Tag Archives: David Villa

NYCFC goes down 0-2 to Philadelphia Union

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was a day of magical thinking. After a week of constant pouring rain in New York and days of player exit news and rumors, it was supposed to be a big day for New York City Football Club to get an important road win. City had an almost completely healthy team going in against Philadelphia Union and we had a ridiculously large and loud group of traveling supporters there to chant the team to victory.

At the same time, Twitterverse was awash with unsubstantiated but not shocking rumors of David Villa’s contract not being renewed for 2019 as well as Jesus Medina being pursued by OGC Nice and former manager Patrick Vieira for 6.5 million euros. This was on top of recent club announcements of the loan of our first homegrown players James Sands to Louisville City FC, the loan of defender Saad Abdul-Salaam to Phoenix Rising and the upcoming exit of Gio Reyna to Borussia Dortmund.

It was time to exhale, right? We had virtually our whole squad available to face the Union. Praise be, goalkeeper Sean Johnson was back from a shoulder injury. We were going to win the MLS Cup and it has to be this year with our first player, David Villa.

And yet we remained holding our breath after a tight first half with plenty of opportunities for both teams with a halftime score of 0-0. We could definitely let out a nice cleansing breath after the second half. That’s when we always see adjustments and get the mojo going.

Alas, the second half was a nightmare of bad passes, amateurish turnovers, sluggish defending and unimaginative offensive runs. It felt like a night of insomnia where your brain keeps churning out repeated cycles of irrational thoughts that make complete sense at 2 am but with reflection the next morning leaves you scratching your head and wondering why you didn’t get up and read a book to change the thought pattern.

In the blink of an eye, we were down by two goals, Jesus Medina and Alex Callens were out with injuries and Ronald Matarrita gets thrown out on a red card.

An injured Jesus Medina gets tended to. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

I know that I need to do some deep breathing, listen to a “sleep story” or two on my phone’s Calm app and just let everything go. Coming home from a vacation in one of the most relaxed places on earth to collecting your bags in JFK is a shock to the senses. New York City is an incredible place with literally a hundred languages spoken, countless world class restaurants, some of the hardest working people living in a completely horrible climate for most of the year. We truly live in a 24-hour city.

Maybe because of this, New Yorkers at times can have short fuses, are impatient and have ridiculously high standards, particularly with regards to our sports teams. NYCFC players must feel that constantly from both fans and the club’s owners.

I finally let the air out slowly and feel better calling the game a hot mess and allowing the team the courtesy of their humanness. I have reason to believe that they will learn more from this failure than we, as fans, can pretend to know.

And we will need all that wisdom, NYC grit, perseverance, energy and high standards if we are to defeat the NY Red Bulls at home on Wednesday.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

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NYCFC loses to Houston Dynamo 1-3: Musings on Marriage and Fandom

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Friday, May 25: 3-1 Loss

Friday, New York City Football Club faced off against Houston Dynamo and left most fans shaking their heads as to what the heck they just saw.  The game started with a wonky lineup and then built up pieces of a proverbial train wreck with bad defensive touches, lack of offensive runs and a horrific looking injury to midfielder Yangel Herrera.

By all accounts it did not seem to be a good night to be an NYCFC fan.  Yet, gathering to watch the match at Ryan’s Daughter in Manhattan at a fan party hosted by NYCFC Nation, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary to my husband, I got all sorts of feels.  A true fan relationship with the team really is like a solid marriage:  you get some tremendous swooning moments, a few instances of pure soul-spitting anger and a lot of mutual hard work, humor, comfort and picking your battles.

Despite David Villa‘s quick goal to give New York the lead in the first few minutes, it was ugly football with a lack of passion and creativity.  For much of the game, City was dominated by the Dynamo.  Houston capitalized on our slow legs and poor overall defending.  As one NYC fan stated, “We look gassed”.  However, despite disappointment in the result this week, fans bonded in mutual love and dedication to their team.  For true fans, it would take something monumental for us to lose so much faith in our team to jump ship and start over.

At our wedding twenty years ago, my husband and I were given advice in the shape of the 80/20 rule:  As long as you are happy and working together as a team 80% of the time, you are in excellent shape to weather the storms that may occur 20% of the time.

Now, do I translate that to an 80% ball possession and an 80% winning record in MLS?  Of course not, but if the fan’s relationship with the team is mostly positive with a few bumps thrown in, then it’s a worthwhile long term endeavor.  Expecting perfection is unattainable for anybody or any sports team.  However, I dare you to explain that to a New Yorker.

Extra time thoughts:

The diagnosis of Herrera’s injury and prognosis has not been disclosed but he posted a photo of himself in a boot, giving fans hope that the injury was not as serious as it appeared.

New York City Football Club is now without Ronald Matarrita and Rodney Wallace who will be representing Costa Rica in the World Cup.  We will have less depth particularly on the left side.

Safety note! Jumping up and down rhythmically in large groups at Ryan’s Daughter may cause the floor to collapse and is therefore discouraged.

Onward and upwards.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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New York City FC Rolls over the Rapids 4-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Photos by Tisha Gale // @gale_tisha

Saturday, May 19: 4-0 Win

This day was officially proclaimed “David Villa Day” in New York City to celebrate the captain’s 400th career and country goal and his contributions to New York City sports.  Despite the decidedly un-Spanish weather with epic downpours and frigid temperatures,  New York City Football Club hosted a goal-scoring party against the Colorado Rapids in his honor.

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David Villa, flanked by Jon Patricof and Francisco Moya. Image: Tisha Gale

It was a festive celebration from the opening of the gates with the first 10,000 fans arriving receiving replica captain armbands and the first 400 founding members receiving commemorative “400” pins.  Fans huddled together under umbrellas and under overhangs to watch Villa receive his official mayoral proclamation as well as gifts and accolades presented by NYCFC President Jon Patricof, City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano, Andy Drelick of the Third Rail supporters’ group and New York City Councilperson for the 21st district, Francisco Moya.  Even Belgian Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany attended the match.

At kickoff, spirits were high and the supporters’ section, specifically Los Templados and their epic drumming, was louder than ever.  NYCFC dominated the match, despite statistics showing a 65% possession rate.   The pouring rain gave both sides a lot of unexpected touches, bounces and sliding to contend with particularly with players’ bodies launched into the air multiple times.

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NYCFC’s Sebastien Ibeagha and Yangel Herrera launch vertically. Image: Tisha Gale

In typical Villa form, he scored twice to mark his 403rd and 404th goals and was joined in scoring by Maxi Moralez, who also had two assists and first time 2018 scorer, Ronald Matarrita.  Movement, despite the choppy ball bounces and lack of pace on the pitch due to the rain, was fluid and purposeful.  At times, it appeared as if the Rapids gave up on pressuring NYCFC for the ball.  That, and a snappy new tweaked formation allowed City to run away with the game.

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David Villa and Jo-Inge Berget attack through the downpour. Image: Tisha Gale

Final thoughts:

Jesús Medina did not start, following a few games with less than stellar performances but when he was subbed in for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, at 62′ he brought good movement, awareness of space and was heavily involved in some good scoring opportunities with Villa and Moralez. Fans are hoping that he is returning to the form he displayed earlier in the season.

The change to a 3-5-2 allowed both Matarrita and Tajouri-Shradi to attack down both wings and opened up space in the middle for Moralez to float and make trouble and to collaborate smoothly with Villa and Jo-Inge Berget up top.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson had two tight saves in the dwindling minutes of the game to keep NYCFC’s sheet clean.

How did Matarrita manage not to freeze in his short-sleeved jersey? He was the only City player not in long sleeves.  Do his tattoo sleeves keep him warm?

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You know who didn’t care about the rain?  These player escorts, that’s who! Image: Tisha Gale

Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

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Can’t Stop- NYCFC battles LAFC to a 2-2 draw

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Mia’s Magical Falcon versus the Pigeon

No, I promise this won’t be a drool fest about everything Los Angeles Football Club does right.  Humor me for a minute and I’ll quickly move on.  As a New York City Football Club fan, I’m a bit green with envy.

Banc of California Stadium is beautiful – located in actual downtown Los Angeles, a mere walking distance from the USC campus.  The supporters’ section holds over 3200 supporters.  They have a live falcon.  (Hey, I’m into birds of prey.  Don’t judge.)

The soccer-specific stadium has real grass.  The uniforms are timelessly stylish worn by talented, young international players and they are part-owned by sports phenoms Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and well-known actor Will Ferrell.  I was nervous that the new cool kids in town were going to defeat us.

I hope that some newbies to soccer and detractors of the sport caught some of this match as it was a nail biter with possession ping-ponging from end to end and it was also a fun watch.  From David Villa‘s 402nd goal which was an easy-peasy header rebound off a penalty shot to take the lead 1-0 to Ismael Tajouri- Shradi‘s game tying rebound rocket minutes after being subbed in, the vibe was positively SoCal.  The sun was blinding and the chanting was relentless and intense.

Major props go out to the almost perfect play of LAFC’s Laurent Ciman and Latif Blessing who dished out trouble for NYCFC from the first whistle.  New York City clearly evolved in their strategy of maintaining possession in tight spaces and constantly trying to thread the proverbial needle to maintaining possession but mixing in deep long low balls and high crosses to penetrate LA’s defense.  This game could have gone either way with plenty of missed finishers, great saves, and clearances by both teams.

The good:

  • Tajouri-Shradi is back and scored his fifth goal in as many games.
  • Villa is back in major hustle mode, applying pressure in every corner of the field and was potent in the counter attacks.
  • Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made some ridiculously incredible saves.

The bad:

  • One of the goals LA was credited for was an own goal off a deflection by defender Sebastien Ibeagha.  Ouch.
  • We still have no stadium of our own.

Questions:

  • Will we move forward utilizing this new strategy mixing in long balls or will we go back to our short pass possession method?
  • Is Anton Tinnerholm injured?
  • Why are we not more dangerous off set pieces?

“Can’t stop, addicted to the shindig.  Chop Top, he says I’m gonna win big.”  – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Featured image: nycfc.com

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Can I kick it?  Yes David Villa, yes you can.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, April 29: 3-1 Win

It was a cold but happy Sunday night at Yankee Stadium where New York City Football Club returned to their home pitch ready to make up for the ugly loss to Portland Timbers one week ago.  Fan expectations were high that our Boys in Blue could return to their seamless form demonstrated in their previous five wins mixed with a thin layer of anxiety.  Could we defeat FC Dallas, apparent masters of defense and the only unbeaten MLS team this season? 

The answer was a resounding yes with whipped cream and two cherries on top.  Two minutes in Jesus Medina scored on a David Villa and Jo Inge Berget sequence which started, of course, down the left side.  Despite a Dallas equalizer in the 9th minute, NYC maintained about 80% of the first half possession. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Jo Inge Berget image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

When a Dallas handball in their box triggered a very delayed use of VAR to ultimately award a penalty kick to NYCFC, everyone in the stadium knew what that meant and was on their feet.  David Villa was kicking for his 400th career goal and executed it perfectly, of course.  Then, to silence any doubters of his return to top form, he scored a second goal, his 401st career goal in typical gorgeous, easy-does-it style.   Game-set-match New York City FC.

While New York maintained 75% of the game possession, FC Dallas did threaten with the same number of shots on target as NY.  Interestingly, NYC had no offside calls against them while Dallas was called on it four times. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Sebastien Ibeagha image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

I got a chance to speak with NYCFC center back Sebastien Ibeagha post-game about who on FC Dallas was giving him trouble and how they effectively contained them. “The whole front three were giving us a hard time and I think it just was what we worked on during the week and we were just really disciplined and confident in our tactics and our game plan – that was kind of what was shown on the field.”

On Ibeagha’s start in place of veteran center back Maxime Chanot and on the match result:  “Every week Patrick says anyone can start so I mean it wasn’t a big change or anything tactically…It was a big win for us [tonight] and obviously, it’s more confidence going into next week.”

Yeah, our tribe is back and ready to face that other one from across our very own rio grande.

Featured image of David Villa courtesy: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

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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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NYCFC FTW

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, March 11: 2-1 Win

New York City FC immediately took control of this game, calmly keeping possession and easily moving the ball around and through the LA Galaxy.  This was the pace of the first two-thirds of the game.  The movement down the left wing was swift and opened up space for David Villa in the center and for the cross to the right side.  Jesus Medina and Rodney Wallace again utilized switching flanks quite a bit which successfully shook up LA’s ability to mark well. 

With the fluid ball movement, the elephant on the field was that our offense was continuously distributing balls to Villa in goal-scoring chances in lieu of taking the shot themselves.  As this was Villa’s 100th cap for NYCFC, teammates Medina and Maxi Moralez gave him many of their own legitimate chances to score but most of these deferred attempts fell flat. 

The first goal of the match was scored by NYCFC when a shot by Villa was poorly cleared by LA and Anton Tinnerholm quickly capitalized on it with a strong left volley at 21:50.  And finally, at 32:37 Villa’s one-game goal-scoring drought ended.  Medina received a cross from Ben Sweat whose shot was blocked by LA goalkeeper David Bingham, which set up Villa to finish off the rebound. 

Anton Tinnerholm, NYCFC - Keira Smith/mlsfemale
Post game. Anton Tinnerholm, NYCFC – Keira Smith/mlsfemale

Already, there seems to be strong chemistry between Sweat and Medina who have successfully set each other up in front of the goal in both games. The NYCFC momentum continued, yet as Villa stated in the post game, “…We couldn’t close the game. In the first half probably we had a chance to close the game. With three nil. Much easier and [with] no pain in the last minute.”

And so the tone of the game changed with an LA Galaxy goal at 60’ by Jonathan Dos Santos.  NYCFC began to rush and scramble a bit more and LA was able to put together some offensive attacks. New York was very successful in forcing turnovers in the middle third of the field by swarming each LA player with two to three defenders. 

Attacks on the Galaxy continued but when Medina was subbed out, there were numerous opportunities when nobody was on the right post.  In the last 20 minutes of the game, Emmanuel Boateng became really dangerous every time LA took possession. Even playing with ten men, (Ashley Cole was ejected for 2 yellow cards), LA managed to heavily pressure NYCFC. 

It looked like New York ran out of gas in the last 15 minutes, so when the final whistle blew it was with a huge sigh of relief from many fans. 

Greatest hits

Sean Johnson is credited with only two saves and one claimed cross but with one possibly saved by his face. They were legit threats and decisive saves.

No VAR used!

Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha’s squatting ball-clearing headers.

H-U-S-T-L-E-R of the match – Rodney Wallace providing that necessary 2nd or 3rd person pressure on LA.

Tinnerholm’s goal celebration = pure joy.

Extra Time

Who did David Villa say in the post-match interview is a “really amazing guy”?

Featured image courtesy: Keira Smith

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Most blocks ever for NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City FC started its season at Sporting Kansas City on a sentimental note with captain David Villa’s donning of a “Siemprequini” jersey on the walk out to the pitch- an homage to his recently deceased soccer hero and legend Enrique Castro aka “Quini”. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Image courtesy Keira Smith

My take on the game in 200 words

NYCFC dominated SKC for much of the game by retaining possession with movement down the wings and pressing early and hard.   We had some good luck when SKC’s early big chance at a goal was headed wide by Roger Espinoza and when three consecutive corner kicks by SKC ended up fruitless. 

It looked at that point that the game might even out until Villa fed a ball from the left across the goal where Maxi Moralez finished it.  The first half ended with a breakaway by Villa which was ultimately destroyed by SKC’s sprinting defender. 

The second half was much of the same as NYCFC dominated possession, capped off by a gorgeous sequence of a backward flick by Yangel Herrera to Ben Sweat on the left who quickly crossed it to the finisher, Jesus Medina.  Up 2-0 NYCFC kept the lead by defending well in all parts of the field, quickly doubling up pressure on SKC players.

Restarts out of the back need to be smoothed out a bit.  NY continued to pass back to Sean Johnson amongst heavy pressure from SKC. In general, however, the team looked solid.

The little details

I will make a giant leap and say definitively that NYCFC blocked more shots in this game than all previous seasons combined.  No, I don’t have the stats to back it up, I just know.

NYCFC debuts in this match: Medina, Anton Tinnerholm, Sebastien Ibeagha and Ismael Tajouri

Despite offensively dominating the match, there were some great saves by Johnson.

Awards!  In honor of the Oscars which I did not watch this year…

The oddest throwback to high school soccer moment of the match: The drop ball after the first VAR review.   

Worrisome injury of the match: Maxime Chanot and Sean Johnson both on the ground clutching their heads after the collision with SKC’s Ike Opara.  And also worrisome is the seeming lack of adherence to concussion protocol.  I mean were they even examined before being able to return to play?

Surprise of the match:  1st- How many times VAR was consulted and how long the process takes.  Hopefully, that will get faster as the season goes on. 2nd- Chanot’s first tackle in the box not being a penalty kick but the second one just outside earning him a red card.

Unsung hero of the match: Moralez.  He was everywhere on the field.  Pressing, passing, making runs. 

Award for most absurd yellow card:  (tie) Medina and Johnson both for “delaying restart”.

Mother of God! moment of the match:  The back passes to Johnson to restart out of the back that came in a bit hot in the first half.

Extra time:

Thoughts for the home opener versus LA Galaxy.  Who will be in our starting defensive line now that Chanot is out?

And why does the word “Brujo” seem to have only positive connotations but “Bruja” mostly negative?  Asking for a friend.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC Facebook

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NYCFC predictions 2018

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Trees were uprooted, ice and snow swirled, barges on the Hudson River came loose from their anchors and careened down the Hudson River.  It was Friday’s anticipatory MLS 2018 Bombogenesis to kick off the season.  In most of MLS territory, we start the season with vicious weather and we end that way. 

So, as the season kicks off for NYCFC in literally minutes against Sporting Kansas City, I will share my very non-scientific but loosely intuitive predictions for the NYCFC season.  (An aside: Anyone else do the Myers-Briggs personality assessment?  Fun self assessment.  I recall I was an INFJ.  But I digress…)

Ten things that may or may not happen in 2018:

1- I say this first so fans can savor every moment, even the bad ones: This will be the last season for David Villa and head coach Patrick Vieira.  I think Villa will stay and run his youth academies in the US, perhaps shuttling back and forth to Europe.  All conventional wisdom states that Vieira will be offered a team to manage in Europe. He’ll stay the full NYCFC season but this will be it.    

2- Maxime Chanot will be injured again relatively early in the season putting Cedric Hountondji and Sebastien Ibeagha into the mix, more fiercely competing for time at center back. 

3- Striker Jo Inge Berget will recover from his injury and score a few goals and draw a few fouls.  He’ll give Villa a bit of a rest in physical games.  (He’s a Viking!) He will become a fan favorite.

4- Villa and Jesus Medina will have some chemistry pains for the first few months with which fans will be frustrated.  They’ll get into a groove but Wallace and/or Matarrita will leave for international matches for Costa Rica changing the lineup a bit. 

5- Ebenezer Ofori will quickly get playing time and make a positive impact at midfield with his quick pace.  Sort of the opposite of Andrea Pirlo.

6- This one is my wildest: Goalkeeper Sean Johnson will have a mild injury and backup keeper Brad Stuver will be in for three to four games due to his good showing in training and the preseason. (See, it wasn’t useless) However, Johnson will come back in full form. 

7- There will be terrible calls against our defense by the referees, with continued resistance throughout the league to VAR but it will be used more often than last season. 

8- Rivals New York Red Bulls will not be an issue this year.  Most of the NYCFC players with PTSD from prior losses to them are gone, so the psychological factor is removed.  We will defeat them twice and tie once.

9- Our biggest challenges in opponents will be Atlanta United and Toronto FC.  Both LA Galaxy and LAFC will give us good matches with strong play.  We will lose to a weaker team like Minnesota United or San Jose Earthquakes.

10- Sorry guys, but I don’t predict that we will win the MLS Cup. This league makes it almost impossible to predict the winner but my money would be on Atlanta. 

Enjoy every moment of this season as if it’s our last.  And bundle up.  For most of us, it’s cold out there.

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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

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