Tag Archives: New York City FC

A Mixed Bag: NYCFC draws LAFC 2-2

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club hosted Los Angeles Football Club for a St Patrick’s day party in the Bronx on Sunday.  This year with no resident “Saint Patrick” Vieira to sprinkle the team with luck, City ended up adding another game to its winless streak.  The match had some highs and lows, with most intensity, pace, accuracy and attacking precision shown in the first half, but frustratingly, it did end as another draw.  

NYCFC built some tight sequences in the midfield which created multiple opportunities. City maintained nearly 70% of the first half possession but the defensive mistakes cost them big.  

New Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita scored his first goal of the season at 39′, but four minutes later LAFC’s Latif Blessing easily jumped on an NYC mistake and fed a perfect pass to Vela, who buried the ball into the goal.  NY once again took the lead in the second half when Ben Sweat found Alex Ring in front of the goal at 62′ and set him up for a hammer of a volley.  Both of New York’s goals being scored from the left side of the goal.  

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NYCFC’s Alexandru Mitrita maneuvers around LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman and Latif Blessing.

Exciting for many fans was that Ronald Matarrita started the game at left back.  Matarrita’s energy, pace and attacking mindset was definitely a welcome addition to the team chemistry.  There was much more pep in the step of the team from the get-go of the game.  The energy in the stadium, particularly between the dueling supporter groups seemed to have been fueling City’s players.  

Fortunately for NYCFC, LAFC was not playing with their full squad as Lee Nguyen, Alejandro Guido, Steven Betashour, Phillip Ejimadu and Rodolfo Zelaya were on the injured list. 

Latif Blessing, who is known as the ultimate super sub who can play vitally any position and generally revitalizes the team when he comes off the bench, started and played the full game.  It was Blessing who found Vela to kick off LA’s first fruitful counterattack to tie up the game in the first half.  It was Blessing who was fouled by Sweat in the box to earn LA a game-tying PK.   So although Sweat did assist Ring in NY’s second goal, he was a mixed blessing.  

In honor of our respective cities and their awards show history,  I’m handing out awards:

For playing cool, calm and collected, and yet not cocky, I bestow my first official Triple C award to James Sands.  The teenager once again showed depth, maturity and grit. 

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NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm chases LAFC’s Carlos Vela

Because he’s just that good and gives off the vibe that he’s having a blast on the pitch, the honorary Marcelo award goes to Carlos Vela

Best visiting supporters group energy, enthusiasm and etiquette goes to LAFC’s 3252 who not only were the loudest we’ve ever had, particularly from across the continent but they also followed up with a thank you post on NYCFC’s reddit account for the great time.  See, there’s the silver lining to a draw.  Nobody’s angry.  

The Sleek Award goes to the LAFC’s silver and white kit. What a perfectly appropriate away kit that is flattering, simple and makes good use of metallics.

NYCFC’s next match is Friday 3/29 in Toronto.

To date, NYCFC is 0-0-3.

Featured and all images: @NYCFC

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Dueling goalkeepers keep NYCFC and DC United to 0-0 draw

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club opened its 2019 season at home against DC United on Sunday March 10th. What the match lacked in scoring, it made up for in goalkeeping theatrics. Both NYCFC’s keeper, Sean Johnson, and DC United’s, Bill Hamid, kept the game a nail biter with their superb performances.

DC United’s high and heavy press gave NYCFC’s back line a hard time from literally the first minute of play. Once NYC adjusted to the pressure, the midfield and wings started to put together attacking sequences.  The underlying theme of the offense was “Find Alexandru Mitrita” with one NYC counter attack sending “Mitri” into three DC defenders and almost beating them, before DC’s Wayne Rooney and his elbow destroyed the play.

For this match, Coach Dome Torrent tried a different formation with Taty Castellanos in a striker role and Maxi Moralez back to more of a 10 role.  Once again, James Sands started in central midfield alongside Captain Alex Ring. This season, Ring seems to be playing a lot more offensively and has been given free reign to shoot both inside and outside the box.  On Sunday he had two strong shots with one diving header denied by an incredible save by Hamid.  These are shots that would not have been taken in years past.

Johnson was credited with 3 saves on DC United’s on-target shots.  Officially, they had 7 total shots.  Hamid made 6 saves while City totaled 21 shots, with most of them off target. Most of the on-target shots were incredible efforts by both the attacker and the keeper.  If only there was a way to put a little gold star next to the particularly impressive saves by the keeper.

My takeways:

Taty Castellanos gave a strong performance.  He had multiple shots on target (most of them headers) was where he was supposed to be in attacking sequences and generally appeared to work in rhythm with Mitrita.  Does anyone remember the first two seasons when a ball would cross in front of the opponent’s goal and nobody was there to meet it?  That doesn’t happen with Taty.  If given time to germinate, the chemistry between Castellanos, Mitrita and Maxi can only improve.

James Sands played well and helped lead NYCFC’s efforts to control the middle third of the field.  He seemed to be everywhere adding pressure and then accurately redistributing to kick off our offense. Part of the reason Ring is free to push forward and attack is because Sands is handling the defensive role so reliably.

DC United's Wayne Rooney and NYCFC's James Sands
DC United’s Rooney, NYCFC’s Sands

The combination of Ring and Mitri could become very deadly.  Ring finds Mitri with long penetrating passes and Mitri seems equally comfortable taking shots from  outside the box and maneuvering around multiple defenders into the box.  Pair this with Ring’s willingness and ability to shoot from a distance, and opposing defenders will have a hard time dealing with City’s unpredictability.   

What’s going on with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi?  Last season he stepped up big as the second highest goal scorer on the team during a period when we were without the injured David Villa. I was happy to see him come in as a sub for Jesus Medina after not playing at all in Orlando, but he seemed to have lost his spark for firing off shots on goal.  Is he trying to settle into some new role?  I liked his old one.  You know, scoring goals.

NYCFC is back in the Bronx on Sunday, March 17th against LAFC.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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Is NYCFC withering on CFG’s vine?

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

With the distractions of the holiday season behind us and the gloom of winter in full force, MLS soccer fans everywhere are patiently awaiting the start of the new season.

For New York City Football Club fans, things are looking a bit bleaker than usual as the club continues to ignore some of their biggest concerns.  Fan sentiment is currently at a low with team supporters feeling abandoned by owners City Football Group.  It’s bad enough to have the one elephant in the room:  Um, are we just never going to have a stadium? 

But with the second one being now zero prospects for an exciting Designated Player replacement for David Villa, there is a general feeling that NYCFC is being left to wither on the vine.  The New York front office’s last connection with fans seems to have exited with outgoing president Jon Patricof. 

As frustrating as it was in year’s past to understand the front office’s decisions, Patricof was extremely accessible to fans and their concerns.  Clearly bound by CFG’s confidentiality policy, he couldn’t give many answers but was more than happy to talk to season ticket holders and fans.  Patricof understood and cared about the connections that each of us makes with the team and to each other through the club.

Now that Brad Sims is at the helm it is clear that, at least on paper, the focus of the front office is to stop the season ticket holder bleeding and attempt to bring in new fans.  I’m at a loss for how Sims will do this when the top three things that fans want are currently beyond our reach:

1- A stadium in New York City

2- An exciting new player who will help score goals 

3- To win a trophy of some kind

CFG clearly does not know the New York real estate, political nor sports markets.   New Yorkers will only accept mediocrity on our own terms.  Don’t come from out of town and hand us a ‘meh’ bagel and expect us to eat it more than once.  

We exist in a sports market with many options locally and live in an era when we can stream almost any sports game in the world, at any time on our phones.  If CFG and MLS want to grow their profits and the sport in the US in the process, (which will feed the cycle of profitability), they will have to work harder to make NYCFC fans more excited. 

The digital media team under the direction of Mark Booth has done an excellent job at giving us fun and timely content while maintaining accessibility.  The club should be using this offseason to hold multiple STH roundtables and brainstorming sessions with Brad Sims or his senior management staff. Connect directly with all different types of fans and hear them out. Fans need more of this, particularly during this morose period when many are feeling hopeless. 

Soccer fans in the US, for the most part, are a piece of a larger group of Americans who are feeling generally hopeless and exhausted by the national discourse.  We look to soccer as our inspiration, escape and a way to connect with others.  If you want to keep NYCFC fans engaged in our own team and league, the front office needs to step it up in a big way.  

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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My Christmas Wish this year: David Villa stays at NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

We’ve all seen the click-bait headline posted on MLS.com which basically is paraphrasing quotes from Spanish publication Sport.

This “news” and another article posted by NBC.com, utilizing a different publication out of Spain, again with no source, came out this week as fans wait to hear if New York City FC will negotiate a new contract with striker David Villa.

Villa was brought in as the club’s first signing in 2014 and his contract was $5.6 million per year for 3 years.   It was then extended in 2017 by one year, taking him through the 2018 season. Fans seem to fall into two camps since he missed 11 games, about one-third of the season, due to a knee injury: bring him back as a Designated Player or pay for him with TAM dollars in order to free up that DP slot.

Age seemed to, unfortunately, become a factor even to the seemingly eternally young “El Guaje”, who will be 37 in December.  To those watching his play closely towards the end of the season, there were through balls that he just didn’t get to which he would have taken in stride in years past. With each unsuccessful one-on-one duel with defenders,  the question was, “Is it age or injury?” all the while knowing he should have won the battle.

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And then there were the end of season appearances with fans.  According to Tisha Gale, official photographer for MLSFemale and member of Third Rail supporter group, who attended and presented at the NYCFC awards on October 22nd, said unlike almost all previous public appearances, Villa was one of the last to leave the event.  “It was as if he was consciously trying to cherish every last moment with the fans.”

Likewise, many fans treated the last home game on November 4th as the last chance to see the captain play at home. The last two losses were particularly hard for the fans as they were aware that those games might have been Villa’s final outings for NYCFC.

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Tisha Gale and David Villa at awards

To be clear, New York City FC striker and captain David Villa has not made any public statements as to his future with the club.  Villa is the foundation of the club and is a major component of fandom.  Not only did he start with the club from the beginning but he also embraced the core of NYCFC identity from Day 1:  Being a New Yorker.

He embraced New York and all of its cultural gifts and the city embraced him back in the way that most of us do:  We leave you alone to live your personal life with as much privacy and normalcy as possible and celebrate or criticize you when you are on-the-clock.   Villa not only cherished the city culture but wholeheartedly gave his all to help the team win games – a true competitor who expects excellence.

These are all characteristics of someone who we would want staying within our club system in some capacity going forward.

I would expect that City Football Group would go to any lengths to explore all options with Villa to keep him playing with our club, perhaps outside of a DP capacity. The truth is we don’t yet know what David Villa will decide to do.  I do know that he is revered by fans all over the world as a hero, magician and veteran.  Why would NYCFC not try their hardest to hold onto Villa’s brilliant skills, experience, poise and high standards?

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Dear NYCFC Front Office,

This is my Christmas wish:  Find a way to hold onto Villa before he is gone from the field, and from a future developing and building the club further. His past and future influences are not to be diminished.

Love,

Keira

Images by Tisha Gale

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David Villa’s 400th Goal Celebration

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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“For Honor. For Glory. For the City.” A photo essay recap of my 2018 Season as an NYCFC fan.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

By Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

The 2018 season has officially ended for our boys in blue, and though we are all sad and somewhat disappointed that the season has ended, I think we have a lot to look back on and a bright future ahead. Please journey with me as I highlight some of my favorite moments of the 2018 season.

Best of 2018

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For me, the season begins on a cold, rainy day in February. The anticipation of NYCFC’s first home game has been building; I’m bursting at the seams, literally. The new kit has arrived in style, from the Adidas HQ in Germany to the Etihad HQ in Abu Dhabi, and finally to NYCFC’s home in the Bronx, NY.

The jersey has traveled a long way to get to the players who will put their blood, sweat, and tears into every fiber, and the fans who will proudly rock it every chance they get. We’re not all sure how we feel about the new design. Some fans argue that it’s a carbon copy of a couple of popular international kits, but one thing is for sure, we all want it!

However, amid the buzzing chatter comes a different conversation—a murmur that quickly gets my attention. Why are there no women supporters in the “Kit Release Video?” 

This simple, yet important question leads to the creation of the “We Are NYCFC: Women Supporter’s Photo Project.” The project highlights the women behind the crest; the women who help make up the heart and soul of NYCFC’s fan base. A group of 20 women, many of them strangers, meets with me at Grand Central Terminal. The main topic of conversation, representation matters. The video and corresponding images are shared on multiple social media platforms with the hashtag #WeAreNYCFC.

February 24, my phone chimes. It’s an Instagram notification from Jon Patricof, President of NYCFC: “Thought your project was terrific and important…hope to connect soon.” A few days later, I get a call from Sam Cooke. He’d like to discuss the project.

March, 9. NYCFC host its first ever 24 Hour Game at Rockefeller Center. I proudly represent Team Vieira. #SoccerNeverSleeps

soccer never sleeps

March 15, Keira Smith (Official Reporter for NYCFC at MLSFemale) and I meet with Patricof at NYCFC HQ, it’s my first trip to the 30th floor of 600 Third Ave. I feel like I’ve been called to the principal’s office. However, the meeting is everything but intimidating. We discuss the project and my motivations. Patricof thanks us for the constructive criticism and apologizes for the lack of proper women supporter representation in the video.

NYCFC’s season officially starts on March 4, with an on-the-road win versus Sporting Kansas City. The boys in blue go on to win four of their first five games. The season is off to a great start. Regular trips to Yankee Stadium means my seasonal depression has faded away like the mosaic of colors after a fireworks show.

NYCFC supporter, Deyanira Perez, enjoying a game at Yankee Stadium on March 17

March 31, Keira Smith publishes an article about the We Are NYCFC project and me on MLSFemale.com

#WeAreNYCFC. I’ve Got All My Sisters With Me 

April 29, my photo press credentials application is approved and I shoot my first game from the endlines. David Villa bags his 400th and 401st career goals. NYCFC defeats F.C. Dallas 3-1.

May 16, MLSFemale brings me on board as their official photographer covering NYCFC.

Image: Juan Carlos Rubiano

May 19, NYCFC celebrates David Villa Day on a rainy day in the Bronx with a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Villa Scores in the 22′ and 74′ min of play. Other goals scored by R. Matarrita 49′ and M. Moralez 56′.

June 13, Keira and I encourage fans to vote Sean Johnson onto the MLS All-Star team. Our blurb is published on nycfc.com.

All-Star: Vote for Sean Johnson

July 5, NYCFC hosts a Q&A with new head coach, Domenec Torrent.

June 30-July 15, NYCFC partners with Telemundo. Together they host a World Cup viewing party at Rockefeller Center.

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August 1, my photo press credentials are approved and I attend the MLS All-Star game in Atlanta. Read all about my experience here.

MLS Digital HQ. L-R: Lalo Ortega, me, Alexis Guerreros, Robyn Saghini, Christian Polanco Jess Houwen, and Eve Powell.

August 21, September 4 & 21 respectively, my #NYCFCInk mini-series is published on MLSFemale.com

#NYCFCInk Featuring Lalo Ortega

Lalo Ortega, Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale

#NYCFCInk Featuring Colin Harte

Tisha Gale - NYCFC Ink/mlsfemale

#NYCFCInk Featuring Jay Jimenez

Tisha Gale - NYCFC/mlsfemale

September 24, I attend my first away game in Canada.

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October 11, Nat Bekeo gives me a tour of NYCFC’s training facility in Orangeburg, NY.

Every second counts🤙🏾 💙 #nycfc

October 15, NYCFC opens 10 new mini pitches across the five boroughs. I’m hired to cover all the action on Staten Island at IS72.

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October 23, NYCFC host its first ever Awards Night. I present the first award to James Sands, who won Academy Moment of the Year. 

Kwame Ibeagha

October 31, NYCFC advances to the MLS Cup Semifinals after a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.

November 4, our last game at Yankee Stadium, until next year.

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My 2018 season as an NYCFC fan was absolutely amazing! I’d like to thank MLSFemale, NYCFC players and FO staff, and all my friends who supported me on this incredible journey. You are all so deeply appreciated.

Of note: I picked up my first DSLR camera on December 15, 2017. Photography has always been something I wanted to explore, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge. I could not have asked for a better way to harness my skills.

All images, unless specified: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @TishaGale

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NYCFC looks ahead to face Atlanta United in MLS Eastern Conference Semifinals

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It’s deja-vu all over again as New York City Football Club tops Philadelphia Union 3-1 for the second time in a week, this time in the MLS Playoff Knockout Round.

From the beginning, NYCFC dominated the Union, sticking to their high possession strategy which was lighter and more precise with the return of midfielder Yangel Herrera. Herrera’s ability to anticipate opponents’ next moves and superb skills in transitioning between defense and offense allowed David Villa, Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to work smoothly together.

All three goals were scored on attacks down the middle with three different types of finishing touches by Tajouri-Shradi, Villa and Moralez. Additionally, a late substitution of Valentin (Taty) Castellanos for Villa was strategically very important in maintaining the win as Castellanos drew two, sometimes three defenders which freed up Moralez to maneuver and keep NYC in possession of the ball.

This was a huge win and a morale lifter for NYCFC and its fans as we look ahead to face Atlanta United in the MLS Eastern Conference semi-finals.  New York City has been gaining momentum and confidence after a dismal two months and Atlanta is showing some cracks in its previously impenetrable foundation. Atlanta is now in a situation familiar to NYCFC with its coach Tata Martino rumored to be leaving the club for “greener” pastures, as well as, player personal conduct and team chemistry distractions.

In the past two years, the two teams have been evenly matched with each team credited one win, one loss and two draws. New York City is back to full strength with a clean bill of health and will face an Atlanta squad who will be close to full strength, especially if midfielder Miguel Almirón returns to match play.  (Almirón returned to training this week.)

I predict Atlanta will utilize a 4-4-2 formation with Brad Guzan, a returning from injury Greg Garza, Leandro González-Pirez, Michael Parkhurst and Franco Escobar as defenders, center defending midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, center attacking midfielder  Almirón, Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe on the wings and both Hector Villalba and Josef Martinez up top.

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Ismael Tajouri-Shradi celebrates his goal. Image: Tisha Gale

For New York City, I see coach Dome Torrent sticking with a similar lineup and formation as the last two matches with the exception of perhaps starting Jesús Medina at left midfield over Ronald Matarrita as Medina’s style of play may be a better matchup against Atlanta’s tactics.  The past two matchups utilized a 4-2-3-1 with Sean Johnson, Ben Sweat, Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm, Herrera, Alex Ring, Medina, Moralez, Tajouri-Shradi and Villa.

Make no mistake about it, this will be an extremely tough match for City, especially after Atlanta’s recent embarrassing loss to Toronto FC which cost them the Supporter’s Shield.  They will be out to prove to everyone that the recent loss was a fluke.  However, I have no doubt that our Boys in Blue are in fine form and are capable of taking a big decisive win and sowing more seeds of doubt for Atlanta.

Images by Tisha Gale

Featured image: @TishaGale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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With missing pieces in place, NYCFC defeats Philadelphia Union 3-1 on MLS Decision Day

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, October 28: 3-1 Win

New York City Football Club was finally back home on Sunday, playing with a full, healthy squad taking on Philadelphia Union. Not only was it Fan Appreciation Day but most importantly, MLS Decision Day, which determined the draw for the knockout round.  NYCFC needed a victory to secure a number 3 seed and a first-round home game.

Amid rumors of David Villa’s looming end-of-season retirement and with the possibility of an away first-round playoff game (depending on the result of this game), fans were aching to enjoy every moment of Villa on the home pitch. Our captain did not disappoint with his deep crossing runs, elegant ball movement and, of course, a goal.  Villa played the entire 90 minutes which resulted in a 3-1 NY City victory over the Union. Other goals were scored by Maxime Chanot (NYC), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia own goal) and Cory Burke (Philadelphia).

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David Villa maneuvers past a Union player in the 2nd half. Image: Tisha Gale

The game was not just a result of excellent tactics and effort by Villa but also by the triumphant return of Yangel Herrera in midfield.  Herrera missed most of the season due to an injury.  With Herrera’s calm yet aggressive presence on the field, the team looked tight and complete.  Herrera made the transition from defense to offense look smooth.  Is this what we have been lacking for these past few months?

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Post-match Yangel Herrera. Image: Tisha Gale

One of the most exciting moments of the match was executed by goalkeeper Sean Johnson when he made a flying save on a penalty kick awarded to Philadelphia for a foul called on Johnson himself. Johnson was pumped, the crowd was pumped and the save seemed to put the final nail in the Union’s coffin.

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Goalkeeper Sean Johnson celebrates the victory with fans. Image: Tisha Gale

With the win in hand, NYCFC will next face, yup, Philadelphia Union on Halloween.

With Halloween being a big holiday in the New York and Hudson Valley region, many fans discussed the disappointment in finding out that the playoff game was taking place that night rather than November 1st.  The date was determined by the television networks who do some version of drawing straws and taking picks for game coverage.  It seems that we got tricked while the #4 seeded DC United got all the treats.

Looking forward to the rematch with Philly on Wednesday.  I think Yankee Stadium will be a House of Horrors for the Union with NYCFC getting through to meet (a suddenly beatable?) Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference Series.

Featured image: @TishaGale

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And the youth will carry us. US Men’s National Team draws with Peru 1-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tuesday, October 16: 1-1 Draw

I have to admit that many of my past experiences watching and cheering for the United States Men’s National Team have left me feeling unfulfilled.  Let down. Even sad. For me, the big draw to checking out this week’s friendly between the United States and Peru was the unique opportunity to see two New York City Football Club defenders face off.  It was Ben Sweat for the US and Alexander Callens representing Peru in similar roles for their respective teams.

After watching the match multiple times, my biggest takeaway is that I am actually optimistic about the future of our men’s team.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Peru had more possession, however, there were many moments of beautiful soccer involving some of our youngest players on the team.

The US did a great job of forcing turnovers in the middle third and immediately starting speedy counterattacks involving some combination of teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Jonathan Amon working tightly with Kellyn Acosta. Weah, Sargent, and Amon all have day jobs with European clubs alongside injured US teammate Christian Pulisic.

I may be overenthusiastic about this, perhaps because my expectations were pretty low,  but there were true flashes of beauty from these players.  Obviously, the more experience they get playing as a unit, the better the national team will become.  Another player who stood out was Marky Delgado, who is still relatively young at 23.

Both Peru and the US seemed to do the majority of their attacking down the right flank, which meant that Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens were involved with most of the game.  Sweat did a fine a job in left back while most likely battling some nerves.  Notable to me was his speed in getting back to destroy plays but he seemed to choose the back pass a bit too often for my liking and made a few poor tackles which did little to decelerate some of Peru’s attacks.

Ben Sweat should get another look in that role to see if he can be more decisive in his tackles and capitalize more on his offensive capabilities as well.  He did have one respectable shot on goal in this match.   Callens played in a center-left back role and as expected, used his physical strength to outmuscle US attacks down the right side.  It’s interesting to watch his play “from the other side” as it looks a bit less smooth with his national team and he can be a bit late with his tackles which lead to at least one foul.

One other takeaway for me that I am proud of:  Peru was constantly playing to draw fouls, falling over with the slightest contact, banging the ground and writhing in pain.  For most of the game, the US team players would immediately jump up if they hit the ground to keep an attack going or would fight to stay vertical in a duel.  To me, it was a sharp contrast of styles and it’s the style that keeps the game moving and makes it more fun to watch.

I was not expecting to walk away from this game excited for the future of the US Men’s National Team and yet with all these talented young yet experienced players, I have hope.

Featured image: @ussoccer_mnt

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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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

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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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

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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