The game was terrible and wonderful, just as the 1st leg had been. There were fouls and fights. The 2nd half saw the team without their captain. Goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips answered the call and put the ball in the net (54′, assisted by Danny Royer). But RBNY needed one more to advance past the Reds, and they just couldn’t find it. As dominant as they had been, and as much of a fight as they had shown (in more ways than one), RBNY just couldn’t continue their run.
Winning, Drawing, and Losing all at once is probably the most Metro thing that could have happened.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad run, was it? The team faltered– a lot– during the regular season. Injuries destroyed their depth. The team lacked cohesiveness and determination too often to make a difference when it counted. So, to turn it around by the end of the regular season and put up as much of a fight as they did… I’m still disappointed, of course. But it could have been worse.
Now what? Part of the reason I haven’t been able to finish this article is that business seems so unfinished. I couldn’t attend the final Media Day of the season. And now come the rumors. Who will leave? Who will stay? Do the players even know where they stand with the team?
Right out of the gate came the report that both Los Angeles-based teams are showing interest in Sacha Kljestan for next season. Phenom Tyler Adams is getting much more attention since his Senior Team USMNT debut in a friendly against Portugal, to the point where some are wondering if he’ll get picked up somewhere in Europe before the new season begins. Can Mike Grella and Aurelien Collin make their comebacks following injury? And most recently came the whispers that Gideon Baah and Damien Perrinelle are not going to have their contracts renewed. (However: this news is quickly followed by the rumor that Perrinelle will stay on as a scout for the club. This would not surprise me in the least. I’ve spoken to the French international and it is clear that soccer is in his blood. A front office position like that is an amazing opportunity to stay in the game.)
And don’t cry for me, Red Bulls nation. I’m going to dig into the rumors as much as I can, as well as cover the USSF presidential election coming up in February. I’ll be freezing my butt off in historic Red Bull Arena before you know it.
So we won the Supporter’s Shield, now what? The logical progression, as the best team in the regular season, would be the MLS Cup. However, recent history has proved this a challenge with only 2 teams winning the MLS double in its modern form (since 2003 when the format was changed Source). In this Toronto FC season, records have fallen and new depths have been explored and Toronto FC have shown on Monday night that they aim to win.
Of a wide spectrum of emotions familiar to football fans across the globe, this game had them all. Through the highs and the lows our viewing party buzzed with passion for our team. Despite some long periods of time spent in eerie silence punctuated by fist banging fits of anger, many of us insisted at the end that we were confident in our team all along.
I approached the game with a certain apprehension, knowing that the New York Red Bulls at the Red Bull Arena might just be our toughest game of the playoffs.
A dodgy penalty, a standard Sebastian Giovinco free kick, a kick in the pubis, some dodgy Red Bulls fans whom Greg Vanney eloquently put in their place (what a dad) and 90+ 5 high altitude minutes later we emerged victorious and on top of the world, a feeling we have grown accustomed to. What looked the start of a rocky second half seemed to stabilize after some minor adjustments and Toronto FC kept calm and won the game.
2-1 is a pretty good scoreline to come home to. 2 away goals and the win, NYRB have to score more goals at BMO Field than the home team; a rare feat for wary travelers this year. And the city is ready for them. We have not appreciated the treatment of our players in the States these past few weeks and we are ready to bring the 12th man to the game on Sunday.
If I had to call to mind one image that summed up the match besides the obvious big moments, it would be something like this: Nick Hagglund (possibly in a cape), leaping 10 feet into the air in some sort of karate kick of a clearance. Insert a written sound effect of your choice to indicate great physical prowess and that about sums up our Super Nicky. That’s not to say that Drew Moor doesn’t get the job done, but there was something incredible about watching Nicky come off the bench to accomplish feats of heroism to save us from uncertain death.
It is that type of depth that will take Toronto FC far in this playoff campaign. Hagglund, who has featured in just 3 games for TFC since mid-May after being sidelined twice by injury, was exactly what TFC needed to see the game off. With vigor and the pluck that makes him well loved by Toronto and by former Toronto FC captain and current TSN commentator Steve Caldwell, he put in a performance when we needed him to keep us ahead in New Jersey.
We will likely require another player to step up on Sunday with the possibility of Victor Vazquez missing out (though not if he has anything to do with it) and the team with the greatest depth in the history of the MLS will be tested once again. Who will be our next hero? A stadium will wait with baited breath for all to be revealed.
“They say that these are not the best of times,
They’re the only times I’ve ever known.” –Billy Joel, “Summer, Highland Falls”
I dare you to fight me on my musical choices.
Originally, I was tasked with writing a “Know Your Enemy” style of article before the first leg. But I couldn’t do it. Because there’s not much I have to say: Toronto FC are the beasts of the East. Supporter Shield winners with a record number of points in League history. They have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. TFC is top seed, coming into the playoffs well rested and ready to go.
But the New York Red Bulls have Luis Robles, Danny Royer, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. And they have the momentum of defeating the Chicago Fire in the knockout round. Head coach Jesse Marsch has said RBNY is “going on a run”. The first leg was the true test of that statement.
I’m not gonna lie: I was nervous for the team. The second I got into my car to make the drive to Red Bull Arena, I was hit with a wave of nausea, and I’m not talking about the fumes on the Turnpike. RBNY were able to prove that they can avoid the mental errors and the devastating injuries that plagued them during the regular season. They really looked like a team that is just having fun together and not wearing themselves out mentally. They’re really in the driver’s seat, especially at home in the the first leg.
And when I think about it that way, holding TFC to two goals is pretty impressive.
And also really freaking horrible.
Let me tell you a little something about myself: I tell people that I’m not the least bit competitive. It’s a bold face lie. I’m actually super competitive. I don’t even like admitting it about myself. So losing hurts, and I’m not even the one out there letting myself get pinged in the face with a ball or stomped with some $300 cleats.
You can see the rundown of the game anywhere. You can watch Victor Vazquez nail the rebound after Luis Robles punched away the initial shot from Jozy Altidore:
It felt like I was watching a different team than I had seen in the past month or so. One that didn’t know how to face down a terrible opponent. A team that didn’t want the responsibility of dominating possession and demanding rewards for it. Players who panicked in the face of danger. Men who were ripped apart and had no one to blame but themselves (or each other). A subdued locker room like I had never seen before.
And “I can only stand apart and sympathize”. I’ve been to press conferences following losses during the season. This was nothing like those times. “We didn’t look like ourselves,” head coach Jesse Marsch said following the game. This was echoed by Captain Sacha Kljestan: “I don’t think we played like us.”
Can RBNY right the ship? They have to remind themselves of who they are, more than any fan or writer could ever do. They have to play like they have nothing to lose. They have to give themselves and each other the tools and the guidance to face TFC head on. They need to be a team. And I hope one of them sees this and embraces it. Because I have no problem being a PollyAnna about RBNY: that’s why I’m here. Maybe they need to take that kind of unbridled positivity to heart. Because the whole point of the playoffs is for an underdog to look at an opponent with a winning record and laugh it away in a brief series… just ask the Houston Astros.
“For we are always what our situations hand us… It’s either sadness or euphoria.”
PS: Let me take a minute to comment on the vitriol directed towards TFC players Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Both are referred to as “Metro Products”, having been part of the MetroStars when they and MLS were younger. They were booed Every. Time. They. Touched. The. Ball. They were treated similarly in Atlanta on Decision Day. They will likely be treated that way if they continue in the Playoffs.
They will definitely be treated that way when they return to hostile fields across America next season. They know why it’s happening. They can handle it. And I condone it. I just wonder how long it will last or what, if anything, it will take to quiet it. And I draw the line at cursing… but that’s just my own sensibilities at play.
A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale
With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:
Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)
I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.
Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!
*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?
Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings– with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?
By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.
David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.
Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?
We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.
Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.
This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.
The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.
Columbus Crew:In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place.
The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.(#savethecrew)However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.Although, it will be a tough away game.The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players.
New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.
I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.
Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.
With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.
As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.
Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.This year has been such an up and down year.There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before.
The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.This will give the team time to heal up.I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!
Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.
*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.
Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.
If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.
*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.
If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.
(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)
The Eastern Conference has already been decided the week before Major League Soccer’s Decision Day. The New York Red Bulls (13-12-8, 47 points), despite what felt like a rickety roller coaster of a season, clinched the final spot in the playoffs with a decisive win at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
When RBNY played Atlanta United (15-9-9, 54 points) on Opening Day for this season, it was a momentous occasion. While the sparkling newcomers opened the scoring, they faltered at not only the feet of legendary Red Bull striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, but also their own: an own goal gave the day to the team of MLS history. And while that’s not exactly how a team wants to win, fans surely took it as a sign of a strong season for RBNY while Atlanta braced themselves for growing pains in their inaugural season. But as the season continued, it was clear: one game does not a season make.
[Insert Flatliners joke about DC United here. What? It’s not like I have a DCU colleague to insult… yet.]
Being the final home game of the regular season, RBNY participated in the league-wide tradition of Supporter’s Day, with live music and drink specials, and a promise of all sorts of fireworks, from the players as well as the pyrotechnic experts. And boy did they all deliver! Atlanta United is.. are.. um.. well..?
I do a running log of every game just so I can remember it later (You don’t wanna see it, trust me. It’s a total snoozefest). I have nearly 10 statements that include the words “taken down” or “foul by [ATL player].” Add in the only two yellow cards of the match (both for Atlanta: Yamil Asad 61′; Leadro Gonzalez-Pirez 94′) and the only thing I can say is, ‘Ouch. That’s rough.’
But RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch said… a little more:
Their bench is yelling to kick our guys from the bench, okay. So Martino is yelling in Spanish to kick our players.
Is it true? Is Jesse just speaking out of frustration? I don’t know. I don’t really care. Comments like this don’t change anything.
The Ironman vs Mr. Clean Sheet: I’m absolutely convinced that the entire 90 minutes of the match could have been comprised of RBNY GK Luis Robles punting the ball to ATLUTD GK Brad Guzan and Guzan returning it in kind. Would’ve been the most boring game ever… Both keepers were credited with 3 saves and were supported by their respective back lines.
Play Your Kids: The Average age of the players on RBNY is 26 years, 3 months (What were you doing at that age? I had two kids and the most creative I ever got with writing was making wacky fill-in-the-blank vocabulary tests for high school kids.) Atlanta United is not far behind with an average age of 26 years 7 months.
While I write, ATLUTD Midfielder Andrew Carleton is helping make some USMNT U-17 magic in the U-17 World Cup in India. RBNY’s Derrick Etienne was called up for the Haitian national team when they played a friendly against Japan. And of course, RBNY Academy product Tyler Adams was the center of attention after going another 90 minutes in red and white, having figured in USMNT’s U-17 and U-20 teams and their respective World Cup runs.
“We love our young players, and we love to develop them. We
love to teach them to play our style. We like them to be aggressive. We want them to be rewarded for their aggression, for their commitment and you see that in our system, players develop, period, period.” –Jesse Marsch, post game interview
That’s certainly great, but does that affect the veteran players?
“Obviously, the physical part of the game comes really easy for Tyler Adams. Sean Davis, I thought stood pretty tall today as well and covered a lot of ground. We’ve gotten some good performances from some young guys, and we got to push ourselves into the playoffs.” -Midfielder & team Captain Sacha Kljestan
“Maybe the light is not on me anymore, it’s on the young players… and I love that.”
-Defender Damien Perrinelle
(That’s right: I interviewed Damien Perrinelle… badly. Being a teacher for nearly 20 years, I’m used to being the one doing all the talking. But this is the only way to learn; if he’ll allow it, I’ll take another run at it next chance I get.)
The Result: Before the match, I did an Instagram Live video with my ATLUTD counterpart, and neither of us were sure what to expect. But after the attacks and counterattacks, the free kicks and the corners, the tackles and the warnings, a scoreless draw and no major injuries from either team was just about the best result that could have happened. So let the *other* fireworks begin. These two teams just might see each other one more time during the post-season.
On a personal note: I have to take this opportunity to tell you, the reader, that this writing experience with MLSFemale has been one of the best things to happen to me in recent years. I didn’t know what to expect when I first filled out an application for a media pass at Red Bull Arena. Pretty much every other writer here is a member of a team supporter club/season ticket holder, so I’m taking a very different approach by opting for the press box.
But I’ve met some amazing writers, photographers, and podcasters, and have been able to share my passion for the club with them (especially Kerissa— the Veron to my BWP). I even introduced myself to Tina Cervasio of MSG, who is a role model in the world of female sportscasting. The guys in the RBNY communications department have been super supportive, and it’s been so much fun to get to know MLS employees and soccer pundits as a result of my writing.
The players have been gracious and open, and I hope to get more time to bring their personalities to you in the coming months, even after the final whistle blows this season. I’ve had the time of my life, and I owe it all to all of you.
(PS– yeah, I know my usual musical theme didn’t come through much in this article. Don’t @ me… oh, you know what– go ahead. I’m a grown @ woman.)
Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
It was ‘neath the cover of October skies that the New York Red Bulls (13-12-7, 34 points) clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, now for the 8th straight season, with a win against Western Conference leaders the Vancouver Whitecaps (15-11-6, 31 points). September was a mess, but as coach Jesse Marsch said after the match, the team was able to turn the page:
“…September was difficult for us and disappointing. You know, we were all
disappointed with the results. But we continued to feel that we were playing well, and it was just a matter of time before we were going to start to have it add up more.”
Fans were stressed. The team was missing chances and dropping points. Mistakes were destroying morale and injuries are still whittling away at the team’s depth. Three players heeded national call-ups (Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Ecsobar to Panama, and Derrick Etienne to Haiti), reducing team strength even further. But Marsch found a way to right the ship.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ll be honest. I’ve been challenging our defenders… to perform at a higher level because we’ve made too many mistakes. […W]e felt like if we could shore that up; if we could find the right balance of personnel and performance in the back that the rest will take care of itself, because there’s a lot of good things happening. So you know, got three good performances from the guys at center back…”
That would be Damien Perrinelle, Aaron Long, and Kemar Lawrence. Lawrence, who played a major role in Jamaica’s Gold Cup run, declined the call for an international friendly in Saudi Arabia. The team, the fans, and my fantasy lineup all heaved a sigh of relief. It’s just too bad that Lawrence got himself a yellow card in the 84th minute and is now suspended for the next game.
Meanwhile back on offense, “all the night’s magic” made the fans stand up and cheer. Forward Danny Royer, just recently back from injury, shot the ball across the face of the goal and in for the 12th time this season in the 33rd minute.
As for assists, captain Sacha Kljestan posted 2 more on the night, bringing his season total to 17. Kljestan just might be on track to rack up 20 assists on the season for the 2nd year in a row. Mighty impressive, if you ask me.
So with two games to go, post season plans are being made. Let’s (Moon)dance.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about the New York Red Bulls in league play… sorry about that.
I made my way to Red Bull Arena to see the latest matchup for the Atlantic Cup (a *real* rivalry, mind you) against DC United. As I was driving home from the game, this 311 song came on the radio. I have taken to referencing Broadway musicals while I write these articles, and was all set to do so once again here. But the lyrics, which I had learned in my Junior year of high school, hit me so hard that I had to integrate them here. (And yes, this song is as old as our beloved Metro. And older than a couple of guys on the roster. Let that sink in.) I usually do a full run-down of the game and venue, but I’m going to try something a little different….
For those of you still slightly confused (or ridiculously young), you gon’ learn today:
Many moons: RBNY hasn’t won a league match since August 12th, while DC was coming off 2 wins and were trying to ramp up for a real winning streak.
“But… we’re commanding every game we play. Every single game we play, we’re pretty much controlling the game the way we want to control it. But we have to work so hard for our chances, and then when we do score, it seems like we find ways to literally just give goals away.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference
The dream will always be mine: RBNY will make the playoffs. How far they get in the playoffs depends on a lot of things. In the meantime, it’s really easy for fans to get bogged down by a draw like this: it should have been a win. Analysts and number crunchers keep reminding fans that the team is doing well in terms of points and stats. It’s just that those things aren’t resulting in wins.
“The will of the team is a big positive. Really the only negative is that we just can’t seem to reward ourselves.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference
Kill ‘dem stunning: Right Wingback Tyler Adams, who is younger than a couple of t-shirts I own, tallied his first AND second goals in MLS at this game (19′ & 74′). The soccer mom in me can’t help but be proud, because not only is he a talented player, he is a level-headed team member.
“We’re confident in our team, and we’re all determined enough to make it.” — Tyler Adams, locker room interview
Next thing you turn around and find the person is you: An own goal. That thing that helped RBNY win more than one game in the past has come back to give the devil his due. Defender Fidel Escobar was credited with the error that caused RBNY to drop 2 points in the 91st minute of the game, when it should really have been sewn up for the Red Bulls. He’s not the first player to do this, nor will he be the last. It will sting, but like a scraped knee after falling off a bike, the only thing to do is get right back to it and prove that was the exception to the rule.
That’s your best bet: There were several considerable bright spots, and I don’t want them to get lost in the quagmire. We saw the return of Danny Royer, who came on as a substitute in the 75th minute. Allow me to highlight the question I asked of Jesse Marsch, the first of my sports writing career (such as it is):
[H]ow did you feel about how Royer came in today? This is his first game back and everyone was excited to see him. What did you think, is he really there with you? Is there still more to work on?
“He’s got to get up to full fitness and everything, but he’s back. Was excited to get him back in the game. I think a high probability that he starts on Saturday, so it’s no time like the present. We need Danny. We need Danny now, so it’s good to have him
back. That is a big positive.”
Speaking of subs, Gonzalo Veron made some amazing runs, including one where he was brought down in the box and awarded the penalty kick, which he converted (78′).
Let go of regret: The sentiment from all the players was the same– let this go and focus on the next challenge: a weekend matchup against conference leaders and Supporter’s Shield contenders Toronto FC. I was never one to predict a result, but now…
You make me nervous
My brain is empty
Don’t know why
(I’ve had this song stuck in my head for nearly 24 hrs now… it’s your turn.)
Wednesday, September 20: 2-1 Loss (Open Cup Final)
I had to sleep on this post. A lot, it would seem.
I didn’t want to get sucked into all the “So Metro” talk leading up to the Open Cup final. The New York Red Bulls had made such a good run, defeating regional adversaries NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, and the New England Revolution. Fans reveled in the stomping out of Cinderella opponents FC Cincinnati and watched as they learned RBNY would have to face Sporting KC* in the final at Children’s Mercy Park. I was all set to attend another Watch party and celebrate a huge milestone in Red Bulls history: this was finally going to be the year the team lifted the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.
Well. Not so much.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Children’s Mercy Park is a fortress, and Sporting hasn’t lost at home all season. They weren’t looking to start anytime soon. As for me, a new job kept me super busy and prevented me from joining fans for the watch party (although I did meet a season ticket holder in my office– woop woop!). Thankfully, the Open Cup had finally garnered enough interest to be aired on ESPN2, so at least I wasn’t stuck watching on a tablet again.
I KNOW ABOUT POPULAR: SKC has now won 3 Open Cups and an MLS cup. RBNY has won 2 Supporter’s Shields, which would be huge if MLS didn’t have playoffs. Usually for me, comparing relative sizes of trophy cases is a serious turnoff. But it just can’t be helped. Both teams have history that spans the entire existence of Major League Soccer, and the Red Bulls should really have more to show for it.
I’M MELTING: There’s no other way for me to put it. Both of Sporting’s goals (Latif Blessing 25′ and Daniel Salloi 66′) came because they caught the defense sleeping. I commend RBNY coach Jesse Marsch for sticking with GK Ryan Meara as he had throughout the Open Cup run, but it just didn’t work as it should have. Alex Muyl was scrambling, Fidel Escobar was gassed. Sal Zizzo made a fatal error, and my personal favorite Damien Perrinelle didn’t even make the 18.
TRY DEFYING GRAVITY: It wasn’t as if the Red Bulls let SKC wipe the field with them. There was plenty of fight in the boys in red and white. The fact that Bradley Wright-Phillips was able to pull one back in the 91st minute shows that they didn’t give up. It may not have been enough, but I respect that it was still a lot.
So… it’s time for the team to focus on the remainder of the season. Maybe go deep through the playoffs. Plan for next year. Why then, oh why can’t we?
*If you weren’t aware, Sporting KC used to be known as the Kansas City Wiz. Between that and my penchant for musical theater, the article headings wrote themselves.
I feel like I was just here a month ago. And again a couple of weeks before that, and again only a few days before that. My Blue Counterpart summed up the feeling quite well.
So, this is basically my last chance to complain about the “rivalry” that is the New York Red Bulls (12-10-3, 39 points) and New York City FC (14-7-5, 47 points). This is a geographical rivalry. Like the New York Giants and New York Jets of gridiron football and the fabled Subway Series of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. And those have been in place for what feels like forever. Because the NY Metropolitan area is easily large enough to accommodate fans for both teams. But then again, as my favorite Ginger Soccer Philosopher states in a recent ad campaign, “…soccer has supporters. And they’re a different breed entirely.”
Because of the structure of MLS, no one team can blow away the competition with stacked talent, premium accommodation and transport, or exorbitant payroll. So regardless of how heated it can get on the field, when the final whistle blows, everyone on the field shakes hands and exchanges jerseys, because ultimately they are all brothers in the same player’s union. The rivalry belongs to the fanssupporters, who argue the tri-state area can only be one color when, in fact, it has always easily been various shades of several colors.
As I sat in the press box and watched this last installment of the Hudson River Derby, I began to liken it to a completely different rivalry that was much more my speed as a child:
WON’T BE JUST ANY NIGHT: As soon as the traffic slowed to a crawl 2 miles before the exit to the arena, I knew it was going to be a different game. NYCFC was looking to sweep the series*, and RBNY was not interested in having that occur in their home. Also, the announcement had been made earlier in the week that, due to a scheduling conflict with the Yankees, NYCFC will have to host the Houston Dynamo next month at a stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut.
To be clear, I actually respect that NYCFC feels such a deep connection to the city of New York, and can appreciate the upset many Blue fans have voiced over the change. But since the bulk of the trolling from NYC fans has been geographically based, this was just extremely sweet and low-hanging fruit for Metro fans. The pettiness was turned up to 11, and I am here for that.
(*= in league play: I wrote about the Red Bulls eliminating NYC from the Open Cup competition… RBNY is heading to the final in a couple of weeks.)
A BOY LIKE THAT: Usually the conversation during these match-ups centers on Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa, who still made their mark on the game with 5 and 3 shots respectively. But it was Sean Davis who really seemed to be leading the charge for RBNY in the first half. His 3 shots and 82% passing accuracy were notable in the first act… I mean, half. Villa could only be credited with an assist with Maximiliano Moralez putting up the goal for NYC in the 56th minute. And when the moment came for RBNY to go to the spot following a foul on Sacha Kljestan, it was Gonzalo Veron who converted the equalizer.
BE COOL: Was there pushing? Tripping? Diving? You’d better believe it. And I ain’t even mad. Three yellow cards (Alexander Ring 19′, Kemar Lawrence 35′, and Rodney Wallace 43′) don’t lie. And it wasn’t like Video-Assisted Refereeing was getting involved apparently. But the majority of the action was just the run of play. And that’s great too. At the end of the day, a lopsided game is what makes for a sad “rivalry”. So, even though the 62% possession from the Red Bulls only resulted in a goal from a penalty kick and only 358 passes from NYCFC was enough for them to score, the balance is what made the draw, the first one in the soon-to-be-acceptable Hudson River Derby.
I LIKE TO BE IN AMERICA: The Red Bulls will face FC Dallas next week while the rest of the world takes an International break for World Cup Qualifiers and Friendlies. RBNY defenders Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar will once again join the Panamanian team, and congrats to David Villa on his return to the Spanish National Team. Meanwhile, RBNY Reggae Boy Kemar Lawrence is expected to decline the call-up for the Jamaican team’s Friendly against Canada. (My Fantasy team thanks Kemar for this, too.) Also, MLS cathedral Red Bull Arena is hosting the US Men’s National Team as they play Costa Rica. It’s an exciting week for the NY Metropolitan Area.
Tuesday, August 15th (Open Cup semi-finals): 2-3 Win (ET)
I had one New Year’s resolution: to watch more soccer. To really educate myself in the game. To bring the game to others somehow.
Thanks to so many people, not the least of which are the lovely sisters here at MLSFemale, I’ve been able to realize this goal.
So while I couldn’t make the trip to Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, I had the amazing opportunity to watch the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup in a most familiar setting: a sports bar just down the street from where I went to college. Because the Open Cup doesn’t garner enough interest for TV broadcast, the host of the event hooked up his laptop to a big screen TV by the bar. So even though I couldn’t be at the game, this was about as good.
THE CINDERELLA STORY: Usually the final rounds of the Open Cup are exclusively the territory of MLS clubs, because they can have nice things, like young players and high payrolls. So who wouldn’t love the unprecedented run of USL side FC Cincinnati?
The New York Red Bulls and their fans, that’s who.
WHOSE FAIRY TALE IS THIS, ANYWAY?: The first half of the game was… well… let’s just say I’m glad I was in a bar. FC Cincy midfielder Corben Bone outran the defense to open the scoring (31′). Then Austen Berry doubled the lead (62′) and the crowd at the bar threw their hands up and made moves toward the door. But we had to let the beer wear off and pay for our pizzas, so we stuck around.
Just then, attacker Gonzalo Verón, having replaced defender Kemar Lawrence 15 minutes prior, began the turning of the tide.
MIDNIGHT MEANS MIDNIGHT: Had I taken an informal poll before the start of the match, I would guess the majority of fans would have predicted an easy win for RBNY. So having to watch the game go to Extra Time was riddled with unease.
Once again, doing what the team and the fans need him to do and when, Bradley Wright-Phillips clanged the ball into the net like he was tolling the tower bell at midnight and I will NEVER GET TIRED OF THIS CINDERELLA METAPHOR SO DON’T EVEN ASK ME TO STOP.
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YOU’VE EARNED THIS DANCE: Lots of credit goes to both the club and the fans of FC Cincinnati.
“I don’t think it’ll be too long before we’re back here again playing in more meaningful matches.” –RBNY Coach Jesse Marsch, on the possibility of facing FC Cincinnati in MLS League Play
With this win, the finals of this year’s Open Cup is set: RBNY will travel to Children’s Mercy Park and face Sporting Kansas City on September 20th. I’m looking forward to having a beer and hanging with friends– I mean, my RBNY fam.