Tag Archives: Heber

Match Preview: NYCFC at Philadelphia Union

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

For the last regular season game of the season, New York City Football Club will  face Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday.  The Union has been a constant threat in the Eastern Conference all season and are currently locked in a tight battle with Atlanta United for second place in the conference.  Both teams have 55 points, with 33 games played but Atlanta currently hold one more win than Philly.  Both Atlanta and Philadelphia also have 1.67 points per game.  Needless to say, Philadelphia will be throwing all their efforts behind an all out 3 point victory to climb over Atlanta.

Not surprisingly, the Union has a very similar record to NYCFC with a large number of draws this season, particularly when away, and have only lost two matches at home, compared to NYCFC’s one home 2019 defeat. NYCFC’s sole home loss was to Portland Timbers while Philadelphia lost to Toronto FC and (shocker!) Portland Timbers.  Historically head-to-head at Philadelphia, the Union have three wins while NYC have two.  Earlier in the  season when these two teams met in the Bronx, City defeated Philly 4-2.

Philadelphia is expected to rely on striker Kacper Przybylko, who carries the bulk of the team’s goals scored with a tally of 15. And it’s a deep bench:  Marco Fabian and Ilsinho, who commonly come on as subs, are the next top scorers with 6 and 5 goals respectively.

Again with the similarities on paper, NYCFC’s leading goal scorer Héber, also has 15 goals scored.  Héber is expected to return to his role both setting up his partner-in-attacking-crime, Taty Castellanos, and finishing balls anywhere near the net.  I anticipate that the team will be playing to win but will need to be cautious to prevent any further injuries going into the playoffs.  In the last match, a loss at New England (0-2), Héber was just returning from an injury and played more than was optimal, likely due to the lack of Castellanos in that game.  

Castellanos was ineligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.  For the New England match the team also played without Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot – both due to card accumulation – and also without Anton Tinnerholm, out with a concussion.  Chanot and Ring will be back in the lineup for this match.

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NYCFC’s starting formation will depend a lot on the status of Tinnerholm.  His abilities and attacking mindset at right back allow the team to successfully utilize a 3-4-3 with him in a forward-moving wingback role. The team has found a rhythm and balance when Ronald Matarrita fills this role on the left and Tinnerholm is on the right.  Without Tinnerholm, there is a lot less momentum on the right side and the team needs to rely heavily on the center and left side, making the attacks more predictable and easier to defend by the opposition.  

Erik Miller was brought in to be a back up for Tinnerholm in this role and time will tell whether he can slot in fluidly but, for now, Sebastien Ibeagha has done an excellent job defending and destroying plays in the position of right back, particularly in the match against Atlanta United.  He’s indicated that he is working on his transitions to attacking with overlapping runs down the right flank.  City is going to defend hard and rely heavily on its midfield, especially Maxi Moralez, to get balls to the two headed attacking dragon of Castellanos and Héber.

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The season will certainly end on an exciting note with NYCFC still in first place in the eastern conference.

All images: Tisha Gale

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NYCFC’s chaotic win over New England Revolution, 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Walking into our seats tonight, our friend, a row over said “This is going to be Jesús Medina’s night.”  We laughed, winked and then commiserated about missing players due to international duty.  

If you have been following New York City Football Club over the past two years, you are aware that one of the Designated Player spots is occupied by Medina, a now-22 year-old Paraguayan forward who frankly, doesn’t play very much.  There are many theories as to why he has produced paltry goals or assists since his signing in 2018.

Going into this match versus New England Revolution, NYC was down a few key pieces of its regular attacking regiment due to international duty (Ronald Matarrita) and injury (Héber).  The team also went into the game without its regular starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was called up to the US Men’s National Team for international friendly matches.

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The match was a strange brew of yellow cards, a red card, an early goal, late use of VAR and very uneven possession.  City was down a goal from 2 minutes in and then was up a player from the 7th minute due to a red card ejection for New England’s  Antonio Mlinar Delamea. But City just could not finish.  

NYCFC did not look like a team that was up a player for much of the game as the Revolution defended extremely well and goalkeeper Matt Turner had quite a game of beautiful saves.  Nobody would have predicted that the most important substitution of the match would be in the 60th minute, when Jesús Medina came in for Sebastien Ibeagha.

This substitution reinvigorated the attacking efforts of NYCFC in the middle and attacking thirds of the field.  Ten minutes later, Medina was able to bury a ball into the back of the net, his goal leveling the game. In stoppage time, Medina successfully executed a penalty kick to seal the deal for a NYCFC victory.

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I was not only happy for the win for the obvious reasons but also because another City player who was called up for international duty, defender Maxime Chanot, found a way to push back his date of reporting to the Luxembourg National Team until after he played in this game.  Chanot made his life a bit more complicated for the good of the team and his strong play in this match was necessary and much appreciated.

No matter how much chaos, luck, and uneven calls by the officials contributed to this victory, the player who stepped up big is Medina.   He delivered when the team desperately needed it and can consider himself back in City fans’ good graces.  More importantly, our friend Luis can call himself a psychic.

All images: @NYCFC

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Hudson River Derby Part Deux: NYCFC best the NY Red Bulls 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was NYCFC’s turn to host their regional rival, the New York Red Bulls, during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.  NYCFC had been on a winning streak, beating both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC in a congested schedule.  

Although City walked onto the pitch with confidence and spring in their step, everything positive was quickly deflated in the the first few minutes.  The predicted runaway train pace of Red Bulls instantly threw a wrench into NYCFC’s plan of tight possession.

Coach Doménec Torrent has been consistent in his post match talks about the type of game that he wants the team to play, and that plan leaves no room for long balls leading to counter attacks.  

In the first 25 minutes of the match, much of the New York City squad looked like deer caught in the headlights of the incoming Red Bulls high, hard, and fast press.  Every attempt to string together an attacking sequence met by Red Bulls pressure was cut short, sent long and then the counter-attacking hounds were released.

Alex Muyl, who seems to have taken over the ‘lead bad guy with the bad mustache’ role from Sacha Kljesten, put one past Sean Johnson in the 10th minute off a pass by “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.  It was increasingly frustrating to watch.

Then something happened, and I don’t know what “it” was exactly, but NYCFC seemed to remember that they were a good team and trained for this.  

The passing sequences were tight and met by RBNY pressure but City seemed to relax and make calm and smart decisions.  Players remembered to make runs and do crazy things like get open.  Once the offensive spigot opened, NYCFC continued for another good 30 minutes, resulting in a successful PK converted by Maxi Moralez just before half time, and later, a fiery finish off a back heel by Héber in the 53rd minute.  

Forward Alexandru Mitrita must be back to full fitness as he oozed speed, accuracy,  vision, and creativity in generating attacking chances. The score could have been much higher for City, had the goal posts and crossbar not gotten in the way at least three times.  Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles also made some unbelievable saves.

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The last twenty minutes probably caused many a nail biter, as a revert to old habits with the Red Bulls piercing the midfield and generating attacks were eventually destroyed by either Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, or Anton Tinnerholm.  

Of course  an altercation was inevitable given the heightened emotions of the match. This time is was between Ronald Matarrita, who came into the game with a yellow card and Red Bulls Michael Murillo.  Although Murillo started the head butting sequence, it was solely Matarrita who was caught and booked, leaving NYCFC to play with 10 men in the last 4 minutes of the match.  Fortunately, RBNY were unable to level the game.

Next Saturday (August 31st) NYCFC will now have to face Vancouver Whitecaps, their farthest geographic opponent, without key player Matarrita on the squad. After that schlep, the team will be back home for three consecutive games facing New England, Toronto, and San Jose.

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Oh and by the way, New York is blue.

All images are by  Tisha Gale // Twitter: @TishaGale // Instagram: @tishagale15

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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The yin and the yang of NYCFC vs Colorado Rapids

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In last night’s Rocky Mountain duel versus the Colorado Rapids, New York City Football Club came away with the 2-1 win. It was not an easy result.

The team, near full health with Alexandru Mitrita, James Sands and Héber returning to the lineup, dominated possession with a continuous onslaught of attacking chances on Colorado and yet had a hard time with finishing. The match was filled with dualities which seemed to both hold the victory a bit out of their grasp and yet also paved the way for them to walk away with three points.

Many New York fans were eager to see Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis face off against his old teammates.  Lewis has been a welcome addition to the Rapids with his speed on attack and was the player who orchestrated the first goal of this match.  Lewis easily sped past Sebastien Ibeagha and fed the ball to Sebastian Anderson who buried it in the 6th minute.  

There was definitely a sense of poetic justice for Lewis as he struggled to gain playing time while at NYCFC.  Minutes later, 16-year-old Anderson was shown a red card on an apparent studs up tackle on Ronald Matarrita.  The highs and the lows of soccer seemed to happen within minutes for Anderson.

Rapids played down a player for most of the game but were able to defend well against NYCFC who just could not finish.  Colorado was up 1-0 until the 40th minute when Héber put one in on a ball by Maxi Moralez.  

From the television camera angles, Héber looked off side but the goal stood and the game was level.  Although NYCFC continued to dominate, they struggled to put the last piece into the offensive puzzle until Mitrita came in and they found their missing attacking element. Mitrita converted the goal that fans were salivating for in the 83rd minute.

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Oh, and did I mention that Colorado Rapids had to utilize their backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin for half the match as Tim Howard went out with a strained calf?  

In theory, this should have been a easy and decisive victory.  Despite being down a player, Colorado continued to park the bus in front of their goal with occasional attempts to counter attack.  These counter attacks were particularly scare-inducing during the last 10 minutes when almost the entire NYCFC team was above the half line.

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Perhaps the referee gods were on the side of New York City during this match.  There was the early Colorado red card, the lack of off side calls and a lenience by the referee on players like Alex Callens, who elbowed  off the ball on the edge of the box in extra time.   Was all of this karma for last week’s “Throw-in Gate” versus the New York Red Bulls? We will never really know.

Next test for NYCFC is at home versus a bruised Sporting Kansas City on Friday 7/26.

All photos:  NYCFC

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NYCFC players proudly show their 2019 world Cup colors

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Brad Stuver, Anton Tinnerholm and Sebastien Ibeagha sporting their jerseys for US, Sweden and Nigeria (respectively).

The 2019 World Cup is under way across France and the players of New York City Football Club are here for it. Here’s how some of the team will be supporting their favorite national team and checking out the matches:

Sebastien Ibeagha

Defender Sebastien Ibeagha is rooting for Nigeria’s Super Falcons but his favorite female footballer right now is Carli Lloyd.

He will most likely watch the majority of the games from the comfort of his couch and if he gets an urge to grab some of his favorite Nigerian foods, he “can easily find them in New York”.

James Sands

Native New Yorker James Sands is supporting the United States. He too is a fan of Carli Lloyd and plans to watch the matches at home with his family. Sands’ favorite game day snack? Chips and Salsa.
And who does he think are the toughest teams in the tournament? “France and the USA”

Valentín “Taty” Castellanos

Taty Castellanos will be cheering for Team Argentina from his home in New York. His favorite Argentine dishes are Asados or Milanesas con pure, which can be found in select Argentine restaurants in the city.  Castellanos likes Argentina’s chances to take home the Cup.

Brad Stuver

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver is a fan of Team USA. He too enjoys watching the games from the comfort of his couch, possibly while indulging in his favorite game day “watching sports” snack of chicken wings. His favorite player in the tournament? Tobin Heath.
Stuver predicts a battle between France and the US in the quarterfinals.

Taty Castellanos, James Sands and Héber share a laugh.

All images are by  Tisha Gale  and are part of her photo project “For Club and Country”. For more photos from this shoot, check out: Summer of Soccer, For Club & Country.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC find their groove against the Galaxy, winning 2-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club continued to show its developing form in its unexpected win over LA Galaxy.  With a return of anchor defender James Sands from injury, the team looked calm and settled.  One slight change to the lineup was the swapping out of the injured Ebenezer Ofori, out with a core injury, for Tony Rocha in a center midfield role.  NYCFC faced a Galaxy who were without Jonathan Dos Santos, Rolf Feltscher, Romain Alessandrini and showed some struggle to gather attacking chances particularly without Dos Santos.

The Boys in Blue excelled in their passing accuracy in the attacking half and the final third and this kept them steady and in control of much of the game.  New York City did an excellent job of defending but the clear and obvious strategy by LA of always trying to serve the ball up to Zlatan Ibrahimovich made the Galaxy seem predictable and easier to defend.  Where LA did a good job of accurately crossing the ball, the NYC defenders knew how to position themselves in order to quickly destroy the play.  Alex Callens was particularly efficient at slowing down or destroying LA’s attempts to propel their attack.

New York’s first goal was scored by Héber on a rebound of an Anton Tinnerholm shot.  Héber has clearly settled into his #9 role, making a go of any loose balls in the box.  He has scored 3 goals and had 3 assists in the 7 games he’s played since he joined the team.  Not only does Heber do his job well, he looks like he’s enjoying himself the whole time.  

The second goal was scored on a play in LA’s box that was first called as an offside on City but ended up as a handball call on LA via VAR.  Incredulously, Maxi Moralez stepped up to take the penalty kick, leaving most fans screaming at their screens “No!  Anyone but Maxi!” as Moralez’s last two attempts at PKs this season were failures.  

Moralez ended up burying this ball in the back of the net.  For the record, Héber should take these PKs but perhaps out of respect and seniority he deferred to Moralez.

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NYCFC has successfully and repeatedly made good use of the wingback role, with particular ease when the roles are executed by Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita. The match did end on a strange note with a seemingly frustrated Ibrahimovich and NYCFC’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson in a tangle of alleged body bumps and hands to the neck resulting in both players being booked on yellow cards.

It’s still early in the season but NYCFC have now moved up to 4th place in the Eastern Conference behind Philadelphia, DC and Montréal with their next call to arms on 5/25 in another away match versus Chicago Fire.

All images:  NYCFC twitter

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James Sands is a honey badger*

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club managed to pull out 7 points in 7 days with glimmers of hope for even better play going forward.  To recap, NYCFC played 3 games in a 7 day stretch pulling out a road victory against DC United 2-0, a home victory 1-0 versus Chicago Fire and drawing with Orlando City SC 1-1 most recently.

Not surprisingly, the team’s best performance and the seemingly unlikely road win against a strong DC United, was a result of Coach Dome Torrent playing new Brazilian striker Héber, alongside Alexandru Mitrita and Maxi Moralez.  The threesome demonstrated some early signs of offensive chemistry.

Unfortunately, Mitrita suffered an ankle injury in that match resulting in him not playing against Chicago Fire and playing limited minutes off the bench versus Orlando SC.  The magical recipe for strong attack combines these three players with a dash of Taty Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.

Héber of NYCFC
Héber of NYCFC warms up

The other big takeaway from the week:  James Sands is basically a human honey badger on the field and you know what they say about honey badgers?

Sands, the club’s first homegrown who began starting in a defensive role this season has been the bane of many a seasoned opposing player’s existence.  He’s been on NYCFC’s roster for the past three years with limited play time but he has been a constant defensive force this season.  

Has the team struggled to score goals this year?  Yes, but the team has only lost one match to date.

Over the past three games, Sands took Wayne Rooney out of most of DC United’s attacking chances in the mid field and almost completely neutralized CJ Sapong on Chicago Fire.  He gave Nani and Dom Dwyer of OCSC zero space to maneuver. Sands does not defer and even slightly back off very seasoned and sometimes legendary opponents and seems fully committed to sacrificing his body in the process of stopping a play when necessary.  

His ability to think ahead and predict the play seems way beyond his 18 years.  He deserves a lot of credit for his consistent, physical, intelligent and lack-of-drama style of play.

James Sands
James Sands

*Update:  Sands has not been in training due to a pulled abductor muscle which happened in the match against Orlando City.  So he will, most likely, miss the next match against Montréal Impact on Saturday.   So alas, he is an injured honey badger.  

NYCFC will make their first attempt to win a match without Sands.  I’m a bit nervous.

Featured and all images: Tisha Gale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC keeps winless streak alive, tying Montreal 0-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

“A tough battle in the Bronx ends in a stalemate” is what I should write about this week’s NYCFC loss -strike that – TIE with Montreal Impact.  Yet this should not have been a tough game, particularly with the Impact missing the injured Ignacio Piatti.  This should have been a relatively easy home match for New York City. 

From where I sat, the game can be summed up as: “Taty Castellanos was trying hard in front of the goal but getting few balls, while Héber isn’t yet fully fit but was basically invisible when he was subbed in.  City should have made something of the 20 minutes when they were up a man and, without Maxi Moralez, the team is a rudderless ship.”

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NYCFC’s Valentin “Taty” Castellanos

It’s interesting how as New Yorkers, we expect the best:  in food, entertainment, lodging, museums, shopping. And yet, we seem to historically accept mediocrity from our local sports teams.  New York City Football Club is still winless in 2019 over 4 games with three of them at home.   The team is actually winless over the past 7 games if you go back to 2018 playoffs. The last win for New York was October 28, 2018, against the Philadelphia Union. Some fans are outspoken in their frustration and others are exhibiting signs of learned helplessness.

So for all of you sad, angry and exasperated NYCFC fans out there, here are some other historically awful winless streaks by New York metro area teams:

New York Knicks – 2018-2019 – 18 game losing streak

New York Nets – 2009-2010 – 18 losses in a row

New York Mets 1962 – 17 game losing streak

New York Islanders – 2010-2011 –  14 losses in a row

New York Giants 1976 – 9 game losing streak

Even our winningest New York team, the Yankees, lost 12 in a row in 1908.  And the New York Jets in 2014 (and 1975 & 1996) lost 8 in a row and still don’t have their own stadium!

Feel better now?  

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The still winless NYCFC squad

NYCFC next heads out to the brand-spanking-new Allianz stadium in St. Paul to face Minnesota United Football Club in their very first match in their new home.  Most fans have zero expectations except for a loss as the team just can’t seem to win on the road.  However, MNUFC was once also a team new to the league playing pretty terribly as recently as last year, also in someone else’s stadium and look at them now.  It’s early in the season, but Minnesota is currently in a playoff contention spot, has one of the league’s most attractive stadiums with interactive lights and a deeply devoted fan base.

If New York City FC could get one of these things, it would be a step in the right direction.

All images by Tisha Gale // @tishagale15 on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale