFC than anything else. I just want to see what we’d look like with him being rested. Just for one match. Just this once. Please.

No random thoughts this time, as only being able to watch a 20 minute highlight reel doesn’t give me much to work with, but I will leave you with this: My wonderful girlfriend Amanda joked about watching the match and writing a report for me. She doesn’t watch MLS, but she is incredibly insightful about football and approximately a thousand times funnier than I am. I didn’t expect her to actually follow through on that threat, but she did — with six pages and over 1700 words of notes. They’re all hysterical, but in the end this one bit sums up the match and my recap better than I ever could:

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Until next week!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017