Tag Archives: David Villa

That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Kerissa Ward - New York Red Bulls/mlsfemale
New York Red Bulls Key Contributor

By Kerissa Ward // @kerissaward

Sunday, August 6: 3-2 Loss

Dear Reader,

I need to begin by apologizing.  I apologize for this post being so late.  I apologize for allowing my support of the New York Red Bulls to get in the way of my duty to you.  I should have been eager to write about this match, even though it was a loss.  Truthfully, I would have been, too, if it hadn’t been for who we lost against.

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Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be an angry screed against NYCFC.  Yes, I fervently dislike the blue team, but that’s not what this website is about.  There are plenty of other RBNY sites and podcasts who will be dissing them; so if you’re looking for that, look elsewhere.

Especially since Sunday was a classic “That’s so Metro” kind of match.

For those who don’t know, “That’s so Metro” is the phrase used when the Red Bulls lose a game through their own stupidness.  It started in the early days of the club when they were the MetroStars when Nicola Caricola scored the only goal during the inagural home match.  Too bad it was an own goal.

Thus, was a meme born.

“That’s So Metro”, or TSM for short, is not an excuse.  Supporters don’t use it to defend bad plays or explain why we should have won.  It’s used to describe how RBNY can turn a match or a season into a dumpster fire.  It’s used to remember not to get our hopes up about anything until the final whistle of the final match.  It’s our Chinatown.

chinatown

I should have known something was wrong when I didn’t feel nauseated.

For the last few seasons, whenever there’s been an important match, I begin to feel nauseous a couple of hours beforehand.  Several factors determine the strength of the feeling.  How good is the other club?  Have we played them before this season?  If we did, did we win, lose, or draw?  And, most importantly, how have we been playing?  Depending on the answers, my tummy discomfort could fall anywhere from a little grumbly to a level where anything more than a hot dog could exit my body in the wrong direction.  Usually, the worse I feel the better the club plays.

This past Sunday, I felt nothing.

Maybe I gave myself a false sense of safety.  RBNY had been playing better in the last couple of matches.  Even though their last three wins were against clubs having poor seasons, their form had improved so much that those matches were blow-outs — 5-1, 3-0, and 4-0 respectively.  They were so improved from their June 24th match with NYC that many felt a draw would be a realistic result.

itsatrap

There were three signs this was going to be an oh-so-Metro match.  The first was Daniel Royer’s cries of agony in the 11th minute.  It looked like a true accident, too.  Royer and NYC’s Alexander Ring were chasing the ball, Royer slid to kick the ball away from Ring, Ring’s run became more of a leap where his momentum didn’t keep him going forward, Ring fell backwards, landing on Royer’s knee.  The play was so clean that neither player touched each other until Ring fell on Royer.

I don’t know if anyone at Yankee Stadium could hear his cries, but I could on television.  They were chilling.  They were the kind of cries that could mean the end of his season.  Thank the soccer gods, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. 

His leaving early affected the team, though.  Before the injury they had a controlled possession with well-timed crosses and plenty of speed.  After Royer’s injury, they lost momentum and began easily losing possession.  They didn’t shake alive until David Villa scored a goal in the 28th minute.

And this was when the second sign appeared.

what

The goal was bound to happen.  NYCFC had been feeding Villa ball after ball after ball.  He came close a couple of times.  So did another player or two.  I just don’t think anybody expected it to come from such a mundane build up.

It began with NYCFC defender Ethan White throwing in to Ring who crossed it to either Alexander Callens or Ben Sweat.  It’s hard to say since it rolled into the wide gap between them making them run for it like a stray ball.  Sweat then lobs it far, hoping to connect with one of the forwards; instead being intercepted by RBNY defender Damien Perrinelle.  Perrinelle then attempts to pass it up to Sacha Kljestan, but an NYCFC midfielder blocks it and — get this — uses his knee to send the ball towards David Villa who only has to run and catch it before Robles, which he does. 

Reader, please believe me when I say that I have watched and re-watched this goal, and I discovered something disturbing: VILLA WAS UNMARKED THE WHOLE TIME!  How?  How was that allowed to happen?  I know they had three forwards, but so did we.  Bradley Wright-Phillips was marked by two defenders whenever the ball came close to him.  Why were we not doing the same?

According to coach Jesse Marsch in the post-match press conference, Aaron Long was assigned to mark Villa throughout the match.  Long had his back to Villa and was ten feet away before the first goal.  For the second goal, he kept pace and was then beaten.  In the build up to the penalty, he was marking Sean Okoli.

interlude

So remember a few seconds ago when I mentioned how Bradley Wright-Phillips always had two or three defenders marking him?  Well, lucky for us he’s so dang good because he was able to make a couple of goals.

The first was really sweet.  First, Felipe took possession from the blue team, passed it to Kljestan, who crossed to Sean Davis, who tapped it over to Wright-Phillips.  BWP then dribbled the ball a few over to just the outside of the 18-yard box, while two blue defenders positioned themselves between him and the goal.

Talk about magic, though.  Wright-Phillips planted his right foot and shot the ball with his left.  Ethan White was literally in front of him and the ball, but he stretched too far to stop it.  The ball went through his legs and towards the goal.  The City goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, then dove to his left to stop the ball, but he also stretched too far.  The ball passed through the triangular hole Johnson’s body made as it flew to the ground.  It was the most masterful goal I’ve seen from Wright-Phillips.

Let’s jump forward now, past the second goals, to the third and final goal. 

There’s still heated debate about what led to Villa’s penalty kick.  Was it a jinx brought on by some RBNY supporters chanting “this is our house” as some talked about the next day?  Probably not.  Was it a malicious kick to the face from Sal Zizzo?  No, Villa was hit by the ball not Zizzo’s foot. 

This is what it was: another accident born of bad timing and one bad decision.

Villa and Zizzo were converging on the same point — the same point being the ball.  They met it at the same time just outside the 18-yard box.  They keep pace with each other for one stride, but the ball is on course to meet Villa.  By then they’re in the box.  Were Zizzo to knock or tackle Villa he would be called for a denial of a goal scoring opportunity, with Villa getting a penalty.  So he went to kick the ball out.

Unfortunately, the ball was neck-high by then.  Villa lowered his torso so the top of his head could meet it first.  Zizzo raised his foot and tapped the ball just as it bumps off Villa’s head sending it into his face.  If it wasn’t for the ball, Zizzo’s cleat would have hit Villa’s face.

A fair-minded individual would recognize that the whole moment was an accident, but even accidents have consequences.  If Zizzo had left the ball alone, Perrinelle would have been able to mark Villa and even block the ball.  Instead he made a decision which could have injured someone.  No one should have qualms with Villa being awarded the penalty.

sadsnoopy

Everyone knew the match was over once the penalty was made.  Marsch had waited too long to sub in Gonzalo Veron and Michael Murillo.  The team was too deflated to even out the score.  They had become so Metro.

But that’s not why they lost.  The team played well and with promise.  Kljestan’s form as a number ten is returning; he moved the ball with precision and assisted on both New York goals.  Wright-Phillips is becoming a laser-focused striker, putting himself where he needs to be and timing his goals in astonishing ways.  The only area that needs improvement is the shaky backline.  Hopefully, more time together will lead to better decisions and improved marking. 

Featured image courtesy: New York Red Bulls Instagram

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @kerissaward

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

 

Derby Fatigue: A Morality Play

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Sunday, August 6: 3-2 Win

New York City FC walked into yet another meeting with their bitter cross-state-lines rivals this weekend. Though it was only the fourth time they’d confronted the New York Red Bulls this year alone, it felt like the fortieth. Before the whistle blew, everyone formed a circle on the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium and held their hands, alternating blue and red, blue and red, blue and red. They solemnly vowed to not meet again until next season because enough is enough, and then the whistle blew.

The boys in blue enjoyed a rousing game of aggressive football. Though Bradley Wright-Phillips did his best to one-up David Villa goal for goal, he was no match. Their nemeses exited Yankee Stadium with defeat bitter on their tongues as NYCFC celebrated their comeback win.

“It’s possible you are a robot whose sole purpose in life is to play football,” a reporter told Villa after the game before his thought petered out into a nervous laugh. “But that’s crazy, right?”

With no life behind his eyes and the chants of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Villa smiled. “Yes. So crazy.”

He resisted the urge to say he was human, because that’s exactly what a robot would say.

All looked to be peaceful at last in the land of New York… Until Don Garber rode in on his highest of horses and slammed his ruby-and-sapphire-encrusted staff into the ground.

“No!” he bellowed to the heavens, shaking the cherubs (who, strangely enough, all looked like Yangel Herrera before he grew his baby beard) from their slumber. “No, I demand more rivalry weeks! I demand revenue! I demand MLS be taken seriously, but mostly I demand revenue! You shall meet again! YOU SHALL ALL MEET AGAIN.”

He disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The horse remained.

“I don’t particularly want to be doing this again,” Jack Harrison said in his piping voice, like a lovely caged songbird who will inevitably be released soon for a lot of money.

Patrick Vieira lifted his gaze to the skies, searching for any sign of their overlord only to find none. “We must,” he sighed Frenchly. “The Don commands it.”

“It won’t be so bad.” David Villa threw everyone a roguish grin. “You have me, so.”

Yes, he was indeed the hero of the night. Not one goal, not two goals, but three goals found their way from his anointed foot to the back of the net. His first hattrick! Surely there would be much jubilation tonight. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but you’d never know it by looking at their captain, indefatigable and effervescent as ever.

“Somebody should probably take care of that horse,” Alex Ring pointed out, because he’s perfect and the only one with his priorities straight.

“I want to ride it.”

“Maxi, that’s dangerous.”

“Let me ride the horse.”

“No, Maxi. He’ll stomp you. You’re a quarter of his height!”

With no warning, the horse let out a mighty whinny and shook its glorious star-spangled mane. From its tresses fell– a check for extra allocation money to sign a new right-back?

No. No such luck. It was merely a note straight from The MLS Mechanism Room. With the collected calm of a man no longer burdened by his own flowing locks, Tommy McNamara picked it up from the ground and read it aloud to the group:

THE NEXT TIME YOU MEET WILL BE IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS. THE HUDSON RIVER DERBIES WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES. NO GODS, NO MASTERS. IN NEW YORSEY WE DIE LIKE MEN.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale
Image courtesy: Daily Mail

Andrea Pirlo awoke from his nap just in time to hear the news. “Very ominous,” he deadpanned. Nobody knew if he was being sarcastic or not. Nobody dared to ask.

For as much as they may have wanted to rally against the forces of the universe, they knew deep into their hearts that it would be futile. No man can supersede The Don. Many among their own ranks had tried, and where were they now? Gothenburg. Salt Lake City. Orlando. Retired, which everyone knows is a code word for something much more sinister.

No, to stay alive in New York City, one must play the hand they’re dealt. And if that means every other match being a Hudson River Derby to appease the whims of a fickle federation, then so be it. They had to accept their fate, prepare for their trip to the west coast and begin to brainstorm a way to defend their derby title, short-lived as it may be.

Still, nothing could take the night’s victory from them. As they headed out into the dusky evening, nineteen men and one mysterious horse, they did so with one immutable truth burning at the forefront of their minds:

New York is blue.

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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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

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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, capí.
  • 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, Rónald 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

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

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:

#cm

Until next week!

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

Leave ‘Em Quaking

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 1: 2-1 Win

I love when soccer stresses me out.

Yes, it’s nice to get decisive, comfortable wins. I’d certainly never be foolhardy enough to turn down an early lead and a clean sheet. That feeling of assurance that your team will win is irreplaceable (and rare).

But there’s a certain magic in coming up from behind.

The true mettle of a team tends to show its face when the scoreline isn’t skewing in their favor. It’s easy to fall to pieces when the opponent has the advantage. It’s easy to panic, to get desperate and sloppy. It’s much harder to keep heads up, eyes forward, and minds clear. Despite San Jose Earthquakes‘ early goal on Saturday, the boys in blue managed to retain their focus and pushed hard to come back.

Jack Harrison scored the equalizer just ten minutes in, off of a so-casual-it-couldn’t-possibly-have-been-on-purpose (but it was!) backheel from David Villa. I’m a huge fan of the Villa-Harrison connection. The two of them read each other incredibly well and always seem to know where the other is without looking.

That quick comeback gave New York City FC the confidence to keep persisting through the first half, though nothing came to fruition. Alex Ring, in particular, was doing the most he could to get a goal. It never quite came together, but he was delightful to watch. Ring is graceful with the ball at his feet — the word delicate even came to mind as I was watching him. It’s refreshing to watch.

Image courtesy NYCFC.com

Things never looked hopeless for NYCFC, but the struggle to find attacking harmony in the second half was undoubtedly real. And then, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Just six minutes after his substitution, West Nyack’s golden boy Tommy McNamara found the back of the net. Who else? Who but T-Mac could pick us up when we’re down?

Of course, to credit the goal just to Tommy would be doing a disservice to the beautiful play that led up to it. It truly was a team goal, which makes the turnabout win so much sweeter. Rodney Wallace passed to Villa, who coolly laid it off for Rónald Matarrita — and he could have gone for goal there, he really could have, but at the end of the day Mata is an architect, not a showboat. He saw Tommy with space and handed him the goal on a silver platter. It was one of those glorious moments in soccer where everything comes together so quickly and seamlessly, you have to wonder why you were ever stressed to begin with.

Those three points at home bring NYCFC up to a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early, but I remain confident as ever that this is a stronger, better, faster NYCFC. This comeback just solidified it for me. Nothing is impossible if we keep this attitude up.

What else went down?

  • Death to short corners. I’m over them. Give me a long, elegant arc over the top for a set piece goal any day of the week.
  • Not that I ever want to think about David Villa leaving us, but when he inevitably does, I hope T-Mac is still around. He has all the qualities a captain should possess — dedication, humility, grace under pressure — and, perhaps even more importantly, the undying love of the supporters.
  • My Andrea Pirlo feelings remain complicated. To echo what I said after our opening match, I’m not sure I can conceive of a world where he’s relegated to the bench. It simply doesn’t compute in my head. At the same time, it’s hard to come to his defense after a showing like this one. And yet, because he’s Andrea freaking Pirlo, there’s a tendency to gloss over what his game lacks — to wit, Patrick Vieira was adamant in his post-match comments that he did not sub Pirlo off because he was playing poorly. I can’t imagine we’ll see a reality where Pirlo isn’t starting with some regularity, but still, I’d be interested in knowing what shape the team can take without him.
  • Maxime Chanot was a verifiable wall in this match. He was everywhere, tackling and intercepting and clearing like it’s his job — I mean, it is, but you know. Man of the Match is an accolade that rarely goes the way of defenders, but if I could give it to him, I would.
  • Off the pitch, Rónald Matarrita is leading the team in fashion. Fresh to death, Mata. I love it.
  • To celebrate April Fools’ Day, NYCFC adopted a pigeon. I choose to believe this was not a prank, and I look forward to seeing what Theodore brings to the team. New York is coo.

Next weekend you can find me at Avaya Stadium in the Sounders supporters’ section with my Seattle-loving friends! But I’ll be back on Sunday to watch a replay of NYCFC’s match and report on it… if we win. If I find out we lost, I may mysteriously be too busy.

Just kidding.

Probably.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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A Good Four-Nothing

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

To expect a home opener as good as this one would have been hubris.

Last week, I mentioned the major takeaway was that if nothing else, New York City FC looked comfortable. No early season jitters to be found, plenty of confidence, just some unfortunate luck in front of the goal. Turns out it wasn’t a fluke!

NYCFC had it all this week. Possession, space, patience, hunger, and goals. Rodney Wallace opened the score sheet just eight minutes in, attacking the ball Jack Harrison ricocheted off the woodwork. For the third consecutive year, David Villa scored in the home opener — and for the second consecutive year, he scored a brace at that. What a mighty fine captain. And just as everyone was getting comfortable with all this talk of how Maxi Moralez contributes everything but goals, he picked up a gem of a pass from Villa and snuck it coolly into the net.

I ceased to exist on this physical plane somewhere around Sean Johnson‘s fourth save of the day. Not to get too presumptive, but I have to wonder if he really is the answer to NYCFC’s goalkeeping woes (all the love in the world to Josh Saunders, of course, but let’s be honest).

While he’s still working out how to best communicate with his defense — on top of the defense still learning how to gel into a cohesive unit — I’m already impressed by his skills and can see that he’s going to be a key man in many matches. A self-assured, stalwart keeper can do everything to boost the morale of the whole team. If Johnson keeps putting on performances like that shutout, the trickle-down effect will be glorious.

Five of the starting eleven were making their debut appearances at Yankee Stadium. Aside from the goals by Maxi and RodWal and the brilliance of Johnson between the sticks, Alexander Callens and Alex Ring also put on a stunning show for their first match at home. Ring was everywhere, making beautiful recovery runs like they were easy as breathing, and Callens proved solid in defense. Welcome to Yankee Stadium, boys!

Image courtesy: @rodwallace22

Our home matches are a blessing and a curse. Everyone is well aware by now that we have the smallest pitch in MLS. That means one well-placed pass can take the players practically from box to box. When that works in our favor, as it did this week, it’s great. But when we get a taste of our own medicine and get caught on a counter, it can be disastrous. Good news: That didn’t happen this time! Defense put in work. I’m so proud.

As always, here are a few random thoughts that struck me throughout the match:

  • Rónald Matarrita reminded me, for the umpteenth time, that I really need to buckle down and write a profile on him before he inevitably takes his prodigious talent to another club. Mata was easy to mistake for one of our attacking players in this match, and yet he never wavered on his defensive duties. He’s the whole package. He’s perfect. I guess I should confess that he’s my favorite NYCFC player! (Also, his celebration dance with Wallace was adorable. Pura vida!)
  • I respect Frank Lampard, and I appreciate everything he did for us, but I can’t say I miss him much. This squad is already looking much stronger than last year’s.
  • Thomas “T-Mac” McNamara in the captain’s arm band. That is all. Powerful heart eye emojis over here.
  • Special shout out to Ethan White, who replaced RJ Allen at right back as the only change from last week’s lineup. While his style of play isn’t as thrilling as other defenders, I’ve always appreciated his quiet, steady presence. There’s no player more willing to step into any role NYCFC needs and do his level best. (Including photographer!)
  • I feared for Maxi’s life several times throughout the match, but none more so than when he was swarmed by his own teammates after scoring. As a fellow vertically challenged person, I’m well aware that the Group Hug Forest can be a terrifying and unwieldy place. So many torsos and limbs at face level. Be careful with frasquito, guys.
  • No, you cried when everyone chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” after Villa’s second goal.

Kick your feet up and settle into Yankee Stadium, folks, because we’re here through the rest of the month. On Saturday we face Montreal Impact before the first international break of the season. (Which reminds me, I have a list of Croatian internationals I’d like to see on NYCFC, but that’s an impassioned plea for another time.) Until then, keep soaking up the win! We earned it.

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

New York Is Blue

Official New York City FC Reporter
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

From where I sit, New York is blue.

Let me rephrase that.

From where I sit, three thousand miles away in my northern California home, having only ever spent a whirlwind twenty-four hours in New York City, hovering on the edge of my couch every matchday, New York is blue.

If it seems impractical to support an MLS team on the other side of the country– well, it is. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I’ve never known geography to dictate where my heart lies when it comes to soccer. Real Madrid and Juventus can both count me among their most faithful from halfway across the world. Alexi Lalas is fond of saying that you have to feel something when you hear the national anthem, and for me that’s only ever happened for the Croatia national team. My loyalties are scattered across the globe, but each team I love is a part of me as much as my own blood and bones.

The long and winding road that led me to supporting New York City FC begins with David Villa. It was his goal against Chile in the 2010 World Cup that sparked my true passion for the sport. Soccer had always been part of my life on the periphery, and I always enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I watched him sink the ball into the back of the net from fifty yards out that it finally clicked. Oh, I thought, blinking blearily at the screen in a German pub as Villa was engulfed by his teammates, heart swelling in my chest. Oh, I think I love this.

Villa was why I began watching La Liga, though in the end the team that endeared itself to me wasn’t the one he was on (either time). It always stung a little bit that I could never root for this player I’d quickly become so attached to. Couldn’t celebrate his triumphs, couldn’t suffer alongside his hardships, yet I couldn’t help but still be enamored every time I caught a glimpse of him at play.

Then, in those feverish days of World Cup anticipation, New York City FC announced David Villa as their first signing.

It was an easy choice to make. I’d never watched a single MLS match in my life, I didn’t know anyone who did, but that didn’t mean anything. I read the announcement and decided, that’s it. I support New York City FC now.

Here’s something I need you to understand about me: I’m incapable of doing anything halfway, and I don’t know how to like things casually. It’s a rarity when I don’t have a strong reaction to something. Extremes are where I live. No middle sliders. If I dedicate my time and emotions to something, I’m probably going to fall head over heels in love before I can stop myself.

I don’t know why I ever expected it to be different with NYCFC.

“I’ll follow them so I can watch Villa play again” quickly shifted to “well, I might as well learn about the rest of their players while I’m here,” which didn’t take long to morph into “I would lay down my life for Poku,” and before I knew it I was crying on the floor when we lost to the New York Red Bulls at home.

Since then, I’ve come to love NYCFC in the only way I know how — fully, deeply, and perhaps to a fault. I still get emotional every time I see Villa with the captain’s arm band, but it isn’t just about him. It’s about the whole team, the narrative of the club, each and every player. It’s about the passionate fanbase and our shared suffering over Yankee Stadium. It’s about constantly learning more about a league that I’m still very new to. It’s about learning more about myself as this team nestles itself against my heart. From every derby loss (and that one beautiful win) to qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time, NYCFC has me as their twelfth (wo)man. Always.

So here we are, less than a week out from the new season with a buzz in the air, the promise of possibility. NYCFC proved last season that the only way they have to go is up, and it’s a momentum they intend to keep as they enter their third season. Against all reason, I believe in them. I believe in us. I’m so ready to get started and see just how far we go.

New York, after all, is blue.

Come chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms