Tag Archives: New York City FC

The End of a Vieira in New York

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot has been going down in the soccer ‘hood in the past week. It seems like every hour news is breaking in both the MLS world and internationally.  It’s been hard to catch your breath before something else happens.  Hot off the press is the big news that the joint bid for the FIFA 2026 World Cup by the US, Canada and Mexico was successful.  

The other news is the departure of head coach Patrick Vieira for OGC Nice and the subsequent announcement of the appointment of his replacement Domenec Torrent.  It’s been rumored for weeks that Vieira would be leaving and despite his denials, the club made its official announcement on Monday.  Not only did Vieira leave his contract mid-season but he took much of his supporting team with him including Christian Lattanzio,  Kristian Wilson and Matt Cook. I was not quite pleased.

New head coach Domènec Torrent brings a plethora of experience working under Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola as well as an endorsement from fellow Spaniard David Villa.  Fans expressed their optimism about Torrent over social media. 

Angela Singh, an active member of The City Celestes supporters group, wrote: “I personally am looking forward to seeing him and his style. He’s got AMAZING credentials (including being the former assistant coach for both FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona), and thus won a total of 21 trophies with both teams, the former head coach for Girona FC, and he helped Manchester City as they became the #Centurions and won the Premier League Cup this year!! I’m pleasantly surprised and completely sold – this guy seems like the one who will lead the “Boys in Blue” to the 2018 MLS Cup!”   

Dominic Torrent, Head Coach NYCFC
Domenec Torrent

The first game with Coach Torrent at the helm will be on June 24th when we host Toronto FC. 

Before we completely close the book on the Vieira Era, it’s important to reflect on his last game with New York City.  Hosting Atlanta United on Saturday June 9th had most fans both excited and nervous.  It was Military Appreciation day and featured the US Military Academy parachute team making an aerial entrance onto the pitch.  Atlanta fans were representing all over the stadium along with the anticipated packed and enthusiastic visiting supporters’ section. 

I have to mention our supporters’ section was in especially fine voice.

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NYCFC Supporters’ section filling in pre-game.

New York started with a 3-4-3 lineup which seemed to work extremely well against Atlanta, who have the league’s leading scorer in Josef Martinez.  Although Martinez did score against us, our defense especially Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha contained him well and made his job much more difficult.

Both Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco were basically non-issues.  Sean Johnson only had one save and claimed one cross. I was surprised at how well NYCFC moved the ball aggressively throughout the field and at the same time were able to apply many layers of defense on Atlanta.  I was expecting the team to be shaken by the rumors of their coach’s imminent departure as well as the lack of consistency in the starting lineup but I was wrong. 

Alexander Callens steals the ball from Josef Martinez.

We had chance after chance to score in this game with a vice of pressure applied to Atlanta’s defense however Brad Guzan was equal to the task making one incredible save after the other with 10 in total.  NY’s shot after shot were repeatedly hitting the posts and crossbar. Until the 77th minute when David Villa perfectly crossed the ball to Callens who finished it with a low, swift diving header that Guzan couldn’t touch. 

With all the chances by New York City, the score stayed even at 1-1, the same ending as when we visited Atlanta in April.  Although it’s hard to come away with only one point, it felt like a bigger picture win to see our Boys in Blue play so well against a strong team.

Atlanta United visiting supporters’ section looks on as Miguel Almiron goes down at Alex Ring’s feet.

Our difficult home stretch has seen us get 4 out of 6 points against two Eastern Conference playoff rivals.  All eyes will be on our new gaffer as we face our nemesis Toronto FC.  I’m optimistic.

All images: nycfc.com

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New York City FC Rolls over the Rapids 4-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Photos by Tisha Gale // @gale_tisha

Saturday, May 19: 4-0 Win

This day was officially proclaimed “David Villa Day” in New York City to celebrate the captain’s 400th career and country goal and his contributions to New York City sports.  Despite the decidedly un-Spanish weather with epic downpours and frigid temperatures,  New York City Football Club hosted a goal-scoring party against the Colorado Rapids in his honor.

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David Villa, flanked by Jon Patricof and Francisco Moya. Image: Tisha Gale

It was a festive celebration from the opening of the gates with the first 10,000 fans arriving receiving replica captain armbands and the first 400 founding members receiving commemorative “400” pins.  Fans huddled together under umbrellas and under overhangs to watch Villa receive his official mayoral proclamation as well as gifts and accolades presented by NYCFC President Jon Patricof, City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano, Andy Drelick of the Third Rail supporters’ group and New York City Councilperson for the 21st district, Francisco Moya.  Even Belgian Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany attended the match.

At kickoff, spirits were high and the supporters’ section, specifically Los Templados and their epic drumming, was louder than ever.  NYCFC dominated the match, despite statistics showing a 65% possession rate.   The pouring rain gave both sides a lot of unexpected touches, bounces and sliding to contend with particularly with players’ bodies launched into the air multiple times.

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NYCFC’s Sebastien Ibeagha and Yangel Herrera launch vertically. Image: Tisha Gale

In typical Villa form, he scored twice to mark his 403rd and 404th goals and was joined in scoring by Maxi Moralez, who also had two assists and first time 2018 scorer, Ronald Matarrita.  Movement, despite the choppy ball bounces and lack of pace on the pitch due to the rain, was fluid and purposeful.  At times, it appeared as if the Rapids gave up on pressuring NYCFC for the ball.  That, and a snappy new tweaked formation allowed City to run away with the game.

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David Villa and Jo-Inge Berget attack through the downpour. Image: Tisha Gale

Final thoughts:

Jesús Medina did not start, following a few games with less than stellar performances but when he was subbed in for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, at 62′ he brought good movement, awareness of space and was heavily involved in some good scoring opportunities with Villa and Moralez. Fans are hoping that he is returning to the form he displayed earlier in the season.

The change to a 3-5-2 allowed both Matarrita and Tajouri-Shradi to attack down both wings and opened up space in the middle for Moralez to float and make trouble and to collaborate smoothly with Villa and Jo-Inge Berget up top.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson had two tight saves in the dwindling minutes of the game to keep NYCFC’s sheet clean.

How did Matarrita manage not to freeze in his short-sleeved jersey? He was the only City player not in long sleeves.  Do his tattoo sleeves keep him warm?

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You know who didn’t care about the rain?  These player escorts, that’s who! Image: Tisha Gale

Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

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“Alexander (Ring & Callens) and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, April 22: 3-0 Loss

We knew that the unbeaten streak couldn’t last forever.  I mean I used to believe in unicorns, so maybe I did think there was a chance that New York City Football Club could be undefeated this year if they kept up the level of play.  Then the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day happened.  Sunday we faced the Portland Timbers at Portland and boy, was it a hot mess.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale

The pace of the game was in stark contrast to the Atlanta United match last week with it being much slower and with NYCFC’s touches seeming to lack urgency.  Although we maintained a great deal of the possession, Portland capitalized quickly and deftly on our mistakes and on counter attacks. 

The spiral started with a terrible miscommunication between goalkeeper Sean Johnson and defender Alexander Callens on a shot that was savable had Johnson claimed it.   We seemed to possess, possess, possess in the middle third then lose momentum and the Timbers would patiently wait for a missed touch or missed target then jump in.  Over and over Portland would dish the ball to wide open Sebastian Blanco on the left of the goal where he scored once and nearly scored a few other times. 

Defenders seemed stunned by changes in possession and couldn’t get back in time to help in meaningful ways, except for Alexander Ring who cleared away a few goal scoring opportunities.  Every counter-attack was deadly and Portland earned every goal they scored or nearly scored.  We could not build our attacks to anything truly threatening. 

David Villa was almost invisible and Jesus Medina was sorely missed on the right side, on the bench for most of the game.  Upon conclusion of the first half, head coach Patrick Vieira was visibly unhappy and said that NYCFC’s play lacked “aggressivity” and that the team needed “quicker ball movement”. 

It would be completely unfair to not point out how well the Timbers played.  The formation 4-4-1-1 on paper looked a bit wonky but it was a brilliant tactic of Portland coach Gio Savarese to congest the field and cut down on New York’s effective ball movement and momentum building.  Without urgency and quick movement, we couldn’t play our game.  Portland effectively shut down our weapons across the board then waited patiently for opportune moments to strike decisively.   

All the best athletes and teams have moments of failure and soul-searching.  Coach Vieira talks about the importance of the team’s humility especially in how they look at opponents.  Judith Viorst’s “Alexander…” book is all about cause and effect.  May the effect of this loss be a positive continuation of the evolution of New York City Football Club. 

Also, may they never wear those Adidas Parley jerseys again.  They look sharp but man, are they cursed! 

Featured image #adidasParley courtesy: @NYCFC

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Rise up, NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

FT: 2-2 Draw

Sunday, April 15th was the night New York City Football Club rose up and faced its Eastern conference rival, Atlanta United Football Club.  The two teams entered the game in first and second place in their conference and both are managed by highly decorated international legends, Patrick Vieira and Gerardo Daniel “Tata” Martino, respectively.  Two formidable foes facing off in the loud, spirited, raucous castle of American Soccer: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; The video board displays “Goal” after the goal by Atlanta United defender Greg Garza during the first half against the New York City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The stadium energy was palpable even by viewers watching the game on TV.  I personally couldn’t believe how loud it was.  I am late to this party but really Atlanta, you put artificial turf in your kingdom?  Come on!  Your climate is the envy of New Yorkers most of the year so I would think natural grass would work with a little extra effort.

The playing surface was the theme of the first half:  NYCFC getting used to the fake turf.  We had a tough time keeping possession and reacting promptly to Atlanta’s movement as the timing on the surface was different, to say the least.  Atlanta took charge early but NYCFC fought back hard.  Atlanta’s strategy seemed to be playing wide in the middle third and then looking to serve a long ball to temperamental silver-haired wunderkind Josef Martinez.

The artificial turf is quicker and harder on the body and experience playing on it creates a definite advantage for Atlanta, just as playing on the narrow pitch of Yankee Stadium gives us a home-field advantage.  [Side note:  Is there an artificial turf field at the new NYCFC training grounds or were they just winging it?]  However, as expected, our Boys in Blue stepped up and adapted. 

Twice we were down a goal to Atlanta and twice we rose up and evened the duel with our new rival.  Captain David Villa came in much earlier than anticipated at the 35th minute, when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi went out with a pulled hamstring, and quickly evened out our 0-1 deficit via a penalty kick.  His career 399th goal.  Just let that sink in. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City forward David Villa (7) and Atlanta United midfielder Kevin Kratz (32) fight for possession of the ball during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) collides with New York City forward David Villa (7) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Even with Darlington Nagbe’s stunner late in the first half (correctly) reversed by VAR, Atlanta still pulled ahead again in the second half 2-1 with a goal by Chris McCann. City kept their cool and built possession and momentum.  In the 73rd minute, Villa held off three Atlanta defenders and eventually found Alexander Ring, who did not throw away his shot and sent a rocket to the top left corner of the goal.  The King and the Ring were back and taking names. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York City midfielder Alexander Ring (8) controls the ball during the first half against the Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With the game level, it could have gone either way and each remaining moment was a battle.  Walking away from the foreign turf with a point felt a lot like a win.  Like walking away from a duel with both parties still alive.  Win-win.

Other big winners were the NYCFC supporters who traveled to the South. According to Third Rail Supporters Club member Riggs Ac, it was a “thunderous game” with “southern hospitality”.  Liza John, another Third Railer said there was “…so much energy in the stadium and NYCFC fans made their presence known, from the march to the stadium through to the march out.  It was really great to experience the match with so many other soccer fans.”  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Apr 15, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United fans participate in the Atlanta United clap during the second half against New York City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC vs Atlanta – Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports. Images copyright Jason Getz. Used with permission.

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Lord of the Ring:  Return of the King to NYCFC aka The Curse is Reversed

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Wednesday, April 11: 4-0 Win

Going into Wednesday’s match, fans of New York City Football Club were cautiously optimistic.  Sure, we were yet to defeat Real Salt Lake.  Nope, they were never that strong.  Were they trap games in the past?  Maybe.  This time, was different and we were going to break the curse, even if our anchors David Villa and Alexander Ring still were not starting.  (Hey, they were listed as subs and that meant they were fit to play. Success!) 

The stadium in the first half was sparsely filled as it was a work and school night.  Even the supporters section looked a bit thin.  However, our Boys in Blue took possession quickly and held it, patiently building the offense through successive overlapping runs, through balls, razor-sharp crosses orchestrated by midfielders Maxi Moralez and Yangel Herrera.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Medina, Moralez

While our offense rolled over RSL, the crowd built.  As the New York City balls found the back of Salt Lake’s net, snazzily dressed fans settled into their seats.  The supporters section became its frenetic, chanting, drumming self. By the end of the first half, City was up 3-0. 

New attacker and top 2018 scorer, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, was the first one to put one in the back of the onion bag, which was followed by a successful penalty kick by Maxi Moralez, who was tripped in the box.  And finally, Jo Inge Berget finished one off on a beautiful play initiated by Ronald Matarrita

Second half was more of the same dominance by New York but the crowd began roaring when Villa approached the sideline.  Our captain was coming into the game.  After three missed games, he was back.  Sure, his shots were a bit off their past perfection, but he was back to his usual sprinting for every through ball and intensely pressuring the keeper. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Villa

Also returning,  jumping in as a sub in the second half, was Ring and all was well in the world again.   The 4th NYCFC goal was scored on one of the most beautiful plays I’ve seen all season which started again by Matarrita on the left, involving creative touches and moves by Jesus Medina and Moralez who ultimately found Ebenezer Ofori in front of the goal to finish it off. 

Reunited and it feels so good

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Matarrita

Not only are Villa and Ring back and in fighting form to face our nemesis Atlanta United on Sunday, but big props to Matarrita.  Not only did he play well and initiate many of our goal scoring situations but he was positively glowing.  You could tell that he was enjoying every minute of the 90 that he played.  It was infectious, like the growing buzz around NYCFC. 

Images courtesy: Keira Smith/mlsfemale

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#WeAreNYCFC. I’ve got all my sisters with me.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club’s 2018 season is off to a cracking start with three wins and one draw, all while missing important starting players over multiple games.  One thing never lacking from any matches is the fan energy. Last Saturday, two busloads and many cars full of fans traveled up to Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts to watch their beloved team take on the New England Revolution.

Tisha Gale MacCollum is one such supporter whose love for soccer is evident in almost everything she does.  She has spent her entire life watching and playing soccer, including a short stint playing for the St Vincent’s and Grenadines Women’s U19 team.  For the past three years, she has been a passionate NYC Football Club fan.  But that statement seems to minimize her love for the club. 

“After I found out about NYCFC, it was like a fire was ignited in me again.  I knew I wanted to become a season ticket holder after watching my very first game at Yankee Stadium. I felt like I’d found my way home.”  Tisha is so passionate about the club that she insisted on streaming the away game NYCFC was playing versus LA Galaxy at her wedding reception. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Tisha

Tisha is one of the thousands of women around the world who are redefining women supporters’ roles at live sporting events. With many women having grown up playing and watching soccer, it goes without saying that women are out in full force supporting their favorite MLS team.  So when NYCFC announced its secondary kit in a short video that did not feature a single female supporter, it struck a nerve. 

“We chant our hearts out; we feel the pain of losing. So the lack of proper representation led to feelings of disappointment.”

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale

Tisha was not alone in her disappointment. Other women supporters noticed the omission and discussed it over social media.  The predominant feelings expressed were frustration and disappointment.  (Note: To be factually correct, there were women in the video but they were seamstresses and flight attendants, not fans.)

So Tisha had an idea to visually put a spotlight on the female supporters of NYCFC through a photographic video project.  She fleshed it out through discussions with other women supporters and #WeAreNYCFC was born.  Using her brand new camera that her NYCFC fan friend and “inspiration” Yessica taught her how to use, Tisha reached out to every possible interested female fan to invite them to a photo shoot. 

February New York weather pushed the first day of photography inside to Grand Central Terminal.  “What I did not anticipate was the difficult lighting inside the terminal.  However, the women were all so understanding and thankful that I was taking the time to bring our community of female supporters together. It was a great networking event and seeing how excited everyone was by this project was my greatest reward.”

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale

Another positive outcome was dialogue with the NYCFC front office, who quickly noticed the project and reached out.  After the project was released, members of the front office contacted Tisha to thank her for her efforts in highlighting an issue that was unfortunately overlooked by the video editors. 

“It is a great feeling knowing that the organization that we invest so much of our time and energy in supporting, is aware enough to take the time to listen and respond to our concerns. Being an NYCFC supporter has opened me up to the world I did not know existed.  I’ve met so many great friends and our sense of community continues to grow. We encourage one another in and outside of Yankee Stadium.”

Her only regret?  Not knowing about NYCFC early enough in the first season to become a founding member. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale

Images courtesy: Tisha Gale MacCollum

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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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NYCFC FTW

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, March 11: 2-1 Win

New York City FC immediately took control of this game, calmly keeping possession and easily moving the ball around and through the LA Galaxy.  This was the pace of the first two-thirds of the game.  The movement down the left wing was swift and opened up space for David Villa in the center and for the cross to the right side.  Jesus Medina and Rodney Wallace again utilized switching flanks quite a bit which successfully shook up LA’s ability to mark well. 

With the fluid ball movement, the elephant on the field was that our offense was continuously distributing balls to Villa in goal-scoring chances in lieu of taking the shot themselves.  As this was Villa’s 100th cap for NYCFC, teammates Medina and Maxi Moralez gave him many of their own legitimate chances to score but most of these deferred attempts fell flat. 

The first goal of the match was scored by NYCFC when a shot by Villa was poorly cleared by LA and Anton Tinnerholm quickly capitalized on it with a strong left volley at 21:50.  And finally, at 32:37 Villa’s one-game goal-scoring drought ended.  Medina received a cross from Ben Sweat whose shot was blocked by LA goalkeeper David Bingham, which set up Villa to finish off the rebound. 

Anton Tinnerholm, NYCFC - Keira Smith/mlsfemale
Post game. Anton Tinnerholm, NYCFC – Keira Smith/mlsfemale

Already, there seems to be strong chemistry between Sweat and Medina who have successfully set each other up in front of the goal in both games. The NYCFC momentum continued, yet as Villa stated in the post game, “…We couldn’t close the game. In the first half probably we had a chance to close the game. With three nil. Much easier and [with] no pain in the last minute.”

And so the tone of the game changed with an LA Galaxy goal at 60’ by Jonathan Dos Santos.  NYCFC began to rush and scramble a bit more and LA was able to put together some offensive attacks. New York was very successful in forcing turnovers in the middle third of the field by swarming each LA player with two to three defenders. 

Attacks on the Galaxy continued but when Medina was subbed out, there were numerous opportunities when nobody was on the right post.  In the last 20 minutes of the game, Emmanuel Boateng became really dangerous every time LA took possession. Even playing with ten men, (Ashley Cole was ejected for 2 yellow cards), LA managed to heavily pressure NYCFC. 

It looked like New York ran out of gas in the last 15 minutes, so when the final whistle blew it was with a huge sigh of relief from many fans. 

Greatest hits

Sean Johnson is credited with only two saves and one claimed cross but with one possibly saved by his face. They were legit threats and decisive saves.

No VAR used!

Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha’s squatting ball-clearing headers.

H-U-S-T-L-E-R of the match – Rodney Wallace providing that necessary 2nd or 3rd person pressure on LA.

Tinnerholm’s goal celebration = pure joy.

Extra Time

Who did David Villa say in the post-match interview is a “really amazing guy”?

Featured image courtesy: Keira Smith

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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.

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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. 

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