Tag Archives: Alexander Callens

And the youth will carry us. US Men’s National Team draws with Peru 1-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tuesday, October 16: 1-1 Draw

I have to admit that many of my past experiences watching and cheering for the United States Men’s National Team have left me feeling unfulfilled.  Let down. Even sad. For me, the big draw to checking out this week’s friendly between the United States and Peru was the unique opportunity to see two New York City Football Club defenders face off.  It was Ben Sweat for the US and Alexander Callens representing Peru in similar roles for their respective teams.

After watching the match multiple times, my biggest takeaway is that I am actually optimistic about the future of our men’s team.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Peru had more possession, however, there were many moments of beautiful soccer involving some of our youngest players on the team.

The US did a great job of forcing turnovers in the middle third and immediately starting speedy counterattacks involving some combination of teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Jonathan Amon working tightly with Kellyn Acosta. Weah, Sargent, and Amon all have day jobs with European clubs alongside injured US teammate Christian Pulisic.

I may be overenthusiastic about this, perhaps because my expectations were pretty low,  but there were true flashes of beauty from these players.  Obviously, the more experience they get playing as a unit, the better the national team will become.  Another player who stood out was Marky Delgado, who is still relatively young at 23.

Both Peru and the US seemed to do the majority of their attacking down the right flank, which meant that Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens were involved with most of the game.  Sweat did a fine a job in left back while most likely battling some nerves.  Notable to me was his speed in getting back to destroy plays but he seemed to choose the back pass a bit too often for my liking and made a few poor tackles which did little to decelerate some of Peru’s attacks.

Ben Sweat should get another look in that role to see if he can be more decisive in his tackles and capitalize more on his offensive capabilities as well.  He did have one respectable shot on goal in this match.   Callens played in a center-left back role and as expected, used his physical strength to outmuscle US attacks down the right side.  It’s interesting to watch his play “from the other side” as it looks a bit less smooth with his national team and he can be a bit late with his tackles which lead to at least one foul.

One other takeaway for me that I am proud of:  Peru was constantly playing to draw fouls, falling over with the slightest contact, banging the ground and writhing in pain.  For most of the game, the US team players would immediately jump up if they hit the ground to keep an attack going or would fight to stay vertical in a duel.  To me, it was a sharp contrast of styles and it’s the style that keeps the game moving and makes it more fun to watch.

I was not expecting to walk away from this game excited for the future of the US Men’s National Team and yet with all these talented young yet experienced players, I have hope.

Featured image: @ussoccer_mnt

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Pigeons vs. Loons

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Thursday, June 29: 3-1 Win

Welcome to the Bird Cup!

I love a meaningless barely-rivalry as much as the next person. Why let it be just another match when you could dress it up with a funny name? Why focus on the game when you could be imagining a tiny fat pigeon pecking a loon’s eyes out? Yes, the loon used its trickery and wiles to gain the upper hand at first, but never doubt the tenacity of a pigeon. A pigeon will wait for hours beneath a cafe table just to steal bits of scone. A pigeon will capitalize at the moment you least expect and leave a loon stranded, adrift, hopeless.

It’s been a long month, my friends. This is where I’m at these days.

Semi-related to all of the above, New York City FC took on Minnesota United FC for the first time, one expansion team opening its arms to another. The Loons are definitely still finding their footing in MLS, and they entered Yankee Stadium without a single win on the road. They were hungry to change this from the outset, and two immediate issues arose that led to them taking the lead over the Pigeons:

  1. Sean Johnson, bless his heart, has been called up for the USMNT Gold Cup squad. Knowing that he’ll most likely fill the role of Mr. Not Appearing In This Tournament is a double-edged sword of suck: He’ll be languishing on the bench while NYCFC trudges on without him. More on Eirik Johansen‘s performance later, but the simple fact is that we’ve briefly entered the Johansen Years, and it is rough.
  2. Rónald Matarrita returned from injury and re-injured himself within the first ten minutes. According to post-match reports, he was wearing a boot and on crutches. This shakes up our defense yet again.

Johansen buttered his gloves before the match, bungled a save in the most spectacular of ways and let Minnesota take the lead early on in the first half. Every time the camera panned to him in goal, he looked positively shaken. He managed to pull it together later in the match and made a couple of critical saves (and, yes, one more butterfingers moment that we’re lucky didn’t cost us again) but boy, it was a shaky match at best. Maybe more consistent playing time while Johnson is away will lead to more confidence and consistent performance, but then again, maybe this is just Johansen. We have to find out the hard way.

However, I firmly believe that the way a fanbase treats its goalie when the score is down speaks volumes. While the ribbing over his howler won’t stop any time soon, the NYCFC faithful remained supportive of Johansen while he got his bearing, and for that I’m proud.

The boys in blue didn’t let the early concession affect their mentality and kept their focus. Was the first half still a sloppy mess? Oh, absolutely. But it had heart — and that relentless, persistent pursuit of some semblance of cohesion was what eventually led to Alexander Callens‘ equalizer. The play between Callens and Ben Sweat (who racked up his fourth assist of the season!) was gorgeous and truly not something I would have expected from either of them based on their earlier performances. Patrick Vieira has put his faith in these boys, and they’re paying it back in dividends. It warms my exhausted little heart.

From then on, it was NYCFC’s game to lose. Comebacks in Yankee Stadium seem to be de rigueur now, and while David Villa may not be pleased with that, you won’t see me complaining — I love a good remontada.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale

When Rodney Wallace sent in a superb cross, nobody could have predicted that Jack Harrison would go for the low header. But he did, aiming it with perfect precision and bouncing it just past the keeper. NYCFC went full throttle once they had the lead, and it was Villa — who else? — who put it to bed just past the hour mark. He nutmegged, he danced around defenders, he struck the ball with his so-called “weaker” foot, and he scored his 52nd goal for New York City FC. Are you really surprised?

I’m still concerned about our defense and goalkeeper situations, but if NYCFC can keep a good head on their shoulders like they did today, I think we can make it through the summer mostly intact.

And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll spend one brief and shining moment atop the table.

I promise I won’t fall asleep before I give you some random thoughts:

  • Every time I remember Yangel Herrera will be going back to Manchester City after this season, I get so very sad all over again. That kid lives his life in beast mode, and he’s a genuine pleasure to watch. His midfield link-up with Alex Ring? Phenomenal. I could watch it all day. Do you think there’s any chance we can save him from The Clutches Of Pep and sign him permanently?
  • How does Alexander Callens wind down after kicking his team into high gear to secure a decisive win at home? So glad you asked. With some Crash Bandicoot, of course. I told you guys he has my favorite social media presence right now.
  • Oh, we signed the kid! That happened. 16 year old James Sands, who spent preseason traveling with the team, has officially been signed as NYCFC’s first ever homegrown player. This profile on him is incredibly sweet, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the team.
  • PIRLO RETURNED AND IT WAS GOOD.
  • Four consecutive wins! One more win and we set a new record! God that really is kind of sad but also pretty exciting!
  • Ha ha ha we won the derby, ha ha ha New York is blue, ha ha ha I still haven’t been able to watch a replay of that match but I hear it was excellent, ha ha ha!

No fireworks and cookouts for the boys in blue next week; they’ll be in Vancouver, getting ready to extend their winning streak against the Whitecaps. Join me in cautious optimism while luxuriating in this not-quite-three-day-but-eh-close-enough-I-guess weekend!

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

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017