Tag Archives: New York City Football Club

Match Preview: NYCFC at Philadelphia Union

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

For the last regular season game of the season, New York City Football Club will  face Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday.  The Union has been a constant threat in the Eastern Conference all season and are currently locked in a tight battle with Atlanta United for second place in the conference.  Both teams have 55 points, with 33 games played but Atlanta currently hold one more win than Philly.  Both Atlanta and Philadelphia also have 1.67 points per game.  Needless to say, Philadelphia will be throwing all their efforts behind an all out 3 point victory to climb over Atlanta.

Not surprisingly, the Union has a very similar record to NYCFC with a large number of draws this season, particularly when away, and have only lost two matches at home, compared to NYCFC’s one home 2019 defeat. NYCFC’s sole home loss was to Portland Timbers while Philadelphia lost to Toronto FC and (shocker!) Portland Timbers.  Historically head-to-head at Philadelphia, the Union have three wins while NYC have two.  Earlier in the  season when these two teams met in the Bronx, City defeated Philly 4-2.

Philadelphia is expected to rely on striker Kacper Przybylko, who carries the bulk of the team’s goals scored with a tally of 15. And it’s a deep bench:  Marco Fabian and Ilsinho, who commonly come on as subs, are the next top scorers with 6 and 5 goals respectively.

Again with the similarities on paper, NYCFC’s leading goal scorer Héber, also has 15 goals scored.  Héber is expected to return to his role both setting up his partner-in-attacking-crime, Taty Castellanos, and finishing balls anywhere near the net.  I anticipate that the team will be playing to win but will need to be cautious to prevent any further injuries going into the playoffs.  In the last match, a loss at New England (0-2), Héber was just returning from an injury and played more than was optimal, likely due to the lack of Castellanos in that game.  

Castellanos was ineligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.  For the New England match the team also played without Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot – both due to card accumulation – and also without Anton Tinnerholm, out with a concussion.  Chanot and Ring will be back in the lineup for this match.

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NYCFC’s starting formation will depend a lot on the status of Tinnerholm.  His abilities and attacking mindset at right back allow the team to successfully utilize a 3-4-3 with him in a forward-moving wingback role. The team has found a rhythm and balance when Ronald Matarrita fills this role on the left and Tinnerholm is on the right.  Without Tinnerholm, there is a lot less momentum on the right side and the team needs to rely heavily on the center and left side, making the attacks more predictable and easier to defend by the opposition.  

Erik Miller was brought in to be a back up for Tinnerholm in this role and time will tell whether he can slot in fluidly but, for now, Sebastien Ibeagha has done an excellent job defending and destroying plays in the position of right back, particularly in the match against Atlanta United.  He’s indicated that he is working on his transitions to attacking with overlapping runs down the right flank.  City is going to defend hard and rely heavily on its midfield, especially Maxi Moralez, to get balls to the two headed attacking dragon of Castellanos and Héber.

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The season will certainly end on an exciting note with NYCFC still in first place in the eastern conference.

All images: Tisha Gale

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NYCFC at a Crossroads

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club seems to be at a crossroads now with three games ahead in tight succession between Saturday and August 24th.  The talk amongst fans is how many points is reasonable to expect from these matches and where the season will go from there.

I don’t like to jinx things but…

Despite NYCFCs drop in the rankings after Sunday’s game, I’m not concerned. New York City still has 3 games in hand with 23 played while Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia and Atlanta have played 26 and 25 respectively.   If NYCFC can keep its act together in the next three matches, important points can be gained and they can climb up the table. 

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Sunday’s match versus Atlanta United in “Atlan-turf” ended with a 2-1 loss, with momentum and possession clearly with the home squad.  It was a ticky-tacky match with a lot of contact, simulation, and aggression. 

NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent stated after the match that “You have to be brave to play Atlanta” and it did appear that the team was intimidated by the former champions. Perhaps it was the uncertainty about the fitness of midfielder Maxi Moralez and striker Héber but City did not play with confidence. 

Nevertheless, a home field Atlanta is theoretically supposed to win.  They consistently draw a huge crowd, are on an upward swing with their season and are very accustomed to playing on artificial turf.

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Upcoming matches

New York City travels to face FC Cincinnati on 8/17

It’s no  secret that FC Cincy sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  Is this a potential trap game?  With Maxi Moralez perhaps not at 100%, Dome Torrent will may keep him rested and play him only if needed.  NYCFC should completely dominate FC Cincinnati but Dome may be playing to ensure everyone is healthy to face…

Columbus Crew at home on 8/21

Columbus has not had a great season but it has very talented players and they are capable of slaying giants.  (See their win over Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.) Victory is not a foregone conclusion and City will need to balance strong defending of Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos while playing the tight possession-centric style that has served them well. 

RBNY at home on 8/24

We need to talk about the strange voodoo powers that RBNY seems to have over NYCFC.  City faces them year in and year out and it seems that NYC either gets completely trounced or barely squeaks by.   (We also see this in the western conference with LAFC versus LA Galaxy.  LAFC can have the best record in the league but just can’t beat the Galaxy.)

There are two ways to look at this game:  Everyone is fit and prepared to go all in and get a win, no matter how many limbs are left on the field or the team plays for a draw, keeping most players from getting injured and look ahead to the rest of the season. 

A lot of the noise in players’ heads will be determined by the results of the two prior games.  If they handedly beat Cincinnati and Columbus, I predict that they will walk onto the pitch with chests puffed out and ready to go for a big win. If not, they will play tentatively and will be lucky to gain a point.  

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 All images including featured image by NYCFC.com

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Maxi Moralez’s huge presence on NYCFC

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Images:  NYCFC

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

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Image:  NYCFC.com

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NYCFC loses to Houston Dynamo 1-3: Musings on Marriage and Fandom

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Friday, May 25: 3-1 Loss

Friday, New York City Football Club faced off against Houston Dynamo and left most fans shaking their heads as to what the heck they just saw.  The game started with a wonky lineup and then built up pieces of a proverbial train wreck with bad defensive touches, lack of offensive runs and a horrific looking injury to midfielder Yangel Herrera.

By all accounts it did not seem to be a good night to be an NYCFC fan.  Yet, gathering to watch the match at Ryan’s Daughter in Manhattan at a fan party hosted by NYCFC Nation, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary to my husband, I got all sorts of feels.  A true fan relationship with the team really is like a solid marriage:  you get some tremendous swooning moments, a few instances of pure soul-spitting anger and a lot of mutual hard work, humor, comfort and picking your battles.

Despite David Villa‘s quick goal to give New York the lead in the first few minutes, it was ugly football with a lack of passion and creativity.  For much of the game, City was dominated by the Dynamo.  Houston capitalized on our slow legs and poor overall defending.  As one NYC fan stated, “We look gassed”.  However, despite disappointment in the result this week, fans bonded in mutual love and dedication to their team.  For true fans, it would take something monumental for us to lose so much faith in our team to jump ship and start over.

At our wedding twenty years ago, my husband and I were given advice in the shape of the 80/20 rule:  As long as you are happy and working together as a team 80% of the time, you are in excellent shape to weather the storms that may occur 20% of the time.

Now, do I translate that to an 80% ball possession and an 80% winning record in MLS?  Of course not, but if the fan’s relationship with the team is mostly positive with a few bumps thrown in, then it’s a worthwhile long term endeavor.  Expecting perfection is unattainable for anybody or any sports team.  However, I dare you to explain that to a New Yorker.

Extra time thoughts:

The diagnosis of Herrera’s injury and prognosis has not been disclosed but he posted a photo of himself in a boot, giving fans hope that the injury was not as serious as it appeared.

New York City Football Club is now without Ronald Matarrita and Rodney Wallace who will be representing Costa Rica in the World Cup.  We will have less depth particularly on the left side.

Safety note! Jumping up and down rhythmically in large groups at Ryan’s Daughter may cause the floor to collapse and is therefore discouraged.

Onward and upwards.

Featured image: @NYCFC

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Can’t Stop- NYCFC battles LAFC to a 2-2 draw

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, May 13: 2-2 Draw

Mia’s Magical Falcon versus the Pigeon

No, I promise this won’t be a drool fest about everything Los Angeles Football Club does right.  Humor me for a minute and I’ll quickly move on.  As a New York City Football Club fan, I’m a bit green with envy.

Banc of California Stadium is beautiful – located in actual downtown Los Angeles, a mere walking distance from the USC campus.  The supporters’ section holds over 3200 supporters.  They have a live falcon.  (Hey, I’m into birds of prey.  Don’t judge.)

The soccer-specific stadium has real grass.  The uniforms are timelessly stylish worn by talented, young international players and they are part-owned by sports phenoms Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and well-known actor Will Ferrell.  I was nervous that the new cool kids in town were going to defeat us.

I hope that some newbies to soccer and detractors of the sport caught some of this match as it was a nail biter with possession ping-ponging from end to end and it was also a fun watch.  From David Villa‘s 402nd goal which was an easy-peasy header rebound off a penalty shot to take the lead 1-0 to Ismael Tajouri- Shradi‘s game tying rebound rocket minutes after being subbed in, the vibe was positively SoCal.  The sun was blinding and the chanting was relentless and intense.

Major props go out to the almost perfect play of LAFC’s Laurent Ciman and Latif Blessing who dished out trouble for NYCFC from the first whistle.  New York City clearly evolved in their strategy of maintaining possession in tight spaces and constantly trying to thread the proverbial needle to maintaining possession but mixing in deep long low balls and high crosses to penetrate LA’s defense.  This game could have gone either way with plenty of missed finishers, great saves, and clearances by both teams.

The good:

  • Tajouri-Shradi is back and scored his fifth goal in as many games.
  • Villa is back in major hustle mode, applying pressure in every corner of the field and was potent in the counter attacks.
  • Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made some ridiculously incredible saves.

The bad:

  • One of the goals LA was credited for was an own goal off a deflection by defender Sebastien Ibeagha.  Ouch.
  • We still have no stadium of our own.

Questions:

  • Will we move forward utilizing this new strategy mixing in long balls or will we go back to our short pass possession method?
  • Is Anton Tinnerholm injured?
  • Why are we not more dangerous off set pieces?

“Can’t stop, addicted to the shindig.  Chop Top, he says I’m gonna win big.”  – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Featured image: nycfc.com

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“Night Spoiled” New York City FC destroyed by New York Red Bulls

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, May 5: 4-0 Loss

“I don’t have much to say, I’ll be out front
Won’t you come spoil my night?
Feelings come into play and I’m thinkin’
this happens every time.
Spoil my night, spoil my night…”

Before Saturday’s thrashing of NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, and before said night was spoiled, I spent quite a bit of time pondering soccer fandom in the US in general and more specifically the development of franchise rivalries in MLS.  We were, of course, playing our alleged rival in what MLS dubbed the #NYDerby.  There was so much talk in the days leading up to the game about how both NYC fans and NY Red Bulls fans were actually renaming it the “Hudson River Derby” and were resistant to the assumed insistence by the league in naming it a New York rivalry.

As seasoned football fans are quick to point out, a “derby” game doesn’t necessarily indicate a match that underscores the fiercest rivalry.  If you look at Real Madrid, they may play a derby versus Atlético Madrid and fans of both clubs across the city will come out in large numbers, but their true rival in La Liga on any given day would be FC Barcelona.  And in the English Premier League, if you ask any Manchester United fan who their “biggest rival” is, they will answer Liverpool and not Manchester City.  

When soccer fans speak in general about the makings of a rivalry, the common thread is that it’s more than just a geographic commonality.  Fans commented that true rivalries take time and history to develop and that ultimately it’s passion that fuels all.

However, in a league as young and eager to grow as MLS, mere hints of a rivalry by means of geography, team age, and a few contentious games can be accelerated into a full-blown “Rivalry”.  These matches are easy to advertise and market and they sell more tickets.  Both derby games and matches against a league rival grip fans as they give them a rare chance to loudly proclaim which clan they identify with. 

“The beautiful game is for the fans and they are the ones responsible for defining what is meaningful and important and what or who isn’t”. – NYCFC fan Angel Meza

In the case of the New York City and the Red Bulls, some say that it’s not a true historical rivalry and not even a true derby game as the Red Bulls’ home is in Patterson, NJ.  However, there is clearly true animosity and, for many NYCFC fans, it stems from the belief that a New York team needs to actually play in New York State. 

It seems that the perceived highjacking of the “NY” in RBNY was the big rub.  Not that the actual team or its fans had any say in that decision.  No matter, as one City fan succinctly stated, “The one thing that makes a rivalry a rivalry is both sides agreeing it is one.”  And that may be the only thing that most NYCFC and Red Bulls fans can agree on.

Special thanks to the following fans for sharing their thoughts about soccer fandom:  Andrés Emilio Soto, Stephanie Plaut, Osman Sosa, Rollie Joe Carney, Anthony Scarcello and Angel Meza.  And thanks to Post Malone for those lyrics.

Featured image of HC Patrick Vieira: @NYCFC

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Can I kick it?  Yes David Villa, yes you can.

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Sunday, April 29: 3-1 Win

It was a cold but happy Sunday night at Yankee Stadium where New York City Football Club returned to their home pitch ready to make up for the ugly loss to Portland Timbers one week ago.  Fan expectations were high that our Boys in Blue could return to their seamless form demonstrated in their previous five wins mixed with a thin layer of anxiety.  Could we defeat FC Dallas, apparent masters of defense and the only unbeaten MLS team this season? 

The answer was a resounding yes with whipped cream and two cherries on top.  Two minutes in Jesus Medina scored on a David Villa and Jo Inge Berget sequence which started, of course, down the left side.  Despite a Dallas equalizer in the 9th minute, NYC maintained about 80% of the first half possession. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Jo Inge Berget image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

When a Dallas handball in their box triggered a very delayed use of VAR to ultimately award a penalty kick to NYCFC, everyone in the stadium knew what that meant and was on their feet.  David Villa was kicking for his 400th career goal and executed it perfectly, of course.  Then, to silence any doubters of his return to top form, he scored a second goal, his 401st career goal in typical gorgeous, easy-does-it style.   Game-set-match New York City FC.

While New York maintained 75% of the game possession, FC Dallas did threaten with the same number of shots on target as NY.  Interestingly, NYC had no offside calls against them while Dallas was called on it four times. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Sebastien Ibeagha image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

I got a chance to speak with NYCFC center back Sebastien Ibeagha post-game about who on FC Dallas was giving him trouble and how they effectively contained them. “The whole front three were giving us a hard time and I think it just was what we worked on during the week and we were just really disciplined and confident in our tactics and our game plan – that was kind of what was shown on the field.”

On Ibeagha’s start in place of veteran center back Maxime Chanot and on the match result:  “Every week Patrick says anyone can start so I mean it wasn’t a big change or anything tactically…It was a big win for us [tonight] and obviously, it’s more confidence going into next week.”

Yeah, our tribe is back and ready to face that other one from across our very own rio grande.

Featured image of David Villa courtesy: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

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My Passion: Soccer

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Hey MLS fans near and far!  Keira Smith here, excited to be reporting on my favorite team, New York City Football Club. 

I’ve been obsessed with soccer, first as a player and then a fan, for most of my life.  I love NYCFC but even more so, I love the game.  The speed, the finesse, the power, the intense training needed to merely survive for 90 minutes. 

I love how the sport is player-driven with very little actual coaching during the matches.  No timeouts and once you’re subbed out, there’s no going back.  I love how soccer is played everywhere in the world and in all climates.  Is there any other sport in which you wonder what language the players are speaking to each other? 

The growth of MLS in the US brings tears to my eyes when I stop and think about it.  Growing up in the ’80s, soccer was not on tv.  We had to drive 30 minutes to an Italian Barbershop to see an international game on satellite.  (That was basically the only place you could buy good cleats as well). 

My dad would drive my teammates and me hours to see both national teams if they were playing somewhere “close” by.  This is night and day to the accessibility of MLS games in most of the country today. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Home away from home

NYCFC games have become our family’s tradition.  All four of us, which includes a teenager and an almost teenager, happily (and nervously- hey, we want to WIN) attend almost all home matches in pretty much all types of weather. 

We’ve made fans out of families who had previously never gone to a single soccer game in their lives.  The level of play is just that good and the fever-pitch excitement in the stadium is contagious. 

I look forward to sharing NYCFC news and fandom with you.  You can reach me at @keiramunsmith on Twitter and @keirams on Instagram.

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