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.
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.
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.
Who did David Villa say in the post-match interview is a “really amazing guy”?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I feel like I was just here a month ago. And again a couple of weeks before that, and again only a few days before that. My Blue Counterpart summed up the feeling quite well.
So, this is basically my last chance to complain about the “rivalry” that is the New York Red Bulls (12-10-3, 39 points) and New York City FC (14-7-5, 47 points). This is a geographical rivalry. Like the New York Giants and New York Jets of gridiron football and the fabled Subway Series of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. And those have been in place for what feels like forever. Because the NY Metropolitan area is easily large enough to accommodate fans for both teams. But then again, as my favorite Ginger Soccer Philosopher states in a recent ad campaign, “…soccer has supporters. And they’re a different breed entirely.”
Because of the structure of MLS, no one team can blow away the competition with stacked talent, premium accommodation and transport, or exorbitant payroll. So regardless of how heated it can get on the field, when the final whistle blows, everyone on the field shakes hands and exchanges jerseys, because ultimately they are all brothers in the same player’s union. The rivalry belongs to the fanssupporters, who argue the tri-state area can only be one color when, in fact, it has always easily been various shades of several colors.
As I sat in the press box and watched this last installment of the Hudson River Derby, I began to liken it to a completely different rivalry that was much more my speed as a child:
WON’T BE JUST ANY NIGHT: As soon as the traffic slowed to a crawl 2 miles before the exit to the arena, I knew it was going to be a different game. NYCFC was looking to sweep the series*, and RBNY was not interested in having that occur in their home. Also, the announcement had been made earlier in the week that, due to a scheduling conflict with the Yankees, NYCFC will have to host the Houston Dynamo next month at a stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut.
To be clear, I actually respect that NYCFC feels such a deep connection to the city of New York, and can appreciate the upset many Blue fans have voiced over the change. But since the bulk of the trolling from NYC fans has been geographically based, this was just extremely sweet and low-hanging fruit for Metro fans. The pettiness was turned up to 11, and I am here for that.
(*= in league play: I wrote about the Red Bulls eliminating NYC from the Open Cup competition… RBNY is heading to the final in a couple of weeks.)
A BOY LIKE THAT: Usually the conversation during these match-ups centers on Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa, who still made their mark on the game with 5 and 3 shots respectively. But it was Sean Davis who really seemed to be leading the charge for RBNY in the first half. His 3 shots and 82% passing accuracy were notable in the first act… I mean, half. Villa could only be credited with an assist with Maximiliano Moralez putting up the goal for NYC in the 56th minute. And when the moment came for RBNY to go to the spot following a foul on Sacha Kljestan, it was Gonzalo Veron who converted the equalizer.
BE COOL: Was there pushing? Tripping? Diving? You’d better believe it. And I ain’t even mad. Three yellow cards (Alexander Ring 19′, Kemar Lawrence 35′, and Rodney Wallace 43′) don’t lie. And it wasn’t like Video-Assisted Refereeing was getting involved apparently. But the majority of the action was just the run of play. And that’s great too. At the end of the day, a lopsided game is what makes for a sad “rivalry”. So, even though the 62% possession from the Red Bulls only resulted in a goal from a penalty kick and only 358 passes from NYCFC was enough for them to score, the balance is what made the draw, the first one in the soon-to-be-acceptable Hudson River Derby.
I LIKE TO BE IN AMERICA: The Red Bulls will face FC Dallas next week while the rest of the world takes an International break for World Cup Qualifiers and Friendlies. RBNY defenders Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar will once again join the Panamanian team, and congrats to David Villa on his return to the Spanish National Team. Meanwhile, RBNY Reggae Boy Kemar Lawrence is expected to decline the call-up for the Jamaican team’s Friendly against Canada. (My Fantasy team thanks Kemar for this, too.) Also, MLS cathedral Red Bull Arena is hosting the US Men’s National Team as they play Costa Rica. It’s an exciting week for the NY Metropolitan Area.
I need to begin by apologizing. I apologize for this post being so late. I apologize for allowing my support of the New York Red Bulls to get in the way of my duty to you. I should have been eager to write about this match, even though it was a loss. Truthfully, I would have been, too, if it hadn’t been for who we lost against.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be an angry screed against NYCFC. Yes, I fervently dislike the blue team, but that’s not what this website is about. There are plenty of other RBNY sites and podcasts who will be dissing them; so if you’re looking for that, look elsewhere.
Especially since Sunday was a classic “That’s so Metro” kind of match.
For those who don’t know, “That’s so Metro” is the phrase used when the Red Bulls lose a game through their own stupidness. It started in the early days of the club when they were the MetroStars when Nicola Caricola scored the only goal during the inagural home match. Too bad it was an own goal.
Thus, was a meme born.
“That’s So Metro”, or TSM for short, is not an excuse. Supporters don’t use it to defend bad plays or explain why we should have won. It’s used to describe how RBNY can turn a match or a season into a dumpster fire. It’s used to remember not to get our hopes up about anything until the final whistle of the final match. It’s our Chinatown.
I should have known something was wrong when I didn’t feel nauseated.
For the last few seasons, whenever there’s been an important match, I begin to feel nauseous a couple of hours beforehand. Several factors determine the strength of the feeling. How good is the other club? Have we played them before this season? If we did, did we win, lose, or draw? And, most importantly, how have we been playing? Depending on the answers, my tummy discomfort could fall anywhere from a little grumbly to a level where anything more than a hot dog could exit my body in the wrong direction. Usually, the worse I feel the better the club plays.
This past Sunday, I felt nothing.
Maybe I gave myself a false sense of safety. RBNY had been playing better in the last couple of matches. Even though their last three wins were against clubs having poor seasons, their form had improved so much that those matches were blow-outs — 5-1, 3-0, and 4-0 respectively. They were so improved from their June 24th match with NYC that many felt a draw would be a realistic result.
There were three signs this was going to be an oh-so-Metro match. The first was Daniel Royer’s cries of agony in the 11th minute. It looked like a true accident, too. Royer and NYC’s Alexander Ring were chasing the ball, Royer slid to kick the ball away from Ring, Ring’s run became more of a leap where his momentum didn’t keep him going forward, Ring fell backwards, landing on Royer’s knee. The play was so clean that neither player touched each other until Ring fell on Royer.
I don’t know if anyone at Yankee Stadium could hear his cries, but I could on television. They were chilling. They were the kind of cries that could mean the end of his season. Thank the soccer gods, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
His leaving early affected the team, though. Before the injury they had a controlled possession with well-timed crosses and plenty of speed. After Royer’s injury, they lost momentum and began easily losing possession. They didn’t shake alive until David Villa scored a goal in the 28th minute.
And this was when the second sign appeared.
The goal was bound to happen. NYCFC had been feeding Villa ball after ball after ball. He came close a couple of times. So did another player or two. I just don’t think anybody expected it to come from such a mundane build up.
It began with NYCFC defender Ethan White throwing in to Ring who crossed it to either Alexander Callens or Ben Sweat. It’s hard to say since it rolled into the wide gap between them making them run for it like a stray ball. Sweat then lobs it far, hoping to connect with one of the forwards; instead being intercepted by RBNY defender Damien Perrinelle. Perrinelle then attempts to pass it up to Sacha Kljestan, but an NYCFC midfielder blocks it and — get this — uses his knee to send the ball towards David Villa who only has to run and catch it before Robles, which he does.
Reader, please believe me when I say that I have watched and re-watched this goal, and I discovered something disturbing: VILLA WAS UNMARKED THE WHOLE TIME! How? How was that allowed to happen? I know they had three forwards, but so did we. Bradley Wright-Phillips was marked by two defenders whenever the ball came close to him. Why were we not doing the same?
According to coach Jesse Marsch in the post-match press conference, Aaron Long was assigned to mark Villa throughout the match. Long had his back to Villa and was ten feet away before the first goal. For the second goal, he kept pace and was then beaten. In the build up to the penalty, he was marking Sean Okoli.
So remember a few seconds ago when I mentioned how Bradley Wright-Phillips always had two or three defenders marking him? Well, lucky for us he’s so dang good because he was able to make a couple of goals.
The first was really sweet. First, Felipe took possession from the blue team, passed it to Kljestan, who crossed to Sean Davis, who tapped it over to Wright-Phillips. BWP then dribbled the ball a few over to just the outside of the 18-yard box, while two blue defenders positioned themselves between him and the goal.
Talk about magic, though. Wright-Phillips planted his right foot and shot the ball with his left. Ethan White was literally in front of him and the ball, but he stretched too far to stop it. The ball went through his legs and towards the goal. The City goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, then dove to his left to stop the ball, but he also stretched too far. The ball passed through the triangular hole Johnson’s body made as it flew to the ground. It was the most masterful goal I’ve seen from Wright-Phillips.
Let’s jump forward now, past the second goals, to the third and final goal.
There’s still heated debate about what led to Villa’s penalty kick. Was it a jinx brought on by some RBNY supporters chanting “this is our house” as some talked about the next day? Probably not. Was it a malicious kick to the face from Sal Zizzo? No, Villa was hit by the ball not Zizzo’s foot.
This is what it was: another accident born of bad timing and one bad decision.
Villa and Zizzo were converging on the same point — the same point being the ball. They met it at the same time just outside the 18-yard box. They keep pace with each other for one stride, but the ball is on course to meet Villa. By then they’re in the box. Were Zizzo to knock or tackle Villa he would be called for a denial of a goal scoring opportunity, with Villa getting a penalty. So he went to kick the ball out.
Unfortunately, the ball was neck-high by then. Villa lowered his torso so the top of his head could meet it first. Zizzo raised his foot and tapped the ball just as it bumps off Villa’s head sending it into his face. If it wasn’t for the ball, Zizzo’s cleat would have hit Villa’s face.
A fair-minded individual would recognize that the whole moment was an accident, but even accidents have consequences. If Zizzo had left the ball alone, Perrinelle would have been able to mark Villa and even block the ball. Instead he made a decision which could have injured someone. No one should have qualms with Villa being awarded the penalty.
Everyone knew the match was over once the penalty was made. Marsch had waited too long to sub in Gonzalo Veron and Michael Murillo. The team was too deflated to even out the score. They had become so Metro.
But that’s not why they lost. The team played well and with promise. Kljestan’s form as a number ten is returning; he moved the ball with precision and assisted on both New York goals. Wright-Phillips is becoming a laser-focused striker, putting himself where he needs to be and timing his goals in astonishing ways. The only area that needs improvement is the shaky backline. Hopefully, more time together will lead to better decisions and improved marking.
Featured image courtesy: New York Red Bulls Instagram
New York City FC walked into yet another meeting with their bitter cross-state-lines rivals this weekend. Though it was only the fourth time they’d confronted the New York Red Bulls this year alone, it felt like the fortieth. Before the whistle blew, everyone formed a circle on the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium and held their hands, alternating blue and red, blue and red, blue and red. They solemnly vowed to not meet again until next season because enough is enough, and then the whistle blew.
The boys in blue enjoyed a rousing game of aggressive football. Though Bradley Wright-Phillips did his best to one-up David Villa goal for goal, he was no match. Their nemeses exited Yankee Stadium with defeat bitter on their tongues as NYCFC celebrated their comeback win.
“It’s possible you are a robot whose sole purpose in life is to play football,” a reporter told Villa after the game before his thought petered out into a nervous laugh. “But that’s crazy, right?”
With no life behind his eyes and the chants of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Villa smiled. “Yes. So crazy.”
He resisted the urge to say he was human, because that’s exactly what a robot would say.
All looked to be peaceful at last in the land of New York… Until Don Garber rode in on his highest of horses and slammed his ruby-and-sapphire-encrusted staff into the ground.
“No!” he bellowed to the heavens, shaking the cherubs (who, strangely enough, all looked like Yangel Herrera before he grew his baby beard) from their slumber. “No, I demand more rivalry weeks! I demand revenue! I demand MLS be taken seriously, but mostly I demand revenue! You shall meet again! YOU SHALL ALL MEET AGAIN.”
He disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The horse remained.
“I don’t particularly want to be doing this again,” Jack Harrison said in his piping voice, like a lovely caged songbird who will inevitably be released soon for a lot of money.
Patrick Vieira lifted his gaze to the skies, searching for any sign of their overlord only to find none. “We must,” he sighed Frenchly. “The Don commands it.”
“It won’t be so bad.” David Villa threw everyone a roguish grin. “You have me, so.”
Yes, he was indeed the hero of the night. Not one goal, not two goals, but three goals found their way from his anointed foot to the back of the net. His first hattrick! Surely there would be much jubilation tonight. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but you’d never know it by looking at their captain, indefatigable and effervescent as ever.
“Somebody should probably take care of that horse,” Alex Ring pointed out, because he’s perfect and the only one with his priorities straight.
“I want to ride it.”
“Maxi, that’s dangerous.”
“Let me ride the horse.”
“No, Maxi. He’ll stomp you. You’re a quarter of his height!”
With no warning, the horse let out a mighty whinny and shook its glorious star-spangled mane. From its tresses fell– a check for extra allocation money to sign a new right-back?
No. No such luck. It was merely a note straight from The MLS Mechanism Room. With the collected calm of a man no longer burdened by his own flowing locks, Tommy McNamara picked it up from the ground and read it aloud to the group:
THE NEXT TIME YOU MEET WILL BE IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS. THE HUDSON RIVER DERBIES WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES. NO GODS, NO MASTERS. IN NEW YORSEY WE DIE LIKE MEN.
Andrea Pirlo awoke from his nap just in time to hear the news. “Very ominous,” he deadpanned. Nobody knew if he was being sarcastic or not. Nobody dared to ask.
For as much as they may have wanted to rally against the forces of the universe, they knew deep into their hearts that it would be futile. No man can supersede The Don. Many among their own ranks had tried, and where were they now? Gothenburg. Salt Lake City. Orlando. Retired, which everyone knows is a code word for something much more sinister.
No, to stay alive in New York City, one must play the hand they’re dealt. And if that means every other match being a Hudson River Derby to appease the whims of a fickle federation, then so be it. They had to accept their fate, prepare for their trip to the west coast and begin to brainstorm a way to defend their derby title, short-lived as it may be.
Still, nothing could take the night’s victory from them. As they headed out into the dusky evening, nineteen men and one mysterious horse, they did so with one immutable truth burning at the forefront of their minds:
Am I happy we drew against a severely depleted Toronto FC at home when it was maybe our best chance to take three points during this particular stretch of games? No. But did I call it? Yes. Yes, I absolutely did. If you listened to the episode of Blue Balls NYCFC that I guested on, you’ll know that while Trey was cautiously optimistic NYCFC could pull off the win, I reached deep into my inner god mind, called upon my infinite knowledge of the football world, and proclaimed that the match would end in a 2-2 draw.
Not to toot my own horn, but beep beep.
This is just another entry into the long string of things I regret predicting in football. Eventually I will learn to keep my mouth shut and stop putting my divine will out into the universe before it can take shape and become reality. One day, maybe. But that day is not today!
NYCFC conceded early (again) and pulled back a late first half equalizer (again) before taking the lead in the second half (again) — and then it all fell to pieces when Toronto FC clawed their way back on the board with a late, late, late game penalty. By that point there was no magic left to be worked, and so the draw felt like a loss, and we all hung our heads in shame. So it goes.
I could go over the minute details of the game — how lovely it is to have Sean Johnson back after his early release from the USMNT Gold Cup squad, how loudly I screamed when RJ Allen casually passed the ball straight to Giovinco right outside our box, how David Villa and Maxi Moralez made a mess of TFC’s defense, how our substitutions may be our weakest point and how our bench depth is starting to suffer as more players get injured on international duty (R.I.P. RodWal and Camargo) — but it would be a waste of your time, and mine.
Instead, I’d like to tackle the real issue at NYCFC that nobody is talking about:
Every day Alex Ring does not score his first goal for this club is another day we crawl closer to endtimes, and I’m not about to let the world go down in flames before I see that kindly Finnish cherub get his golden goal.
Not all midfielders are goalscorers. Most of my favorite midfielders aren’t! In fact, Ring’s goal-scoring record prior to coming to NYCFC isn’t anything impressive, but from what I understand of his history, that’s hardly his fault. Here, he’s settled in with a guaranteed starting position and a coach who believes in him, and he is hungry for goals.
It’s plain to see in every match he plays, but none more so than this one. Toward the end of the first half, Ring fired a cracking shot on goal from quite a ways out. It ended with little fanfare, but what it could have been lifted all our hearts. Ring really wants that goal. We really want it for him.
Thus, I present to you:
An Abbreviated List of Things That Will Happen Before Alex Ring Scores His First NYCFC Goal
Pirlo scores his second NYCFC goal.
LA Galaxy and LAFC announce the joint signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović, because one club is not big enough to contain Zlatan.
Poku wins the Ballon d’Or (as he should).
FIFA relocates the 2022 World Cup.
Mix Diskerud makes his triumphant return to MLS.
The Nutmeg News gets a print magazine. (This isn’t meant to be shady. I really do wish this could happen.)
Miami FC gets off the ground, enters MLS as an expansion club, and uses pre-recorded stadium announcements in David Beckham’s nasally squeaky balloon animal voice during halftime.
NYCFC gets past the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.
NYCFC wins the U.S. Open Cup.
NYCFC wins the U.S. Open Cup in a stunning 9-0 thrashing of the New York Red Bulls, proving karmic justice exists and the good guy wins in the end.
Someone finally breaks into The MLS Mechanism Room and frees Chicharito, who has been trapped there since the summer of 2015.
Women’s football is given truly equal representation, respect and remuneration.
Khiry Shelton returns from injury.
David Villa’s retirement.
The inevitable heat death of the universe.
My next NYCFC recap. Just kidding! But I am going on a long-awaited vacation and will not be back until our penultimate Hudson River Derby on August 6. If Alex Ring scores during my absence, I will calmly walk directly into the ocean and never resurface again. No pressure.
Obviously, New York City FC should have waltzed into BC Place and shaken the Vancouver Whitecaps down for three points. It would’ve been the perfect start to a truly hellish calendar month (no big deal, we’re just staring down the barrel of Toronto… and Chicago… and Toronto again… oh, and the third Hudson River Derby). NYCFC could have taken solace in three road points before the long break.
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, absolutely didn’t.
But it was so fun.
The sort of fun you have at an amateur roller derby match. You go into it knowing you’re going to see people get messy and fight hard, and you’ve resigned yourself to how much you enjoy this particular brand of rowdy garbage. You can justify it to yourself by saying you’re here because everyone shows so much passion and heart, but at the end of the day you’re here for the carnage, and it’s great.
Aside from a few sparks of brilliance here and there, NYCFC and Vancouver did not play beautiful football on this fine evening. They cracked their knuckles and pummeled one another into submission. After NYCFC conceded within the first three minutes (thanks to a tremendous slip-up from the normally infallible Alex Ring) it was game on. The boys in blue clamored all over one another in the box to score the equalizer, which ended up being credited to Maxime Chanot. All good, right?
No, you fool. This is MLS. It’s never all good. Bring on the controversial referee decisions!
I can’t make myself care about arguing ref calls. Nothing interests me less. Every league and every tournament has its share of awful refereeing, and I just… I don’t care, friends. I’m positive there was a fair amount of argument over NYCFC being awarded a penalty after Tommy McNamara and David Ousted collided, because that’s how football fans work, but I put on my blinders and saw none of it.
I did see David Villa convert his penalty to put NYCFC ahead before the break. I also saw the rising tensions and fighting, at which point I went into full raucous hooligan mode and decided I was only in this match for the bloodbath.
The second half saw both teams running each other ragged, but it was Vancouver that capitalized on NYCFC’s embarrassment of missed chances. After their equalizer (which I missed, due to jamming out on an intense air saxophone solo, and I honestly regret nothing) it was only a matter of time until they broke the boys in blue down one last time. Even after Eirik Johansen made a truly stunning save in the 85th minute, they kept knocking at NYCFC’s door until it broke down, and in the dying minutes of the game Vancouver came out on top.
It was a breathless match, and despite the loss, it was some of the most fun I’ve had watching NYCFC this season. Maybe I was just really in the mood for some chaos. Who knows.
pal the only "meltdown" im having is my ice cream melting down into my hand while I lay on the beach & laugh while thinking about the trolls
Let’s round things off with just a few random thoughts:
How much time do you think Yangel Herrera has spent watching old clips of David Villa at FC Barcelona? I only ask because he did his best Vintage Diving Villa impression during this match. It was comical how hard he went down, how dramatically he clutched at his face after it got… breathed on, at most. I love it. I’m here for it.
Alex Ring didn’t have the best match of his life, if we’re being kind. But who cares? Off the pitch, he’s still an angel. He recently posted on Instagram about a girl named Kia who has battled cancer for most of her young life. With no treatment options left, her final dream is to see the Statue of Liberty. Ring reached out to Kia’s family and invited them to be his guest in New York City and to have Kia accompany him at Yankee Stadium. The next day, he updated everyone via his Story that Kia’s family had taken him up on the offer. It’s an incredible gesture that warmed my bitter little coffee bean heart, and I’m so looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.
In less emotional news… I long for another Pirlo goal. Please let us have one before he’s gone forever.
Have you subscribed to Blue Balls NYCFC yet? You should! That way you’ll be notified when their next episode goes up, wherein yours truly will be joining Trey Fillmore to look back on this match, then ahead to the game against Toronto on the 19th. Given what a glorious hysterical mess tonight was, it’s bound to be a banger of an episode.
And now we break for the group stage of the Gold Cup. If you, like me, have no particular loyalty to any CONCACAF national team, Elliott Turner‘s Gold Cup guide for neutrals is fantastic. Vamos Curaçao! Why not?
Rest easy before the gauntlet begins again. See you all when Toronto FC comes to town!
I love a meaningless barely-rivalry as much as the next person. Why let it be just another match when you could dress it up with a funny name? Why focus on the game when you could be imagining a tiny fat pigeon pecking a loon’s eyes out? Yes, the loon used its trickery and wiles to gain the upper hand at first, but never doubt the tenacity of a pigeon. A pigeon will wait for hours beneath a cafe table just to steal bits of scone. A pigeon will capitalize at the moment you least expect and leave a loon stranded, adrift, hopeless.
It’s been a long month, my friends. This is where I’m at these days.
Semi-related to all of the above, New York City FC took on Minnesota United FC for the first time, one expansion team opening its arms to another. The Loons are definitely still finding their footing in MLS, and they entered Yankee Stadium without a single win on the road. They were hungry to change this from the outset, and two immediate issues arose that led to them taking the lead over the Pigeons:
Sean Johnson, bless his heart, has been called up for the USMNT Gold Cup squad. Knowing that he’ll most likely fill the role of Mr. Not Appearing In This Tournament is a double-edged sword of suck: He’ll be languishing on the bench while NYCFC trudges on without him. More on Eirik Johansen‘s performance later, but the simple fact is that we’ve briefly entered the Johansen Years, and it is rough.
Rónald Matarrita returned from injury and re-injured himself within the first ten minutes. According to post-match reports, he was wearing a boot and on crutches. This shakes up our defense yet again.
Johansen buttered his gloves before the match, bungled a save in the most spectacular of ways and let Minnesota take the lead early on in the first half. Every time the camera panned to him in goal, he looked positively shaken. He managed to pull it together later in the match and made a couple of critical saves (and, yes, one more butterfingers moment that we’re lucky didn’t cost us again) but boy, it was a shaky match at best. Maybe more consistent playing time while Johnson is away will lead to more confidence and consistent performance, but then again, maybe this is just Johansen. We have to find out the hard way.
However, I firmly believe that the way a fanbase treats its goalie when the score is down speaks volumes. While the ribbing over his howler won’t stop any time soon, the NYCFC faithful remained supportive of Johansen while he got his bearing, and for that I’m proud.
The boys in blue didn’t let the early concession affect their mentality and kept their focus. Was the first half still a sloppy mess? Oh, absolutely. But it had heart — and that relentless, persistent pursuit of some semblance of cohesion was what eventually led to Alexander Callens‘ equalizer. The play between Callens and Ben Sweat (who racked up his fourth assist of the season!) was gorgeous and truly not something I would have expected from either of them based on their earlier performances. Patrick Vieira has put his faith in these boys, and they’re paying it back in dividends. It warms my exhausted little heart.
From then on, it was NYCFC’s game to lose. Comebacks in Yankee Stadium seem to be de rigueur now, and while David Villa may not be pleased with that, you won’t see me complaining — I love a good remontada.
When Rodney Wallace sent in a superb cross, nobody could have predicted that Jack Harrison would go for the low header. But he did, aiming it with perfect precision and bouncing it just past the keeper. NYCFC went full throttle once they had the lead, and it was Villa — who else? — who put it to bed just past the hour mark. He nutmegged, he danced around defenders, he struck the ball with his so-called “weaker” foot, and he scored his 52nd goal for New York City FC. Are you really surprised?
I’m still concerned about our defense and goalkeeper situations, but if NYCFC can keep a good head on their shoulders like they did today, I think we can make it through the summer mostly intact.
And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll spend one brief and shining moment atop the table.
I promise I won’t fall asleep before I give you some random thoughts:
Every time I remember Yangel Herrera will be going back to Manchester City after this season, I get so very sad all over again. That kid lives his life in beast mode, and he’s a genuine pleasure to watch. His midfield link-up with Alex Ring? Phenomenal. I could watch it all day. Do you think there’s any chance we can save him from The Clutches Of Pep and sign him permanently?
How does Alexander Callens wind down after kicking his team into high gear to secure a decisive win at home? So glad you asked. With some Crash Bandicoot, of course. I told you guys he has my favorite social media presence right now.
Oh, we signed the kid! That happened. 16 year old James Sands, who spent preseason traveling with the team, has officially been signed as NYCFC’s first ever homegrown player. This profile on him is incredibly sweet, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the team.
PIRLO RETURNED AND IT WAS GOOD.
Four consecutive wins! One more win and we set a new record! God that really is kind of sad but also pretty exciting!
Ha ha ha we won the derby, ha ha ha New York is blue, ha ha ha I still haven’t been able to watch a replay of that match but I hear it was excellent, ha ha ha!
No fireworks and cookouts for the boys in blue next week; they’ll be in Vancouver, getting ready to extend their winning streak against the Whitecaps. Join me in cautious optimism while luxuriating in this not-quite-three-day-but-eh-close-enough-I-guess weekend!