Tag Archives: MLS Cup Playoffs

“Don’t let the ball behind the defense…”

Bailey Brown - FC Dallas/mlsfemale
Official FC Dallas Reporter

By Bailey Brown // @baileystaysposi

It’s been a while, I know. But, a lot has happened since I last wrote about FC Dallas.

We seem to be hitting a groove, but fans are still not entirely pleased. Dallas sits in first in the Western Conference and it just doesn’t seem to be good enough for many. Amongst rumors of Oscar Pareja interviewing for the USMNT team, we must keep going forward because the season isn’t over.

With a win in Vancouver, Dallas is the only team in 23 matches to defeat another team at their home. We are still seeing good stats out of the team and just clinched a playoff spot with our draw in Portland. But, is how we are playing going to be enough?

(Side note: I do think Pareja would be great for the USMNT, but I’m not ready to see him go. It seems that these rumors have been laid to rest. Many people seem to be calling for Pareja to be gone, okay well not many, but enough that it annoys me if he doesn’t get us a star this year. Personally, I think that is dumb. Yup, I said it. Where else is Dallas going to get a quality coach for the amount in the Dallas budget? I mean it. I suppose we can promote from within, but I think a good playoff run after last year is enough to keep him here in Dallas.)

I’m not here to break down the game against Portland Timbers. You can go elsewhere for better coverage of that. And, if I am being honest, I don’t get to watch a ton of games in their entirety. Last night was an exception. I loved it. I mean, I didn’t love everything about the game, but I loved that I just got to sit and watch.

However, one thing really hit me hard last night and that was when I was talking with fellow members of the Dallas Beer Guardians about what people said were “keys to the match”. One of these keys were to “not let the ball behind the defenders” or something to that extent. I mean, come on guys… isn’t this soccer 101? We should probably try to get the ball in the net as well, right? But, if this is really one of the keys that we are looking at as Dallas fans, we are in trouble.

I will admit, I like seeing Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges in the back, but there has been a disconnect between them and whoever is playing left back and right back. I am seeing that the timing is just off on a lot of shifting and I am sure they’re practicing it, but in games, that can’t be the case. It leaves people especially open on the far post, which is definitely a scare for me.

We have been lucky that it hasn’t hurt us more. This won’t fly in playoffs. Also, where is Pablo Aranguiz? Why did we spend TAM on him and an international spot? I would like to see more of him as a playmaker and really bring that missing #10 spot on our field. (Also, goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez can stop wasting time. I’ll admit, I think we are all sick of it.)

Fans are upset because we aren’t seeing the dominating wins that we know our team is capable of. Instead, we see Pareja seeming to play to draw. Or, maybe even to not lose. I partly understand last night. All we needed was the draw for the playoff clinch.

Going forward, I would like to see us really solidify the plan for playoffs and how it will be executed. I would rather us experiment and figure that out in the next few regular season games so that it’s not an issue come that first playoff game.

I’m feeling hopeful about the future of this season and I hope others are, too. We will just have to sit back and trust in Papi.

Featured image: @MLS

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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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