Tag Archives: Ebenezer Ofori

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

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images:  NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Meanwhile, up in northern California… NYCFC defeats San Jose 2-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, March 31st.  It was a day ripe with drama in Major League Soccer.  The state was California.  Two matches, hours apart at opposite ends of the state.  As if the day’s events were scripted. 

In the south, where celebrities and paparazzi are the blood that runs through its veins, one of the biggest personalities in soccer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his star-spangled, man-bunned debut for the LA Galaxy with the biggest bang possible.  You’ve seen the footage no doubt since Ibrahimovic’s debut basically broke Twitter for a few hours.  It definitely featured the largest lion tattoo in MLS history.

In the north country of San Jose, all signs were pointing towards a strong New York City Football Club lineup versus the San Jose Earthquakes until, dun, dun, dun, literally minutes before the game when captain David Villa was pulled from the lineup for a mysterious injury which occurred in the pre-game warm up.

This news was the cherry on top of the previous reports of defender Ben Sweat being too ill to play, Rodney Wallace being allowed extra rest from international duty, as well as continued absences of Alexander Ring and Ronald Matarrita due to injuries.  Will we ever have a full lineup? And why must we always learn about Villa’s absence in this manner? 

The lineup had some last minute changes and it did not start well for NYCFC with San Jose scoring off a corner kick in the 3rd minute.  Down 0-1 for the entire first half, NYCFC stayed patient and their chippy and hot first touches eventually calmed down.  By the 28th minute, they gained momentum by patiently keeping possession and carving out space for through passes and looking for the long crosses.  Opportunities were finding substitute striker Jo Inge Berget but he could not find the goal. 

Second half, Berget was moved left to make way for Jesus Medina to focus on the middle and for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to move to the right flank.   At about 48:30, Maxi Moralez’s corner kick found Anton Tinnerholm who volleyed in a rocket to even out the score 1-1. 

Much is made of this beautiful shot but more credit should be given to Yangel Herrera, Ebenezer Ofori and Abdul-Salaam for keeping the defenders physically attached to them (and in Herrera’s case, being thrown to the ground), which allowed Tinnerholm to be open. And major kudos to Moralez’s brilliant vision of the situation and to his ability to give Tinnerholm a perfect ball.

The second NYCFC goal was orchestrated by Tajouri-Shradi who weaved through defenders on the right side, ultimately finding Moralez in the center to give NYCFC the 2-1 lead. 

San Jose pulled everyone up on attack whenever possible. The rest of the game belonged to goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who denied every scoring opportunity San Jose could muster. Tempers flared in the last quarter of the game about possession at the restart after a series of ugly collisions and injuries. 

After 7 plus minutes of stoppage time (aka FOREVER), when the referee finally blew the whistle, there were audible sighs of relief that the battle was over.  It was tough, gritty and physical but the beautiful moments were memorable. 

Players making 2018 debuts:

Cedric Hountondji

Gold medal for gymnastic prowess to Ebenezer Ofori for his painful looking front split.  (And for all that, he got a yellow card?)

Images courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale