Tag Archives: Maxi Moralez

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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NYCFC cuts off the Columbus Crew 1-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced off against an inconsistent Columbus Crew and managed to pull out a win.  As I’ve said recently, I was nervous about how this game would play out. As low on the table as Columbus sits, they have recently taken down good teams on the road, such as during their match with the New York Red Bulls.

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The Good

Defenders Alex Callens and Anton Tinnerholm returned to the lineup from minor injuries.  The first half was smooth sailing for NYCFC as they maintained tight possession in the middle and attacking third –  70% possession in fact.  

The attacking partnership of Héber and Taty Castellanos looked strong with both attempting through balls and diagonal runs in or around the box. Sometimes the passes were a hair off, but it looks like they are getting more and more in sync each game.  Castellanos also continued his goal scoring run by putting one in off a pass by Maxi Moralez in the 36′.  

The NYCFC attack was complemented by the left wing runs of Ronald Matarrita, which opened up space in the middle.  It must be noted that the eternally peppy Mata will attempt to chase down any and all passes.  In this match, his aerial crosses were not necessarily hitting their target, but they worked to scramble the Crew’s defense in front of the goal.  Columbus Crew’s goalkeeper Eloy Room worked very hard in the first half to keep it to one goal allowed.

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The Bad

The immediate reaction after the match was that NYCFC played terribly in the second half.  The main difference was Pedro Santos being subbed into the game for the Crew.  He played on another level from the rest of the fielded Crew team last night and is incredibly hard to predict and defend.  

Santos’ bursts of speed and runs into open space set NYC’s defense on their heels causing the team to lose patience with their tried and true plan of tight possession which had been set forth by head coach Dome Torrent .  Once Santos entered the equation, the team seemed to get impatient and would send long balls or crosses too soon and then were quickly needing to deal with the ensuing counter attacks.

A bit more good, though

With James Sands out for 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone and Ebenezer Ofori out with a knee injury , Tony Rocha started at midfield and looked like he’s been drinking the Dome Kool-Aid.  With his short quick passes to and from Maxi while making diagonal runs and his physical defensive pressure, he appears to be settling into the lineup.

Maxime Chanot defended extremely well throughout both halves, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson had to become very active in the second half.   At one point fans were worried about both of them as they  were down and clutching their heads after saving an attempt on goal.  Minutes later, Johnson saved a goal just outside the box with his own head.

So many questions

I can say that home fans breathed a sigh of relief to escape that game with three points.  Next up is a match with regional rival NY Red Bulls on Saturday.  

How will NYCFC deal with the typical RBNY high press?  Will they stay patient and stick to their game plan?  With RBNY’s physical style, will Matarrita start with a yellow card on his back?  Will RBNY be able to start the seemingly injured goalkeeper Luis Robles? Will any of this matter as Red Bulls seem to be the LA Galaxy to NYCFC’s West coast counterpart LAFC?

All photos by Juan Carlos Rubiano // IG: @ohcitysaidi // Twitter: @OhCitySaidI

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Maxi Moralez’s huge presence on NYCFC

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In the last few days more media attention has been brought to New York City Football Club’s Designated Player, midfielder Maxi Moralez.  

His stats speak for themselves, (he currently leads the league with 13 assists and additionally has made 6 goals), but to those who have been following his career in New York, the numbers barely scratch the surface of the artful and creative style which is Maxi’s signature.  Maxi seems to be everywhere you need him while maintaining an overall vision of his teammates’ positioning.  It is a treat to watch him week in and week out.  

Last year NYCFC fans staged a virtual internet sit-in surrounding the MLS All-Star game by organizing the voting in of almost the entire Atlanta United team and refusing to vote in any of their own.  The general sentiment was that NYCFC was doing well (ironically right after this, the season started tanking) and that our players should not be wasting their time playing in a useless game where they risked potential injury on the artificial turf. 

With Atlanta as the run away front runner, other teams’ (ahem, NYCFC) fans were attempting to find any way to slow them down.  ‘Let them play in a game that doesn’t count! They think they are so great!  Maybe they’ll get hurt!’  

This season, perhaps because there is much yet to be decided in the Eastern Conference, New York City fans were less salty and overall more supportive of Maxi Moralez’s representation of the team in the MLS All-Star game. Maxi was about to head off to Orlando when he tweaked his calf in the game versus Sporting Kansas City.  The injury is apparently minor, but in order to protect him Coach Dome Torrent will be resting Maxi on Saturday in the away match versus Real Salt Lake.  

Let’s be clear:  Maxi deserves both to be recognized as an MLS All-Star and get some rest.  In general, Maxi’s roles in relation to the rest of this team reminds me of the role many mothers play within their family units. 

Both Maxi and most mothers are constantly running in 17 different directions, while keeping long term goals in their sights.  Both Maxi and many moms are their team/family’s  “emergency phone calls”, are constantly aware of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and when there’s an opportunity for a family member to learn on their own.  They know how to motivate others and experience joy at their teammate’s successes.

They don’t ask for their own spotlight and play hurt.  Both never stop moving until they drop and set others up for glory.  They know when others need to be scolded and when to protect them.  They know when to stay calm and when it’s time to raise hell.  All of these qualities are regularly demonstrated by Maxi Moralez, and NYCFC would be a far less cohesive unit and a far less successful team without him.  

As reported by MLS.com, Moralez stated in a pre-All Star Game player Q&A, that he would like to possibly end his career where he began, in Argentina.  There is a very strong chance that Maxi, a married 32 year old father with young children of his own, in his final year of his DP contract, is playing his last few months with the club.  He deserves to end his career on his own terms, but as a fan of the team I wonder what this will mean for its future. 

We will get a small taste of how the club plays without its ‘mom’ on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.  Like a grown child moving out of the house to pursue a job or education, they’d better get used to it.  

All Images:  NYCFC

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NYCFC scores all seven goals in win vs FC Cincinnati 5-2

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York, New York: The city so nice, their team scores twice for the visiting team.  Who said that New Yorkers weren’t hospitable?  New York City Football Club proved to be a humble host to FC Cincinnati on Thursday by putting two goals into the back of their own goal.

In a beautiful spring evening celebrating LGBTQ pride in New York City, NYCFC took control quickly over the match.  MLS newbies FC Cincinnati had trouble stringing together passes and gave away their limited possession in the middle third of the field.  

NYCFC accessed its roster depth via some lineup changes. Due to to injuries and international call-ups City was without a mix of starters, including Sean Johnson, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat, Ronald Matarrita and Ebenezer Ofori.

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The team also appeared to be utilizing about five forwards in a bold play for a big win. The first thirty minutes would have been tough to watch if you were a FC Cincinnati fan as NYCFC scored about 1 goal every 10 minutes of play. However, in the 37th minute, NYC did foul up a defensive play in the box and suffered an own goal, which was “credited” to Héber. Half time score was 3-1, making it once again a ball game.

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Héber at work

In the second half, within minutes Héber put in another one off a Maxi Moralez assist. In a quick sequence of events in the 76th minute, Brad Stuver made a difficult punch save off a hard FCC shot but the ball ricocheted off the leg of Sebastien Ibeagha and went into the back of New York City’s goal, making the score 4-2.

Still not content in the 90th minute with the victory claimed, NYCFC finished off the match with a gorgeous weaving pattern into the box where the master of webs finished off the ball via a difficult angle.

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Héber and Maxi Moralez celebrate a goal
Justin Haak
Justin Haak of Brooklyn, NY, makes his 2019 debut

Moralez was credited in this match with three assists and one goal, Héber had a brace, while Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi had one a piece. Also worth noting is homegrown Brooklynite Justin Haak made his debut in the second half.  

This match was a definite team effort while being down some starters, and while giving the guests a few goals to help with their goal differential. A win all around for NYCFC. However, this news put a definite damper on the celebratory vibes:

The anchor of NYCFC’s defensive line suffered a broken arm in a collision with Stuver near the end of the match.  Although this is bad news for the team, he may only miss two league games.   Fans of the team are hoping for a speedy recovery for Sands.

All photos by Tisha Gale

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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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You gotta have depth: NYCFC tops Montréal Impact 2-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

After an inconsistent start to the 2019 season, New York City Football Club appears to have found their groove with a 2-0 win over Montreal Impact.  The victory was, in part, due to solid play by the misunderstood Ben Sweat and smart strategy by the often-maligned Head Coach Dome Torrent.

Prior to this match, it looked like City had found a solid starting lineup:

 

However, injuries to Alexandru Mitrita, James Sands, and Ronald Matarrita suddenly made the team’s chances versus Montréal less certain.

Team depth, particularly in the midfield, paid off big time as Ben Sweat stepped up his game and executed his wingback role beyond expectations and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi returned to his starting position of right wing.

Tajouri-Shradi, one of 2018’s top team scorers, has not been consistently in the lineup, which was sparking questions from many fans.  The biggest cause for concern prior to this match was the injury of defensive powerhouse James Sands and how the team would fill in for his strength and consistency.

And in the end Torrent chose to go with a 3-4-3 just as certain adept fans so accurately predicted.

The depth of the team and the adherence to a strategy of ironically “widening the field” (you know, since we have such a narrow home pitch?) and playing the majority of attacking sequences down the flanks ultimately were the doom of the Impact.

With this ball and player pattern, Montreal had no idea who to cover and how to predict the play, particularly in the second half.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if this winning strategy was more effective on the road and the team ended up more successful on the road than at home? Is this likely? Probably not, but it would make things very interesting.

With goals scored by Moralez (6′) and Tajouri-Shradi (49′), the team demonstrated depth in offensive prowess and the ability to generate goals without Designated Player Mitrita and despite striker Héber having a rare non-productive outing.

Also worth noting is that the Impact generated a few first half goal scoring chances but NYCFC’s back line of Sebastien Ibeagha, Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot ultimately were consistent in their defense.

Tajouri-Shradi photo credit to NYCFC
Tajouri-Shradi dropping the hammer

Next up, NYCFC has three challenging games on the road: LA Galaxy on 5/11, Chicago Fire on 5/25 and Columbus Crew on 6/1 before returning home to host FC Cincinnati on 6/6.

I would anticipate that Coach Torrent will continue to utilize a formation with wingbacks, either with or without Sands.  Will this formation be as useful on the narrow home pitch? As of now, City is unbeaten over the past 6 games, but the matchup against the LA Galaxy will be a true test of this apparent upward momentum.

Featured Image:  NYCFC.com

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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

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Un despelote: TFC destroys NYCFC 4-0

 

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced Toronto Football Club on Friday night and it may have been the team’s worst showing in its history (that did not involve conceding seven goals to our largest rivals). 

For most of the game, it appeared Toronto had 16 players on the pitch and that New York City left their technical abilities elsewhere. Absent of an injured Maxi Moralez, the team was a rudderless ship and spent the bulk of the game chasing Toronto.   

The only positive to the game was the beautiful soccer played by Toronto.  At some point in the match, perhaps when it was 3-0 TFC, I subconsciously stopped paying attention to the atrocious soccer being played by New York and began admiring the seemingly immediate chemistry between Toronto’s new Designated Player Alejandro Pozuelo and his new team, particularly with Jozy Altidore.  It looked like they’d been playing together for years.  Less subconsciously I began feeling jealousy.  “Why can’t NYCFC get a DP like that?  Not fair!”

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Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto FC.  Image:  Torontofc.com

What does this mean for the team?

Many fans I spoke to during and after the game were so disheartened that they turned the game off.  One fan said, “There is nobody on this team to get excited about.”  Maybe new Brazilian striker Héber Araujo dos Santos, known solely as “Héber”, will bring the necessary spark to reignite this team? 

Héber arrived in New York on Saturday and is anticipated to play in next week’s home game versus another team who just got shellacked:  Montreal Impact.  If NYCFC does not beat Montreal, I’m anticipating that the club will part ways with Head Coach Dome Torrent.  

With no wins and no stadium, fans will be furious – and rightly so.  Perhaps the scheduling gods that didn’t grant us a single home game in May have blessed us with the perfect opponent this coming Saturday with struggling Montreal.  

It will take something special to bring back some faith in this team. I think we are all looking for an impact player to step up versus the Impact and start turning this season around.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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NYCFC utilize a little Irish luck

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, March 17: 2-0 Win

As you know, St Patrick’s Day is the day when New Yorkers dress up in green attire and accessories and look idiotic.  On purpose.  Sometimes it goes along with some other questionable choices in celebration methods.  St Patrick’s Day celebrations were in full effect at Yankee Stadium and fans had full faith in their own St Patrick, head coach Patrick Vieira.

Up until an hour before the game, New York City FC fans were feeling very confident about this home match versus Orlando City FC.  Everyone was healthy, Orlando City has been struggling and was down five starting players.  And then they got the tweet:

The game became a real match up.  No David Villa and no Jo Inge Berget, who is supposed to be Villa’s backup?  No man of the last match Anton Tinnerholm? Apparently, NYCFC was going to be testing this much-previously-discussed depth of the squad.

Turns out there’s depth.  Jumping in the front as striker for Villa, who was out with a minor injury, was Ismael Tajouri-Shradi with his first start.  At right back for the also injured Tinnerholm was another first-time starter, Saad Abdul-Salaam.  Both players performed very well in the match as NYCFC maintained about 60% of the possession with fluid, smooth ball movement and quick, decisive destruction of Orlando’s offense. 

The major fan frustration was the small number of shots taken by NYCFC on Orlando City’s goal, particularly in the first half.  Without Villa, (the usual proverbial beacon in the night calling for the ball), there seemed to be a sense of caution on offense, which did lessen in the second half. 

The second half is when most of the action happened.  At 61:37, Tajouri scored his first NYCFC goal which was quickly followed by a goal by Maxi Moralez at 73:04. Down 0-2, Orlando kicked it up a notch and did give goalkeeper Sean Johnson some trouble. He made three saves, while a handful of Orlando’s shots were off target. According to Vieira, he was very happy with the way the team played in this game.

Maybe there was a little luck of the Irish happening? On that note, the biggest fan response to a sub coming on was our local Irish-American hero Tommy McNamara.

H-U-S-T-L-E-R of the match: Alex Ring for not only destroying possible attacks but instantaneously jump-starting the offense in a calm, methodical manner.

Oh crap, moment of the match:  Ronald Matarrita getting injured again after playing only a few minutes.

Slainté!

Featured image courtesy: Keira Smith

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Stealing Away

Sheba Rawson - Portland Timbers/mlsfemale
Official Portland Timbers Reporter

By Sheba Rawson // @shebainpdx

Saturday, September 9: 0-1 Win

My initial reaction to last Saturday’s game:

Somehow, in spite of some blindingly bad defensive plays in the first half and some otherworldly saves by the opposing keeper in the second half, the Portland Timbers came away with a 1-0 win against New York City FC on Saturday, breaking NYCFC’s 10-game unbeaten streak at home and finding themselves ahead on total points in the west by the end of the weekend.

Both teams were missing key players on Saturday. NYCFC in particular missed David Villa in the attack and Yangel Herrera in the midfield; PTFC was without striker Fanendo Adi, central defender and team captain Liam Ridgewell, and starting keeper Jake Gleeson. In addition, both clubs had players coming from recent international duty, with NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace having played 31 minutes for Costa Rica earlier in the week and PTFC’s David Guzman and Darlington Nagbe both putting in 70+ minutes for Costa Rica and the United States, respectively. So it could be considered a test of both team’s depth and ability to adjust to changing lineups.

First half missteps

Misstep #1: Left hand to left leg (No, this isn’t Twister)–Let’s start with one that could have been a LOT worse. At 22′, David Guzman lost a challenge on the left side, outside of NYCFC’s box. Let me preface this by saying I love Guzman, that he has been my favorite acquisition so far this year…but WOW that move he made on Maximiliano Moralez:

That reach with the left hand on Moralez’s leg pained me to watch. I LOVE Guzman but I did NOT love that move. The yellow card he got could easily have been much worse (like, say, a different color).

Misstep #2: Hellacious D–The next defensive misstep was Roy Miller’s to make. At 25′, Andrea Pirlo had a free kick coming, which Jeff Attinella punched away. Unfortunately, Miller was disturbingly blasé on defense, first with an all-too-casual tap that he nearly lost, followed by a lackadaisical pass that Jack Harrison quickly stole away and sent toward the goal. Luckily for us, Moralez and Rodney Wallace pretty much got in each other’s way and allowed the Timbers to clear the ball out; otherwise that defensive error could easily have put NYCFC ahead.

Misstep #3: Speaking of casual–Fortunately, the Timbers weren’t the only ones to play a little too casually for their own good. Pirlo, the embodiment of insouciance (yes, I have now used my SAT word for the day), had a stunning giveaway to Darren Mattocks. While Pirlo stood, half shrugging and half-heartedly begging the ref for attention of some sort, Mattocks ignored him, continued play, and made him pay dearly by finding Diego Valeri for the score:

Diego Valeri (aka Maestro aka Troesma aka San Valeri aka Build The F***ing Statue Already) buried the ball in the back of the net for his 17th goal on the season. The goal also marked the seventh PTFC game in a row with a Valeri goal, tying the MLS record first set in 1997 by Raul Diaz Arce and matched only three times since: once by Wolde Harris in 2000, once by Carlos Ruiz in 2006, and once by Valeri. Yes, I am biased; and yes, Valeri is a legitimate candidate for MLS MVP this year.

And then there was the second half.

Second half: The Sean Johnson Show

Soccer is a funny game. You can have a string of terrible plays, capitalize on a single opportunity at the right moment, and steal a goal. And you can have a string of amazing plays, get stymied by a single player, and come away empty handed. Such was the story of the second half.

After the half, the Timbers seemed to have recovered from their defensive lapses, and they had more than a few legitimate chances to run up the score. And every time, Sean Johnson was there to stop them.

First, there was the 55′ header by Vytautas Andriuškevičius off the Guzman corner, a nice run toward goal that found Vytas pretty much uncovered. Somehow Johnson got a bead on it and saved it.

Then there was 64′, where Jeremy Ebobisse, down on the ground inside the box, still had the presence of mind to redirect the ball off the outside of his left foot to where Valeri was headed. It could easily have been a score but for Johnson’s huge save.

Then there was 74′, where Sebastian Blanco had a shot on frame that was saved by Johnson.

Then at 84′, there was this:

This was pretty much my reaction:

In the end, Valeri’s first half score was enough to hold the lead, and we came away with three valuable points in the home stretch of the season, finding ourselves temporarily atop the Western Conference on total points at the end of the weekend. I will take it, thank you.

Hot Takes

Depth matters. Yes, NYCFC was missing David Villa, and yes, he probably would have made us pay dearly for our defensive lapses in the first half; but we were missing key players as well. In a test of depth, we came out ahead on the day.

Be my Valentin. In a game with more than a few scary plays on defense, Zarek Valentin was solid in right back. I know that Alvas Powell has speed and more potential upside, but Valentin has earned the starting spot. I hope he keeps it.

Attinella. Hey, remember how Adam Kwarasey got injured and then Jake Gleeson played several games and next thing you know he was the starting keeper? I need to talk to my keeper friends who know far more about positioning, reaction saves, etc. than I do; but for my money Jeff Atinella must at least be giving Caleb Porter something to think about at the keeper position. Just saying.

A lot can happen in this part of the season, and the Western Conference race is unbelievably tight. At a time like this, three road points are (green and) gold. Next up: on the road v. Real Salt Lake. See you next weekend!

Featured image courtesy: @TimbersFC

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