Tag Archives: Keira Smith

Two European attackers added to NYCFC’s roster

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot of focus in the last few weeks in the New York City FC realm has been on both the MLS SuperDraft and on “Jack Harrison Watch”.  While all of this was going on, until today, the club has been active with signing new players. 

From the Austrian Bundesliga, we brought on goal scorer Ismael Tajouri.  Tajouri comes in as a possible wing or attacking midfielder from Austria Wien, the 24-time Austrian champions.  Tajouri is a truly international player having been born in Switzerland, moved to Austria when he was 9 and rose through Austria Wien’s youth program. 

He was loaned to SC Rheindorf Altach for two years where he helped the team achieve promotion to Austria’s First Division.  Austria Wien brought him back where he scored 10 goals in 36 appearances.  In the meantime, he also played on the U-20 team for Libya, his parents’ birth country. 

Clearly, his attacking skills and mindset (he was directly involved in more shots on goals than any other player in Austria’s Bundesliga last season), made him an attractive addition to NYCFC as we hope for more finishing up top.  Head coach Patrick Vieira also noted that Tajouri brings power, pace, good 1 vs 1 skills on offense and a really good work ethic.  Sporting director Claudio Reyna added that Tajouri has a lot of experience for his age. 

Another addition from Europe to hopefully take some of the goal scoring pressure off David Villa is Norwegian striker Jo Inge Berget.  Berget concluded a three-year contract with Swedish champions Malmö FF where he scored 25 goals in 77 appearances.  He was in talks to join Orlando City FC earlier this fall but may have been enticed to join NYCFC by the chance to play with his former Malmö teammate, defender Anton Tinnerholm

Coincidence that we have two Malmö players?  Probably not. Vieira seems to have a pattern of bringing in pockets of players from the same country, team or culture, presumably to accelerate the formation of the all-important, yet intangible chemistry.  Vieira spoke highly of Berget’s versatility, competitiveness, winning mentality and, of course, work ethic.  Reyna agreed with these strengths and added that Berget brings stature, (he is over 6 feet tall), to NYCFC’s attacking areas.

Berget started his footballing career in Norway, first at Lyn Toppfotball before being sold to top division team and three-time league champions Molde Fotballklubb.  In Berget’s team debut for Molde, he scored a championship-deciding goal against Tromso.

After spending three years with Molde and scoring 17 goals in 63 appearances, he followed his manager across the channel to Cardiff City and then was on brief loan to Celtic before signing onto the three-year deal in January 2015 with Malmö.  Berget also played internationally for Norway, first for their U-21 team. 

Expectations are high that both Tajouri and Berget will add depth, power, speed, and goals to NYCFC’s attack.

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC SuperDraft primer

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

This Friday the MLS SuperDraft commences in Philadelphia.  Although the SuperDraft’s importance has likely decreased in comparison to youth academies and foreign player signings, especially at New York City FC, it still is an important piece of the MLS team composition puzzle.

The SuperDraft began in 2000 and was a major avenue for teams to acquire talent.  Utilizing a draft is, of course, unique among soccer leagues worldwide but very common in American sports. In fact, the MLS’s format is very similar to the NFL’s draft.  Players are eligible to be drafted if they played for an NCAA team and are not part of an academy system. 

The SuperDraft follows a player Combine which is an event to give these players the opportunity to show off their skills and coachability.  This year the Combine was held in Orlando at Orlando City SC’s stomping grounds.

The event is comprised of four rounds with each team getting one pick per round.  So, this year, each round will contain 23 picks for a total of 92 players being selected.  The order in which a team picks is based on how they finished the prior season, with the “less successful” teams being able to pick players earlier each round than teams who went into the postseason, with expansion teams picking first. 

In 2018, expansion team Los Angeles FC will get #1 draft pick each round.  Due to NYCFC’s 2017 Conference Semi-final finish, we have the 19th pick in each round.  We have an additional draft pick in the 3rd round that we acquired by trading RJ Allen to Orlando.  As it stands now, we pick 19th (first round), 42nd (2nd round), both 52nd and 65th (third round) and 88th (fourth round). 

While the draft is still potentially a source of talent for MLS teams in general, arguably NYCFC’s most productive SuperDraft was in 2016 when we never actually drafted a player.  Jack Harrison was selected as the #1 pick by Chicago Fire but minutes later, they traded him to NYCFC for their #4 pick and General Allocation Money.  In the second round, we traded our pick to Montreal Impact for Mr. Mustache himself, Jeb Brovsky.  Third round, we traded our pick to FC Dallas for Andrew Jacobson and finally in the fourth round we acquired Kwame Watson-Sirboe in a trade to Real Salt Lake

While the lasting impact of the final three players (mustaches withstanding) was minimal, “Jack Flash” has been an integral part of the team from the second he overcame his fractured pelvis, an injury that was announced right after the 2016 draft.

With the growth of the US academy system, who knows how long the SuperDraft will continue to exist.  For international soccer fans, it seems like an anomaly, yet it does maintain an element of tradition to tie it in with other US sports and may be hard to relinquish. Plus, until the preseason games kickoff next month, the draft provides us with some soccer news and a few new names to learn. 

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC Signs Center Back Cedric Hountondji

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Just as the ink was drying in my last column lamenting our lack of a definitive center back comes today’s news.  (It’s as if they heard me!)

New York City FC today announced the signing of Cedric Hountondji.  Hountondji comes to us most recently from Gazelec Ajaccio, a Ligue 2 team in Corsica.  He previously played at Chateauroux, Auxerre, and Rennes and has taken the pitch internationally for both France and Benin.

As many have discussed, the club had been seeking a more (literally) sizable presence in central defense.  Last season, Maxime Chanot played a pivotal role in anchoring the defense but an injury took him out at the end of the season.  23-year-old Hountondji is listed as 6’5”, making him the second tallest player in MLS, behind the 6’7” Axel Sjoberg of the Colorado Rapids. 

Full disclosure, there are seven other players in the league who are also listed as 6’5” but still, it’s rare.  Head coach Patrick Vieira called Hountondji “a strong player who is dominant aerially and physically” and his addition to the team will give him more options “to strengthen our back four”. 

Sporting director Claudio Reyna summarized the attractiveness of this acquisition most succinctly in describing Hountondji as “a tall, athletic defender with a very good understanding tactically on how we want to play and will adapt with how we want to defend as a unit.” Two other strengths worth highlighting, according to Reyna, are that he can “compete for a place to play” which we know is critical to playing for Vieira and he “will be able to adapt to MLS”. Hountondji joins other recent defensive acquisitions Saad Abdul-Salaam and Anton Tinnerholm

Hountondji is the club’s fifth offseason signing, joining Jesus Medina, Brad Stuver, Abdul-Salaam, and Tinnerholm.  Seeking out young international players with their best years ahead of them is definitely the strategy that the club is utilizing. 

My two cent observation: Our team seems to gel when we have at least two Francophones in the defensive line and at least two Spanish speakers attacking up front. 

Extra time-

And the winner of the SuperDraft trivia question was Twitter handle @bellenbaum with Chicago Fire as the team who drafted Jack Harrison in 2016.  We had many correct answers but he was first to respond.

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Spring on the Horizon and SuperDraft

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

When it’s mind-numbing and skull-crushingly cold, I always look to the prospect of spring to give me hope.  I can easily conjure up the smell of thawing soil and the sight of our New York City FC players slipping on the overwatered turf in just about every second half of every home match at the Stadium, especially on the grass that covers the Yankee stadium infield.

These thoughts of greenery keep me going through the white, grey and black of January and February.  As NYCFC fans we have roughly two months until our season opener in Kansas City on March 4th.  

Things are far from frozen with our club, especially with our new DP Jesus Medina arriving in New York last week.  The young Paraguayan with the wicked left foot checked out his new home and future NYCFC training facilities, although they were covered in snow. I am sure he had to use some of the imagination and creativity we hope to see on the pitch.  It will be interesting to see how his offensive strengths, he scored 17 goals in 74 appearances for Club Libertad, will gel with Villa, Harrison, Wallace, and Moralez.   

We also recently acquired Anton Tinnerholm and Saad Abdul-Salam to firm up our defensive line.  We still seem to be lacking a definitive Center Back outside of Chanot but it seems Coach Vieira will have plenty of options and combinations to try albeit with a lot of new faces.  Rumors of the addition of Yaya Touré have been quashed, at least for now, with the addition of Medina.  Many are still hoping that some creativity can bring Yaya here as a non-DP – I guess we will have to wait and see. Personally, I am not sure how that would work. 

While there isn’t any actual soccer until NYCFC’s first preseason friendly in Mexico on February 13th versus Club Atlético de San Luis, closer on the horizon is the MLS SuperDraft, which starts on Friday 1/19.  Remember 2016, when Jack Harrison was the #1 pick in the SuperDraft? I am happy to announce that I will be reporting to you from Philly at this year’s SuperDraft on 1/19. Follow me on instagram @keirams

Excitement seems to be building for the new secondary kit.  The players were traveling to Abu Dhabi this week for an “exciting Etihad NYCFC video project”. Perhaps this project is tied to the release and marketing of the new kit.  I loved the inaugural all black secondary kit, let’s say I didn’t hate the more recent “swirly jersey” – but I am still looking forward to its replacement.   

So until next time when we talk even more about SuperDraft,- adiós! 

Peace, love, soccer.

Extra time:

Without the use of Google, who can tell me the name of the team who drafted Jack Harrison in 2016?  Be the first one to tweet me the correct answer and I will send you an NYCFC prize/tchotchke.  (This is the honor system, I trust you!)

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

My Passion: Soccer

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Hey MLS fans near and far!  Keira Smith here, excited to be reporting on my favorite team, New York City Football Club. 

I’ve been obsessed with soccer, first as a player and then a fan, for most of my life.  I love NYCFC but even more so, I love the game.  The speed, the finesse, the power, the intense training needed to merely survive for 90 minutes. 

I love how the sport is player-driven with very little actual coaching during the matches.  No timeouts and once you’re subbed out, there’s no going back.  I love how soccer is played everywhere in the world and in all climates.  Is there any other sport in which you wonder what language the players are speaking to each other? 

The growth of MLS in the US brings tears to my eyes when I stop and think about it.  Growing up in the ’80s, soccer was not on tv.  We had to drive 30 minutes to an Italian Barbershop to see an international game on satellite.  (That was basically the only place you could buy good cleats as well). 

My dad would drive my teammates and me hours to see both national teams if they were playing somewhere “close” by.  This is night and day to the accessibility of MLS games in most of the country today. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Home away from home

NYCFC games have become our family’s tradition.  All four of us, which includes a teenager and an almost teenager, happily (and nervously- hey, we want to WIN) attend almost all home matches in pretty much all types of weather. 

We’ve made fans out of families who had previously never gone to a single soccer game in their lives.  The level of play is just that good and the fever-pitch excitement in the stadium is contagious. 

I look forward to sharing NYCFC news and fandom with you.  You can reach me at @keiramunsmith on Twitter and @keirams on Instagram.

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale