Tag Archives: Alex Ring

A little magic keeps NYCFC to a 2-2 tie in Orlando

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, New York City Football Club kicked off its 2019 season facing off in Orlando against Orlando City Soccer Club.   Since NYCFC has no true striker on its roster, fans were wondering what kind of lineup and strategy would be employed.

The back line was as expected with Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with Ben Sweat filling out the four-man back line on the left side instead of an injured Ronald Matarrita.  In midfield were Ring, Sands, Ofori. Fan favorite Lewis with Maxi Moralez, and new Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita (“Mitri”) served as forwards.

It didn’t look like a true 4-4-2 however.  In expected Coach Dome Torrent fashion, the formation seemed less than standard and more like a 4-1-3-1-1 much of the time.

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Orlando City jumped into the game with speed and aggression taking charge of most of the possession and offense for a good portion of the first half.  NYCFC seemed much more defensive and less eager than in past seasons, to maintain possession.

The most dangerous player on the field for most of the game was OCSC’s Christopher Mueller, who along with Johnson dominated both offensively and defensively.  GK Sean Johnson made one impressive save but strangely it appeared that Sacha Klejsten, who historically gave NYCFC trouble, seemed a bit rusty and wasn’t taking shots.  It could also be that the back line was adequately prepared for his predicted style of play and took away his chances.

In a moment of “Wait, what just happened?” Midfielder Ebenezer Ofori, at the 13th minute, took NYCFC’s first shot on goal in the 2019 season and put it into the back of the net.  At the 45th minute, the lead was solidified by a banger by Alex Ring assisted by Mitri.  Despite the relative lack of possession in the first half, New York City closed out the 45 with a 2-0 lead.

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Sadly, the lead was blown in the second half by Orlando City goals scored by Mueller and Tesho Akindele.  The first Orlando goal appeared that to be savable and Johnson may have judged the ball’s path incorrectly.   The second goal was executed pretty quickly after Orlando substitutes Nani and Dom Dwyer came onto the field.

The controversial piece of the game was a handball by Chanot on a shot that was ruled by VAR not to have been a handball. To all viewers who saw the replay in slow motion, it was clearly a handball but VAR is viewed by one camera angle and in real time.  NYCFC dodged a bullet on that call and were able to finish the game level at 2-2.

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Of note, were inclusions of James Sands and Jonathan Lewis in the starting XI.  Sands played well in his first start but Lewis’ work was below expectations, considering his recent success with the US Men’s National Team. He seems to be doing a better job of getting back to provide pressure in our defensive third of the field but was generally unsuccessful in adding his usual offensive spark.

I did like what I saw in Mitri’s style of play after the first twenty minutes when he was settling in.  He’s quick, sees space very well and dishes out precise passes.  He also placed his corner kicks almost perfectly.  Dome said that he is not yet fully fit so I am looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to opponents when 100% in game form.  My takeaway is that Orlando City was the better team and deserved the win so we were lucky to get away with a point.

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Next match is the home opener against D.C. United on Sunday, March 10th. D.C. just picked up a home win off reigning MLS Champion Atlanta United. D.C. looks strong and will be a formidable opponent for NYCFC.

Will NYCFC return to its strategic standard of maintaining possession and play a more attacking lineup with players like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Ronald Matarrita, or will we see an overall change in team tactics to defense and counter-attacking?

All images:  NYCFC

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Rise up, NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

FT: 2-2 Draw

Sunday, April 15th was the night New York City Football Club rose up and faced its Eastern conference rival, Atlanta United Football Club.  The two teams entered the game in first and second place in their conference and both are managed by highly decorated international legends, Patrick Vieira and Gerardo Daniel “Tata” Martino, respectively.  Two formidable foes facing off in the loud, spirited, raucous castle of American Soccer: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; The video board displays “Goal” after the goal by Atlanta United defender Greg Garza during the first half against the New York City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The stadium energy was palpable even by viewers watching the game on TV.  I personally couldn’t believe how loud it was.  I am late to this party but really Atlanta, you put artificial turf in your kingdom?  Come on!  Your climate is the envy of New Yorkers most of the year so I would think natural grass would work with a little extra effort.

The playing surface was the theme of the first half:  NYCFC getting used to the fake turf.  We had a tough time keeping possession and reacting promptly to Atlanta’s movement as the timing on the surface was different, to say the least.  Atlanta took charge early but NYCFC fought back hard.  Atlanta’s strategy seemed to be playing wide in the middle third and then looking to serve a long ball to temperamental silver-haired wunderkind Josef Martinez.

The artificial turf is quicker and harder on the body and experience playing on it creates a definite advantage for Atlanta, just as playing on the narrow pitch of Yankee Stadium gives us a home-field advantage.  [Side note:  Is there an artificial turf field at the new NYCFC training grounds or were they just winging it?]  However, as expected, our Boys in Blue stepped up and adapted. 

Twice we were down a goal to Atlanta and twice we rose up and evened the duel with our new rival.  Captain David Villa came in much earlier than anticipated at the 35th minute, when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi went out with a pulled hamstring, and quickly evened out our 0-1 deficit via a penalty kick.  His career 399th goal.  Just let that sink in. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City forward David Villa (7) and Atlanta United midfielder Kevin Kratz (32) fight for possession of the ball during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) collides with New York City forward David Villa (7) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Even with Darlington Nagbe’s stunner late in the first half (correctly) reversed by VAR, Atlanta still pulled ahead again in the second half 2-1 with a goal by Chris McCann. City kept their cool and built possession and momentum.  In the 73rd minute, Villa held off three Atlanta defenders and eventually found Alexander Ring, who did not throw away his shot and sent a rocket to the top left corner of the goal.  The King and the Ring were back and taking names. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City midfielder Alexander Ring (8) controls the ball during the first half against the Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With the game level, it could have gone either way and each remaining moment was a battle.  Walking away from the foreign turf with a point felt a lot like a win.  Like walking away from a duel with both parties still alive.  Win-win.

Other big winners were the NYCFC supporters who traveled to the South. According to Third Rail Supporters Club member Riggs Ac, it was a “thunderous game” with “southern hospitality”.  Liza John, another Third Railer said there was “…so much energy in the stadium and NYCFC fans made their presence known, from the march to the stadium through to the march out.  It was really great to experience the match with so many other soccer fans.”  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United fans participate in the Atlanta United clap during the second half against New York City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC vs Atlanta – Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports. Images copyright Jason Getz. Used with permission.

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Let Alex Ring Score

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, July 19: 2-2 Draw

Am I happy we drew against a severely depleted Toronto FC at home when it was maybe our best chance to take three points during this particular stretch of games? No. But did I call it? Yes. Yes, I absolutely did. If you listened to the episode of Blue Balls NYCFC that I guested on, you’ll know that while Trey was cautiously optimistic NYCFC could pull off the win, I reached deep into my inner god mind, called upon my infinite knowledge of the football world, and proclaimed that the match would end in a 2-2 draw.

Not to toot my own horn, but beep beep.

This is just another entry into the long string of things I regret predicting in football. Eventually I will learn to keep my mouth shut and stop putting my divine will out into the universe before it can take shape and become reality. One day, maybe. But that day is not today!

NYCFC conceded early (again) and pulled back a late first half equalizer (again) before taking the lead in the second half (again) — and then it all fell to pieces when Toronto FC clawed their way back on the board with a late, late, late game penalty. By that point there was no magic left to be worked, and so the draw felt like a loss, and we all hung our heads in shame. So it goes.

I could go over the minute details of the game — how lovely it is to have Sean Johnson back after his early release from the USMNT Gold Cup squad, how loudly I screamed when RJ Allen casually passed the ball straight to Giovinco right outside our box, how David Villa and Maxi Moralez made a mess of TFC’s defense, how our substitutions may be our weakest point and how our bench depth is starting to suffer as more players get injured on international duty (R.I.P. RodWal and Camargo) — but it would be a waste of your time, and mine.

 

Instead, I’d like to tackle the real issue at NYCFC that nobody is talking about:

Every day Alex Ring does not score his first goal for this club is another day we crawl closer to endtimes, and I’m not about to let the world go down in flames before I see that kindly Finnish cherub get his golden goal.

Not all midfielders are goalscorers. Most of my favorite midfielders aren’t! In fact, Ring’s goal-scoring record prior to coming to NYCFC isn’t anything impressive, but from what I understand of his history, that’s hardly his fault. Here, he’s settled in with a guaranteed starting position and a coach who believes in him, and he is hungry for goals.

It’s plain to see in every match he plays, but none more so than this one. Toward the end of the first half, Ring fired a cracking shot on goal from quite a ways out. It ended with little fanfare, but what it could have been lifted all our hearts. Ring really wants that goal. We really want it for him.

Thus, I present to you:

An Abbreviated List of Things That Will Happen Before Alex Ring Scores His First NYCFC Goal

Pirlo scores his second NYCFC goal.

LA Galaxy and LAFC announce the joint signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović, because one club is not big enough to contain Zlatan.

Poku wins the Ballon d’Or (as he should).

FIFA relocates the 2022 World Cup.

Mix Diskerud makes his triumphant return to MLS.

The Nutmeg News gets a print magazine. (This isn’t meant to be shady. I really do wish this could happen.)

Miami FC gets off the ground, enters MLS as an expansion club, and uses pre-recorded stadium announcements in David Beckham’s nasally squeaky balloon animal voice during halftime.

NYCFC gets past the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.

NYCFC wins the U.S. Open Cup.

NYCFC wins the U.S. Open Cup in a stunning 9-0 thrashing of the New York Red Bulls, proving karmic justice exists and the good guy wins in the end.

Someone finally breaks into The MLS Mechanism Room and frees Chicharito, who has been trapped there since the summer of 2015.

My bot child accurately predicts a transfer.

Women’s football is given truly equal representation, respect and remuneration.

Khiry Shelton returns from injury.

Single-payer healthcare.

David Villa’s retirement.

The inevitable heat death of the universe.

My next NYCFC recap. Just kidding! But I am going on a long-awaited vacation and will not be back until our penultimate Hudson River Derby on August 6. If Alex Ring scores during my absence, I will calmly walk directly into the ocean and never resurface again. No pressure.

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Carthage, Thy Name Is NYCFC

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, July 5: 3-2 Loss

Ahh, I am sufficiently entertained.

Obviously, New York City FC should have waltzed into BC Place and shaken the Vancouver Whitecaps down for three points. It would’ve been the perfect start to a truly hellish calendar month (no big deal, we’re just staring down the barrel of Toronto… and Chicago… and Toronto again… oh, and the third Hudson River Derby). NYCFC could have taken solace in three road points before the long break.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, absolutely didn’t.

But it was so fun.

The sort of fun you have at an amateur roller derby match. You go into it knowing you’re going to see people get messy and fight hard, and you’ve resigned yourself to how much you enjoy this particular brand of rowdy garbage. You can justify it to yourself by saying you’re here because everyone shows so much passion and heart, but at the end of the day you’re here for the carnage, and it’s great.

Aside from a few sparks of brilliance here and there, NYCFC and Vancouver did not play beautiful football on this fine evening. They cracked their knuckles and pummeled one another into submission. After NYCFC conceded within the first three minutes (thanks to a tremendous slip-up from the normally infallible Alex Ring) it was game on. The boys in blue clamored all over one another in the box to score the equalizer, which ended up being credited to Maxime Chanot. All good, right?

No, you fool. This is MLS. It’s never all good. Bring on the controversial referee decisions!

I can’t make myself care about arguing ref calls. Nothing interests me less. Every league and every tournament has its share of awful refereeing, and I just… I don’t care, friends. I’m positive there was a fair amount of argument over NYCFC being awarded a penalty after Tommy McNamara and David Ousted collided, because that’s how football fans work, but I put on my blinders and saw none of it.

I did see David Villa convert his penalty to put NYCFC ahead before the break. I also saw the rising tensions and fighting, at which point I went into full raucous hooligan mode and decided I was only in this match for the bloodbath.

The second half saw both teams running each other ragged, but it was Vancouver that capitalized on NYCFC’s embarrassment of missed chances. After their equalizer (which I missed, due to jamming out on an intense air saxophone solo, and I honestly regret nothing) it was only a matter of time until they broke the boys in blue down one last time. Even after Eirik Johansen made a truly stunning save in the 85th minute, they kept knocking at NYCFC’s door until it broke down, and in the dying minutes of the game Vancouver came out on top.

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

It was a breathless match, and despite the loss, it was some of the most fun I’ve had watching NYCFC this season. Maybe I was just really in the mood for some chaos. Who knows.

In conclusion:

Let’s round things off with just a few random thoughts:

  • How much time do you think Yangel Herrera has spent watching old clips of David Villa at FC Barcelona? I only ask because he did his best Vintage Diving Villa impression during this match. It was comical how hard he went down, how dramatically he clutched at his face after it got… breathed on, at most. I love it. I’m here for it.
  • Alex Ring didn’t have the best match of his life, if we’re being kind. But who cares? Off the pitch, he’s still an angel. He recently posted on Instagram about a girl named Kia who has battled cancer for most of her young life. With no treatment options left, her final dream is to see the Statue of Liberty. Ring reached out to Kia’s family and invited them to be his guest in New York City and to have Kia accompany him at Yankee Stadium. The next day, he updated everyone via his Story that Kia’s family had taken him up on the offer. It’s an incredible gesture that warmed my bitter little coffee bean heart, and I’m so looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.
  • In less emotional news… I long for another Pirlo goal. Please let us have one before he’s gone forever.

Have you subscribed to Blue Balls NYCFC yet? You should! That way you’ll be notified when their next episode goes up, wherein yours truly will be joining Trey Fillmore to look back on this match, then ahead to the game against Toronto on the 19th. Given what a glorious hysterical mess tonight was, it’s bound to be a banger of an episode.

And now we break for the group stage of the Gold Cup. If you, like me, have no particular loyalty to any CONCACAF national team, Elliott Turner‘s Gold Cup guide for neutrals is fantastic. Vamos Curaçao! Why not?

Rest easy before the gauntlet begins again. See you all when Toronto FC comes to town!

Featured image courtesy: Anne-Marie Sorvin

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

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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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