Tag Archives: Keira Smith

NYCFC clinches a playoff spot

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Wednesday, September 26: 2-0 Win

New York City Football Club clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs after a long-pined-for win against Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.  Fans of NYCFC were desperate for 3 points after our face-plant of an August and September.  For the record, I was cautiously optimistic before this game with the return of the majority of the squad, from various injuries and international call-ups.

There were a few changes to the lineup probably caused by the absence of Alexander Callens due to yellow card accumulation.  James Sands started in an attacking center midfield role alongside Alex Ring who played a more defensive role.  Despite both teams battle against the waterlogged field, causing more slipping and sliding than usual, Sands did a good job of looking to distribute long balls from the center of the field to the flanks.  Not all passes were perfect with gravity having its way at times with Sands but the long balls opened up the field and shook up Chicago’s defense.

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NYCFC’s James Sands fights for possession. Image: @TishaGale

New York City kept to their old reliable theme of quick pass possession with Ebenezer Ofori working well offensively and defensively for the majority of the game – except for the very end.  We had a number of missed and saved shots in the first half with four on target.  Chicago Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, not a regular starter for the team did a good job defending the net.

At the 47th minute, the stalemate was broken by Ring after a quick combination of one-touch passes which went from Maxi Moralez to David Villa and then to Ring.  In the 51st, David Villa put one in on a beautifully patient set up by Moralez.  Moralez had been trying to set up his teammates the whole night with mixed success.

NYC held Chicago to 2-0 due to a few fantastic saves by Sean Johnson and featuring an exceptional defensive performance by Maxime Chanot.

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David Villa & Sebastian Schweinsteiger. Image: @TishaGale
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NYCFC’s Alex Ring. Image: @TishaGale

A positive takeaway was the playing style of James Sands who was constantly pressuring the Fire’s developing offense and working to distribute the ball long and wide to the wings from the center. Were the distributions perfect? No, but multiple times it worked to propel the NYC attack forward from the congested middle of the field.  Sands seems to have learned a lot from Alex Ring’s style of play.

In the first half, a lot of the initial New York City attack was generated down the left wing by long balls from the center midfield to Ronald Matarrita who worked tightly with Villa and Moralez. In the first 45 minutes, both Villa and Moralez seemed to be working to craft the “right” pass to dish to a teammate for a strong shot, rather than just taking the shot themselves. For many of our chances on goal, it seemed like that last pass or the actual shot was off a bit in its timing or pace.

The second half seemed to have more quick one-touches in Chicago’s box and it resulted in two goals.  Was this a purposeful change in attacking strategy or just a coincidence? Either way, the win cemented NYCFC’s place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Next up City faces Minnesota United at the notoriously poorly turfed TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, September 29th. The combination of questionable turf and a possible tweak to his previously injured abductor on Wednesday, likely means captain David Villa will be missing the match.  Maxime Chanot may also be rested to prevent a re-injury of his abductor, according to coach Domènec Torrent.

Featured image of NYCFC supporter, Laud Amabley: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Enough with the international call-ups for NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

With all the talk about who or what is to blame for the downward spiral of New York City Football Club, one thing is clear:  there is a downside to a heavily international roster.  In all honesty, it seems like ex-coach Patrick Vieira’s final revenge, as he brought in most of the current roster and these players seem to get called up to various international games on a constant basis.

In addition to absences due to the World Cup, NYCFC has dealt with an almost unending flow of player call-ups for international friendlies.  Add a one-two punch of players being injured and then just as they are healthy to play for NYCFC, they get called up to their “home” country team.

Since March, we have honored the call-ups of Maxime Chanot, Ebenezer Ofori, Ronald Matarrita, Alexander Ring, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Rodney Wallace and Jo Inge Berget.  And now to put a cherry on top of our halfway melted sundae of an MLS season, Paraguay has called up Jesús Medina. To refresh your memory, Medina has been out for the past five-plus weeks due to a hamstring injury.  He may soon be back on the pitch but it’s incomprehensible that he may head straight to play for Paraguay potentially before he even returns to NYCFC.

This is almost the exact same scenario we dealt with when Tajouri-Shradi who came back from injury and then quickly left to represent the Libyan national team.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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Image: @TishaGale

The only positive takeaway from this is that various international teams see players’ experience and growth in MLS as worthy, validating MLS as a league. MLS teams should be building their teams with the best players possible whether they are “American” or from other countries if we want a high level of play.  Yes, it’s great to have a league where domestic players have opportunities to play but there shouldn’t be charity slots on teams or it clearly dumbs down the league.

I assume that MLS wants to continue to be attractive to international coaches and teams and what they can do to make better synergy with these leagues would be to get on the same calendar as the rest of the world leagues.  Knowing that this will never happen, they could extend the season by a few weeks, and then take the international break with the rest of the world.

For now, to New York City fans it feels like we are finally almost back to full strength with our lineup but after our poor performances in August, it may be too late to salvage this season.  However, the dreamer in me asks the question: With this roster returning to as close to full strength as it has been in months, why can’t we get back to that early season form that so delighted fans and terrorized opponents?

The playoffs are a great “do over”.  Hopefully, we can regain our form right now.

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Joy and Pain. In cold NYC rain.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, Sept 8: 1-1 Draw

Sometimes you need fresh eyes to appreciate what you have.  Jess Houwen the MLSFemale reporter for Colorado Rapids arrived in New York City on Saturday and breathed some much needed fresh air into my outlook regarding the New York City Football Club experience. My big takeaway is that sometimes you don’t need to veer too far off your regular path to see things a different way.

After meeting up with Jess and my NYCFC sister Tisha Gale outside Penn Station, we hoofed it to Times Square. Yes, the place that most New Yorkers avoid at all costs mostly due to the slow-moving tourists and scary faux Hello Kitties accosting you for a photo. We had a few hours to spare before the NYCFC game against DC United up in the Bronx.

We popped into the M & M store on Jess’s promise of to-die-for coffee flavored candies. Sadly, they ran out of the coffee M&Ms but the caramel and the mint crunch ones are pretty damn good.  If I’m being honest, the walls covered in giant tubes of brightly colored candies were a sight to behold.  A place I normally zoom past without thought, I can now appreciate.

Another highlight of our pre-gaming tour was Tisha spontaneously juggling a soccer ball in the Adidas store to the amusement of fellow shoppers.

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Onward and upward we headed to the stadium on the 4 train.  Jess, embracing her inner New Yorker, purchased her first NYCFC scarf and became an NYCFC fan for the day (or maybe longer?).  I was excited to catch my first glimpse of Wayne Rooney and see how he and David Villa would match up this time. Of course, I went in low-key nervous as NYC was missing more than a handful of players due to injuries and international call ups and DC has been recently invigorated by the arrival of Rooney.

In the first half, we sat in my seats which are behind the goal, opposite the supporters’ section and we saw strong indications of deep respect and friendliness between Villa and Rooney.  On one occasion where the referee Kevin Stott was considering calling an offensive foul on Villa who was actually taken down by a DC player, it appeared that Rooney was intervening on Villa’s behalf.

Still scoreless going into the second half, we switched it up and watched from the supporters’ section, which is Tisha’s view of the game.  180 degrees from where I normally spectate and a world away, I got completely sucked up in the drums, the chants, the excitement and the frustration.

While we were in the bleachers, City was scored on by DC’s Steve Birnbaum in the 58th minute via a gorgeous free kick service by Rooney.   Then at the 86th minute, Villa leveled the score on his world-class shot, also from a free kick.  Pain and then joy experienced from another angle and with a different crowd.

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The match ended in a 1-1 draw and while fans in the supporters’ section more openly and creatively expressed both frustration with the poor shot accuracy and simultaneous relief at grabbing a point, those same emotions were felt by most NYCFC fans regardless of the seating area. From both of my vantage points, it genuinely looked like both Rooney and Villa enjoyed themselves.  Also from all angles, it was evident how solidly and intelligently James Sands plays in midfield, which is a big deal for the growth and development of the team and club.

It’s worth mentioning that DC United scored on one of two total shots while NYCFC’s finishing continued to seem cursed with only one goal out of  31 total shots.  This is on the heels of NYC’s loss to New England Revolution this week despite outshooting them 27 to 11.

City’s next match is away at Montréal, which I will be attending, on Saturday 9/22.  What we are clearly lacking right now is finishing ability.  We aren’t that far from our early-season dangerous attacking form.  Let’s hope that those players returning will bring a fresh perspective to get the team completely back to fighting form.

Featured image of Jess: Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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NYCFC’s season resembling a slowly deflating balloon

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Wednesday, Sept 5: 0-1 Loss

The bright shiny balloon that was the New York City Football Club‘s season is slowly deflating and losing its luster. After this recent loss to the New England Revolution 1-0, it’s hard now to consider early season fan-think that our team is the best in the league and deserves to win “silverware”.

In this match NYCFC took 27 shots, of which 6 were on target, 12 were off target and 9 were blocked.  All of this shooting resulted in zero goals.  New England were able to score one goal off 11 total shots.  Unbeaten at home until tonight, fans are left scratching their heads as to what the core problems are and how they can be addressed to possibly salvage this season.

Yes, more shots were taken in this game than last but they either went wide or directly at goalkeeper Brad Knighton. David Villa seemed to constantly be taking extraneous touches which lead to him being shut down when a one-touch shot would have sufficed.

It’s clear we worked the left wing pretty well to get the ball down to New England’s third but the repeated high crosses from that side were quickly destroyed by the high number of Revolution defenders concentrated in the middle.  It looked like a similar tactic to the one DC United successfully executed in shutting down Josef Martinez in their victory last week over Atlanta FC.

Thus, I am very nervous about our prognosis for this Saturday’s game against the newly invigorated DC. The only silver lining is that our homegrown teen James Sands made his starting debut in midfield and played very well for 75 minutes. Coach Dome Torrent was pleased with his performance and now that he’s back from his short loan to Louisville perhaps we will see more of him on a more regular basis.

Until Saturday. Let’s hope the balloon still has some air left in it.

*Final thought– A noticeable factor for both teams was the embarrassing status of the baseball infield layover of grass. It became an area that both teams had to actively avoid as players appeared to be walking on ice. It seemed impossible to pivot on without one or two players falling in the process.

Featured image: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Mixed emotions as NYCFC fall to Columbus Crew 2-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, Sept 1: 2-1 Loss

On Saturday, I bore witness to two poorly played soccer matches. The first was the local high school’s varsity team’s first game of the season, played by a team where most teenagers only touch a soccer ball during the 8 week season and the other was New York City Football Club versus Columbus Crew.  In case you were living in a hole, the final score for the latter was 2-1 Columbus Crew.  (And if you’re really curious, the high school team lost 5-1.)  I can’t say that these matches were that dissimilar from each other. The high school team faced one of the best in the league and will get better as the season goes on, but can we say this about NYCFC?

Consistent manpower continues to be an issue for New York City with players injured, out for international call-ups, red cards and yellow card accumulations. I have no doubt that rotating players and lineups messes with chemistry but we played last week with 9 players and moved quicker and faster with more desire than we did with 11 in this one.

Looking at some statistics about the number of lineup changes and its effects on game outcome over the past three seasons in MLS, Dustin Nation (@D_Naish) of American Soccer Analysis (@AnalysisEvolved) correlated the number of lineup changes with the three outcomes: win, loss or draw.  He found that more than 2 roster changes per game generally lead a team to be less likely to win.

I would be very interested in a further study of this data going back 10 years to include a few World Cup years to see if these events are independent variables. My gut says that there is definitely a connection between a “forced hand” (injuries/red cards/international call-ups) reason for changing lineups and strategically changing lineups to improve performance.  Hopefully, this is something that I can research further.

I started writing this match reflection with one part frustration, a half part exasperation and a pinch of collective woe-is-me self-pity.  I mean we wasted a huge rare opportunity to gain points in a week where both the NY Red Bulls and Atlanta FC also lost.  I was thinking about the supporters who take days off work, pack into small cars and travel many hours to give our team a rousing base of support.  I feel for them and the optimistic energy they bring every single game and why does this not translate into wins or at least into performances that we can be proud of?

And then I learned of the passing of a passionate NYCFC founding supporter and saw the immediate response across all parts of the club’s universe to help her family during an extremely difficult time. From the initial communication from New York City Supporters’ Club and setting up of a GoFundMe to which our club president was one of the first contributors, to Blue City Radio donating and raffling off match tickets, the response was swift and full of fierce loyalty to her. As reporter and podcaster Nick Chavez stated in a tweet, “Let us, as the family we are, help look after the needs of the family our beloved Tirzah left behind.” My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Tirza Gonzalez.

As a female soccer fan, it can sometimes be a lonely place in the US. I have very few local friends who follow the sport at all, let alone MLS.  I used to think of fans of the sport as members of my species and then those who support NYCFC as my tribe. I’m seeing more clearly that this connection we have to our team and each other is family.

#SaveTheCrew

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All images: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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The one where we refuse to cry “Unkel!”(NYCFC tie RBNY 1-1)

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Going into Wednesday’s game against regional rival New York Red Bulls, New York City Football Club had a few challenges: Namely 5 injured players and one red card suspension. NYCFC coach Domènec Torrent chose to utilize a 3-4-3 starting formation clearly to work around the absence of injured defender Alex Callens.

The real highlights of this drag down, dirty, chippy fight, also known as the Hudson River Derby, happen to be the reactions by NYC to the obstacles thrown at them in facing the Red Bulls this go-round. In many ways this felt like we were spectating a live action video game, one where the difficulty level for NYCFC was slowly cranked up to the “un-winnable” level:

  • Level 1- RBNY forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scores a goal in the 36th minute putting NYC down a goal.
  • Level 2- In the 39th minute midfielder Eloi Amagat, in his debut game for NYCFC, gets ejected on a straight red card for a “serious foul”. No cards had been shown to anyone prior to this.  City was now playing down a player.
  • Level 3- Goal scoring machine Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is subbed out in the second half bringing in Jo Inge Berget to replace him.  Was this tactical or is Isi hurt again?
  • Level 4- In the 51st minute, David Villa gave the fans another taste of his brilliance with a volley shot on a header pass by Berget which flew under the grasp of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.  Level cleared! Game tied 1-1 but Berget is subbed off 10 minutes later presumably due to an injury.
  • Level 5a- Warning: Nobody has ever gotten past this level Around the 70th minute on a breakaway foot race between Wright-Phillips and Ebenezer Ofori, the Red Bull went down on contact and refused to get up, despite lack of a call and the continued play.  When medics came on to the field to tend to him (and seemed to stay on the field, despite the teams setting up for the re-start), it was clear that Wright-Phillips was not going off the field despite no card being shown.  Fans and players were yelling for him and his medic to leave the field.  It appeared that this angered referee Ted Unkel, who then had a sudden change of heart and sent the play to VAR to be analyzed (by the universally scorned Mark Geiger).  This resulted in Ofori being issued a red card for “stomping” on Wright-Phillips’ leg.  I challenge anyone watching the replay to come to this conclusion.  It’s very hard to stomp a moving object when your eyes are focused elsewhere and you are also losing your footing.  NYCFC was now down 2 players with at least 20 minutes to go, including injury time.
  •  Level 5b- aka Adding Insult to Injury – As Ofori leaves the field, Villa expresses his displeasure with the call and is issued a yellow card.  Somehow Kemar Lawrence goes toward Villa, which Anton Tinnerholm intercepts and gets struck in the neck by Lawrence, who stunningly only receives a yellow card.
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First-row action. Image: Keira Smith

With the game seemingly out of control and all sense of right, wrong, justice and fairness eliminated,  all fans could do was stand, scream and cheer our hearts out in support of our team.  They had to know that we were with them while they played the terrible hand they were dealt.  Every play destroyed by a City defender and every attacking sequence was met by deafening roars from the crowd.  We were going to will the players to survive this battle.

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New York is Blue. Image: Keira Smith

They say a lot of things about what you learn about yourself and your supporters when you’re up against the ropes, facing your greatest challenges.  NYCFC dug deep and boy, did that tie feel like a win.

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Felt like a win. Image: Keira Smith

Images by Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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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

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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I’m Upset: NYCFC loses to Seattle 1-3

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In honor of my two teenagers and the young players on my favorite team, I have decided to release my NYCFC versus Seattle Sounders version of Drake’s “I’m Upset”.  It will most likely be cringe-worthy to many but it allowed me to work through my feelings of disappointment.  So thank you for humoring me.

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I’m upset
Only 3 wins on the road- it’s disrespect
Seemed wrong I know, I double-checked
Even with return of Jo Berget
Our shut-out streak had to end
I’m all verklempt
Got a lotta love for the Blue
Captain Villa, it’s kinda hard without you
Como está su rodilla?
Can’t win Cups without wins on the road
Every game New York fans expect a win
We have no stadium!
We still have 5 plus years of searching for a home
Atlanta sits up top of the chart with 47
Over in Jersey they talk a lot of trash but they’re still in 3rd.
Word to Coach Dome J- Lew finally seeing the pitch
Why the hell no Chanot?

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I’m upset
Travel 3000 miles, what’s the effect?
Dome worried about jet lag, can’t play their best
Maxi was spent
But this is MLS life
We got points to collect
So what’s next?
After an L to Seattle, what the heck?
Even with good clearances from Seb
At least Medina got one on a cross from Berget
In the end no effect
Only other offense was from Mata on the left
Where was halftime magic from Torrent?
Sean Johnson, we still love you, no disrespect
Got a lot of love for the Blue
Ring, it’s hard to win without you,
Thankful you’ll be back in the next one
Can’t win a Cup without wins on the road.

Domènec Torrent
Head Coach of NYCFC, Domènec Torrent.

Behind the lyrics

After New York City Football Club lost another match on the road to Seattle Sounders, the author/terrible rap lyricist talks about the return from injury of forward Jo Inge Berget, the continued absence of injured captain David Villa and how we still have no stadium to call our own.  In the MLS Eastern Conference,  Atlanta FC has 47 points with 23 games played, NYCFC has 43 points with 22 games played and New York Red Bulls has 41 with 21 games played.  Fans regularly express excitement that coach Dome Torrent continues to give Jonathan Lewis an important role as a “Super Sub”.

The game was about 3000 miles away from their previous game in Orlando three days prior and coach Dome expressed concern about the jet lag.  Fans noticed how unusually winded midfielder Maxi Moralez looked in the second half.

In the first half, Seattle scored two goals, yet NYC usually gets a big boost after halftime, even when they are down.  Alas, despite some strong attacking attempts and crosses by Ronald Matarrita, some good defensive clearances by Sebastien Ibeagha and a beautiful goal by Jesús Medina on a low cross by Berget, New York just couldn’t equalize.

It is also very apparent how vital to the team midfielder Alex Ring is and how deeply we felt his suspension due to yellow card accumulation.  Although I was disappointed in the loss, the team had recorded 4 shutouts prior to the loss and a great portion of the credit goes to stellar goalkeeping by Sean Johnson.  And yet, if City wants to win the MLS Cup, it’s essential that we record more wins on the road.

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Next game is home on Saturday, August 4th against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Check out my colleagues’ coverage of the MLS All-Star Game on August 1st by following @mlsfemale on Twitter and Instagram.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Dome said knock you out – NYCFC shuts out Columbus Crew 2-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Photos by Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

Between three home NYCFC games and the final rounds of Wimbledon and the World Cup last week, there was little spare time last week to do anything but take in the sporting spectacles.  And were they long ones- from 6-hour men’s Wimbledon matches to Croatia going to penalty kick shootouts in back to back matches, the key word was stamina.

Our own New York City Football Club tested their own stamina and fitness this past week with three games in seven days and came away with glowing marks earning three wins – all shutouts.  Last Wednesday, while walking into the press box, “Mama Said Knock You Out” was playing in the hallway and I immediately knew it was a good omen.  I mean who could forget the previous visit local legend LL Cool J made to Yankee Stadium?

This past Saturday New York City dug into the depths of the roster and into the magic of coach Domènec Torrent to pull out a huge 2-0 win over the visiting Columbus Crew.  You cannot talk about New York City’s success right now without adding the cherry on top which is that the team is winning without the injured David Villa.  This was unimaginable in prior years.

For the first few years of our club’s existence, he was our Obi-Wan Kenobi – our only hope. In this match the team had to face Columbus without Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget – basically the whole forward line. In the absence of many obvious options, coach Dome started Rodney Wallace, Ronald Matarrita and Jesus Medina up top.

Watching the first half of the game at Yankee Stadium behind Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Medina.  He was everywhere trying to create plays, open up space, apply pressure, running at Steffen, making crosses and rebounding shots.  He was working his tail off.

Medina is only 21 years old and I know that NYCFC fans are impatient for a Designated Player to quickly start making “contributions” to the goal scoring rolls but I see a very calculated and cerebral player.  He looks like he’s always thinking and strategizing, yes sometimes to his detriment, but I believe he plays much better when NYCFC coaching and players give him the freedom to be creative on the field.

In the second half of this match, Medina executed beautifully on a pass from Jonathan Lewis,  smartly taking an extra second to hammer a shot accurately past Steffen.  Wingback Anton Tinnerholm added an insurance goal on a counter attack in which he successfully cut past the Columbus defender and Steffen, easily knocking the ball into the goal.  Looks of shock switched to giggles as he celebrated by karate kicking the corner flag.

Despite the score and the smart play of NYCFC, the game could have easily gone the other way as Columbus had 11 shots in the first half with 5 of them inexplicably going over the top or wide.  This was not an easy game by any means.

Much of this depth is due to Vieira’s building of the team last pre-season but the level and versatility of play seems to have improved in the past few weeks under Dome with game results speaking for themselves. Torrent has the expertise to see what the team is doing well and what needs to be adjusted pretty quickly and he must give incredible half-time talks.

All three games went to halftime with 0-0 scores and ended with shutouts. Dome also has been giving young players like Lewis and Kwame Awuah chances to contribute and switched things up by putting Matarrita into a more attacking role, something he’s done very successfully for his previous club and for the Costa Rican national team.

So was LL Cool J there in person last week bringing his previous good vibes or were they coming through via musical inspiration?  NYCFC’s next game is July 26th away at Orlando City Soccer Club.  I’m optimistic that the team can carry this successful momentum to the road. And Mr. Smith, please feel free to come to any and all games.

#SaveTheCrew

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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NYCFC make an impact on Montréal, winning 3-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City FC has a tight schedule this week and faced the second of its three opponents on July 11th at home versus Impact Montréal.  The game was a snooze fest in the scoreless first half, with very little happening offensively besides some fruitless crosses by NYCFC wing Rodney Wallace and some relentless verbal tormenting of Montréal goalkeeper Evan Bush.

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Something happened during half time though, (besides this wedding proposal, ripe with a “Marry Me” NYCFC jersey!)

The Boys in Grey came out with fire in their bellies and under their feet opening up the scoring flood gates with three beautiful and very different styled goals by Jesús Medina at the 60th minute:

Ronald Matarrita at 65′:

Jonathan Lewis at 76′:

After the second goal, Montréal seemed to lose all their energy, barely pressing forward.  Recently lethal striker Ignacio Piatti did his best to make runs, looking for something magical to come his way but City defenders Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha easily shut him down.  Montréal’s lack of high (or even medium) press, allowed NYCFC to play out of the back for much of the game, which thankfully gave goalkeeper Sean Johnson something to do as he didn’t need to make a single save.

Some intel I learned postgame:

  • Jonathan Lewis, despite being “half English” is rooting for France, admires the playing style of Kylian Mbappe and Raheem Sterling and “said [a while back] that Croatia would go to the [World Cup] finals.”
  • In a week with three tightly scheduled games, Sean Johnson spoke of the importance of rest to stay sharp and the team’s focus on tactics. Interestingly, Johnson regularly incorporates yoga and pilates into his training year-round.
  • Ronald Matarrita is “always trying to score goals” and hopes that we all get to know him a bit better as a player.

NYCFC faces the Columbus Crew on Saturday July 14th at home.  Remember when we had to play them at “home” at Citifield?  Related to that, a New York Times article was released during the Montreal game about another possible stadium site.

Someday we will have our own home…

Images by Tisha Gale and Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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