Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
It was ‘neath the cover of October skies that the New York Red Bulls (13-12-7, 34 points) clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, now for the 8th straight season, with a win against Western Conference leaders the Vancouver Whitecaps (15-11-6, 31 points). September was a mess, but as coach Jesse Marsch said after the match, the team was able to turn the page:
“…September was difficult for us and disappointing. You know, we were all
disappointed with the results. But we continued to feel that we were playing well, and it was just a matter of time before we were going to start to have it add up more.”
Fans were stressed. The team was missing chances and dropping points. Mistakes were destroying morale and injuries are still whittling away at the team’s depth. Three players heeded national call-ups (Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Ecsobar to Panama, and Derrick Etienne to Haiti), reducing team strength even further. But Marsch found a way to right the ship.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ll be honest. I’ve been challenging our defenders… to perform at a higher level because we’ve made too many mistakes. […W]e felt like if we could shore that up; if we could find the right balance of personnel and performance in the back that the rest will take care of itself, because there’s a lot of good things happening. So you know, got three good performances from the guys at center back…”
That would be Damien Perrinelle, Aaron Long, and Kemar Lawrence. Lawrence, who played a major role in Jamaica’s Gold Cup run, declined the call for an international friendly in Saudi Arabia. The team, the fans, and my fantasy lineup all heaved a sigh of relief. It’s just too bad that Lawrence got himself a yellow card in the 84th minute and is now suspended for the next game.
Meanwhile back on offense, “all the night’s magic” made the fans stand up and cheer. Forward Danny Royer, just recently back from injury, shot the ball across the face of the goal and in for the 12th time this season in the 33rd minute.
As for assists, captain Sacha Kljestan posted 2 more on the night, bringing his season total to 17. Kljestan just might be on track to rack up 20 assists on the season for the 2nd year in a row. Mighty impressive, if you ask me.
So with two games to go, post season plans are being made. Let’s (Moon)dance.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about the New York Red Bulls in league play… sorry about that.
I made my way to Red Bull Arena to see the latest matchup for the Atlantic Cup (a *real* rivalry, mind you) against DC United. As I was driving home from the game, this 311 song came on the radio. I have taken to referencing Broadway musicals while I write these articles, and was all set to do so once again here. But the lyrics, which I had learned in my Junior year of high school, hit me so hard that I had to integrate them here. (And yes, this song is as old as our beloved Metro. And older than a couple of guys on the roster. Let that sink in.) I usually do a full run-down of the game and venue, but I’m going to try something a little different….
For those of you still slightly confused (or ridiculously young), you gon’ learn today:
Many moons: RBNY hasn’t won a league match since August 12th, while DC was coming off 2 wins and were trying to ramp up for a real winning streak.
“But… we’re commanding every game we play. Every single game we play, we’re pretty much controlling the game the way we want to control it. But we have to work so hard for our chances, and then when we do score, it seems like we find ways to literally just give goals away.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference
The dream will always be mine: RBNY will make the playoffs. How far they get in the playoffs depends on a lot of things. In the meantime, it’s really easy for fans to get bogged down by a draw like this: it should have been a win. Analysts and number crunchers keep reminding fans that the team is doing well in terms of points and stats. It’s just that those things aren’t resulting in wins.
“The will of the team is a big positive. Really the only negative is that we just can’t seem to reward ourselves.” — Jesse Marsch, post game press conference
Kill ‘dem stunning: Right Wingback Tyler Adams, who is younger than a couple of t-shirts I own, tallied his first AND second goals in MLS at this game (19′ & 74′). The soccer mom in me can’t help but be proud, because not only is he a talented player, he is a level-headed team member.
“We’re confident in our team, and we’re all determined enough to make it.” — Tyler Adams, locker room interview
Next thing you turn around and find the person is you: An own goal. That thing that helped RBNY win more than one game in the past has come back to give the devil his due. Defender Fidel Escobar was credited with the error that caused RBNY to drop 2 points in the 91st minute of the game, when it should really have been sewn up for the Red Bulls. He’s not the first player to do this, nor will he be the last. It will sting, but like a scraped knee after falling off a bike, the only thing to do is get right back to it and prove that was the exception to the rule.
That’s your best bet: There were several considerable bright spots, and I don’t want them to get lost in the quagmire. We saw the return of Danny Royer, who came on as a substitute in the 75th minute. Allow me to highlight the question I asked of Jesse Marsch, the first of my sports writing career (such as it is):
[H]ow did you feel about how Royer came in today? This is his first game back and everyone was excited to see him. What did you think, is he really there with you? Is there still more to work on?
“He’s got to get up to full fitness and everything, but he’s back. Was excited to get him back in the game. I think a high probability that he starts on Saturday, so it’s no time like the present. We need Danny. We need Danny now, so it’s good to have him
back. That is a big positive.”
Speaking of subs, Gonzalo Veron made some amazing runs, including one where he was brought down in the box and awarded the penalty kick, which he converted (78′).
Let go of regret: The sentiment from all the players was the same– let this go and focus on the next challenge: a weekend matchup against conference leaders and Supporter’s Shield contenders Toronto FC. I was never one to predict a result, but now…
You make me nervous
My brain is empty
Don’t know why
(I’ve had this song stuck in my head for nearly 24 hrs now… it’s your turn.)
Wednesday, September 20: 2-1 Loss (Open Cup Final)
I had to sleep on this post. A lot, it would seem.
I didn’t want to get sucked into all the “So Metro” talk leading up to the Open Cup final. The New York Red Bulls had made such a good run, defeating regional adversaries NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, and the New England Revolution. Fans reveled in the stomping out of Cinderella opponents FC Cincinnati and watched as they learned RBNY would have to face Sporting KC* in the final at Children’s Mercy Park. I was all set to attend another Watch party and celebrate a huge milestone in Red Bulls history: this was finally going to be the year the team lifted the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.
Well. Not so much.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Children’s Mercy Park is a fortress, and Sporting hasn’t lost at home all season. They weren’t looking to start anytime soon. As for me, a new job kept me super busy and prevented me from joining fans for the watch party (although I did meet a season ticket holder in my office– woop woop!). Thankfully, the Open Cup had finally garnered enough interest to be aired on ESPN2, so at least I wasn’t stuck watching on a tablet again.
I KNOW ABOUT POPULAR: SKC has now won 3 Open Cups and an MLS cup. RBNY has won 2 Supporter’s Shields, which would be huge if MLS didn’t have playoffs. Usually for me, comparing relative sizes of trophy cases is a serious turnoff. But it just can’t be helped. Both teams have history that spans the entire existence of Major League Soccer, and the Red Bulls should really have more to show for it.
I’M MELTING: There’s no other way for me to put it. Both of Sporting’s goals (Latif Blessing 25′ and Daniel Salloi 66′) came because they caught the defense sleeping. I commend RBNY coach Jesse Marsch for sticking with GK Ryan Meara as he had throughout the Open Cup run, but it just didn’t work as it should have. Alex Muyl was scrambling, Fidel Escobar was gassed. Sal Zizzo made a fatal error, and my personal favorite Damien Perrinelle didn’t even make the 18.
TRY DEFYING GRAVITY: It wasn’t as if the Red Bulls let SKC wipe the field with them. There was plenty of fight in the boys in red and white. The fact that Bradley Wright-Phillips was able to pull one back in the 91st minute shows that they didn’t give up. It may not have been enough, but I respect that it was still a lot.
So… it’s time for the team to focus on the remainder of the season. Maybe go deep through the playoffs. Plan for next year. Why then, oh why can’t we?
*If you weren’t aware, Sporting KC used to be known as the Kansas City Wiz. Between that and my penchant for musical theater, the article headings wrote themselves.
Hello. I’m Kirsten Arpin, and I am a fan of Sporting Kansas City. I was born in Topeka, KS, and moved to Kansas City, MO when I was 11 years old. I have also lived in Lawrence, KS, Manhattan, KS, and Lee’s Summit, MO. None of these places are farther than an hour and a half from Kansas City.
This summer I moved to Orlando, FL for school. Orlando is 18 hours away from Kansas City, without stopping. It has been a huge change from what I’m used to. I used to be able to go to any Sporting game I wanted! Now I’m relying on my in-law’s cable subscription to watch via the interwebs.
This may have been the hardest part of the move for me. I mean, I miss my family, and I miss my friends but being a Sporting KC fan is part of my identity. It is so important to me. I didn’t get to be a part of any of the U.S. Open Cup games this season, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have great memories that they have brought me.
When SKC took on Minnesota United on June 14th I was in Colorado for the University of Colorado’s conducting symposium. It was an amazing experience! I watched that game on my phone in a bar while eating a pulled pork sandwich and donut holes from a food truck. Shoutout to the Sporting KC Uphoria team who gets the game up on the website so we can watch from afar.
This can’t be just me, but whenever I’m by myself in public and following games I am accidentally loud. There are quite a few looks in my direction, and then I have to explain myself to people who are not Sporting KC fans. My husband was at this game, and he said the atmosphere was absolutely crazy. When you can get that many fans to the stadium for a USOC early round game it is pretty awesome. They also got to see a 4-0 win, so that’s not too shabby.
The next home game was against FC Dallas on July 11th. We finished packing our moving truck and left for Florida on the 10th, so we were still driving when this game kicked off. We got to my cousin’s house in Windermere (about 10 minutes from the Magic Kingdom) by the time the game actually started.
For those of you who didn’t watch, this game didn’t start until extra time. That was when the magic happened. We got to see the two goals by Latif Blessing, Ike getting kicked in the head, and Daniel Salloi sealing the win in the 118th minute. It was my husband’s birthday, and SKC clinching a trip to the USOC semi-finals was one of the best presents he could have gotten. That and the Sporting dress socks I got him.
For the semi-final game against the San Jose Earthquakes, we watched at our new apartment in Winter Park. Sidenote: Florida, for having no winter, sure puts it in a lot of its city names. Winter Park, Winter Garden, Winter Haven, Winter Beach.
This game was tough because Sporting was playing from behind almost immediately thanks to a goal by Danny Hoesen. Luckily, Diego Rubio brought SKC even about half an hour in. The rest of the game was super stressful, but all that stress was for naught because it ended up in penalty kicks.
In Kansas City, there is a love-hate relationship with penalty kicks. They do well with them in USOC games though, and this game was no different. After an uncharacteristic miss by Benny Feilhaber, Sporting made the rest of their PKs including one where Matt Besler slid to the ground afterward.
The hardest part of this game, personally, was how late it was. I’m still not used to this Eastern Timezone thing. The USOC games were starting at 9:00pm here and, with extra time and PKs, the win came around midnight. Trying to unwind after that made for a long night and an early morning.
I was looking forward to the final for weeks, and I was even more hyped after Sporting’s win against New England Revolution the week before. My colleagues got to hear about my love of Sporting for days, and they are probably sick of it. This game was perfectly timed after marching band rehearsal, and both my husband and I were able to get home in time to watch almost all of it. I would like to point out that marching band rehearsal here lasts until 8:30pm, which is so crazy late! Coming from Kansas City where rehearsals happen in the afternoon it was a big shift.
There were so many emotions coming into this game. My little sister got to go and did an awesome Instagram story for MLSFemale. My husband and I were watching from home wishing we were there. When that final whistle blew it was so emotional.
Seeing a team that I love so much win the cup was amazing, but knowing that I couldn’t be there to see it in person hurt. I miss Kansas City every single day, but on SKC gamedays I miss it so much more. That’s my home. That’s my city. That’s my team. I cried that day, and I’m crying now while writing this.
There are some awesome friends back home who know what we’re going through. Big shoutout to our Twitter diva Dayna for going live on Periscope during the trophy celebration and while Bes was painting the wall. It gave me all of the feels.
While the calendar says September, Saturday night at Mapfre Stadium felt like the middle of July as Columbus Crew SC took on the New York Red Bulls in the continued hunt for a playoff spot.
Crew SC rolled out the same line-up that started at Vancouver with two exceptions–Mensah returned at centerback and Justin Meram returned to left wing.This time, however, we had a different result than Vancouver with a 3-2 win for the Black and Gold.
Scoring started with Crew SC in the 6’ as Higuain sent in a free kick that Mensah headed into the net.You could see the joy on the center back’s face as he celebrated his goal with the team.
New York was quick to tie it up in the 14’.Columbus felt one of the New York players had been offsides, but the AR did not make the call and Bradley Wright-Phillips finished the goal.BWP was given much too much space regardless.With a goal scorer like that, defenders should not give him any space.
Santos was fouled in the 39’, but the ref let play continue on to the Crew’s advantage.Ola Kamara, virtually alone as a defender tried to catch up with him, tried to chip the keeper to tie the game, but he overshot the goal.Kamara continues to miss the chances you think he should finish and finish shots that look nearly impossible.
Crew SC took the lead again in the 54’ when Meram took on two New York defenders and shot the ball into the net.
In the 66’, Josh Williams who apparently didn’t want to be outdone by his center back partner decided it was time for a goal.His first since 2013.He headed in a Higuain corner kick for goal number three of the game.
New York wasn’t done yet.In the 69’, Mensah fouled Gonzola Veron.There was some heated argument from both sides as the foul occurred outside the field of play but kept Veron from getting to the ball.After video review, the Red Bulls were granted the penalty kick, which Veron finished.
Crew SC was able to hold the Red Bulls off resulting in a victory and 3 more points toward making the playoffs.
Some thoughts on the match:
Pipa had all three assists in this match.He continues to show why he is a central cog for this team
Meram scored a goal.It was pretty.However, there are a lot of times when he should pass and doesn’t.I don’t want him to stop trying to take on defenders.I just wish his judgment on when to do this and when to pass would improve.
The refs in this game were horrible.As a player, I was always taught you play the refs’ game.Arguing calls wasn’t going to help, so you don’t.Those words to live by would have gone down the drain had I been a player on the field on Saturday night.I think the officiating wasn’t great for either team.
After the Red Bulls scored their second goal, I grew concerned that this would turn into another game like Vancouver where they scored to tie it up near the end of the game.Or, it would be like earlier in the season where we gave away a lead.I was pleased to see that Crew SC can finish out a match as I’m sure this skill will be necessary if we plan on winning any playoff games.
I do not understand Sacha Kljestan’s moustache.Please someone explain it to me….
This season has gone incredibly fast and next Saturday is Columbus Crew SC’s last regular season home game against DC United.It would be nice to get 3 points from this match and help solidify a playoff spot.
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.
Tuesday, August 15th (Open Cup semi-finals): 2-3 Win (ET)
I had one New Year’s resolution: to watch more soccer. To really educate myself in the game. To bring the game to others somehow.
Thanks to so many people, not the least of which are the lovely sisters here at MLSFemale, I’ve been able to realize this goal.
So while I couldn’t make the trip to Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, I had the amazing opportunity to watch the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup in a most familiar setting: a sports bar just down the street from where I went to college. Because the Open Cup doesn’t garner enough interest for TV broadcast, the host of the event hooked up his laptop to a big screen TV by the bar. So even though I couldn’t be at the game, this was about as good.
THE CINDERELLA STORY: Usually the final rounds of the Open Cup are exclusively the territory of MLS clubs, because they can have nice things, like young players and high payrolls. So who wouldn’t love the unprecedented run of USL side FC Cincinnati?
The New York Red Bulls and their fans, that’s who.
WHOSE FAIRY TALE IS THIS, ANYWAY?: The first half of the game was… well… let’s just say I’m glad I was in a bar. FC Cincy midfielder Corben Bone outran the defense to open the scoring (31′). Then Austen Berry doubled the lead (62′) and the crowd at the bar threw their hands up and made moves toward the door. But we had to let the beer wear off and pay for our pizzas, so we stuck around.
Just then, attacker Gonzalo Verón, having replaced defender Kemar Lawrence 15 minutes prior, began the turning of the tide.
MIDNIGHT MEANS MIDNIGHT: Had I taken an informal poll before the start of the match, I would guess the majority of fans would have predicted an easy win for RBNY. So having to watch the game go to Extra Time was riddled with unease.
Once again, doing what the team and the fans need him to do and when, Bradley Wright-Phillips clanged the ball into the net like he was tolling the tower bell at midnight and I will NEVER GET TIRED OF THIS CINDERELLA METAPHOR SO DON’T EVEN ASK ME TO STOP.
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YOU’VE EARNED THIS DANCE: Lots of credit goes to both the club and the fans of FC Cincinnati.
“I don’t think it’ll be too long before we’re back here again playing in more meaningful matches.” –RBNY Coach Jesse Marsch, on the possibility of facing FC Cincinnati in MLS League Play
With this win, the finals of this year’s Open Cup is set: RBNY will travel to Children’s Mercy Park and face Sporting Kansas City on September 20th. I’m looking forward to having a beer and hanging with friends– I mean, my RBNY fam.
“Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend Come inside, come inside”
The circus that is MLS. They have their daring heroes, their colorful sideshows, and the universal appeal of the performance.
Let me tell you what I love about soocer: anyone can play. If you have a ball and can agree where the goals are, YOU CAN PLAY. And that’s the message behind the You Can Play Project. It’s about going out there and showing the world your talent. Soccer is supposed to be the most level playing field. If you have the talent and the drive, you can do well in this sport, no matter who you are. So with rainbows on scarves and t-shirts, and the mindset that anyone can join in, the New York Red Bulls (12-9-2, 38 points) marked its first ever Pride Night by facing Orlando City SC (8-10-6, 30 points).
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Recent USMNT shooting star and even more recent OCSC acquisition Dom Dwyer had to have a minor procedure on his nose, so he stayed home in Orlando. I don’t want to say, “Yay, crisis averted,” but it’s at least one less concern for the team. Strikers Kaká and Cyle Larin are enough of a difficulty usually. And they made their presence known on the field… for better or for worse.
THE LIONS ROARED: They scored first (Carlos Rivas 18′),
17' | Rivas with acres of space on a stray pass! His chip just goes over!
They stayed physical for the full 90+, and they weren’t afraid to foul or be fouled, to apply pressure or be caught offside. It may have resulted in an own goal (Léo Pereira, 30″), but the team deserves a measure of credit for bringing the fight to RBNY.
THE BRAVE TAMER IN THE CENTER RING: RBNY took over the 2nd half of the game, which has been their form of late. Knowing a tie was not enough to keep them safely above the red line, Bradley Wright-Phillips (60′) added to his career goal tally (now up to 83) and Sean Davis sealed the deal (80′) with an amazing bend on the ball that caused an eruption of cheers in the crowd.
(Sitting in the press box, I have an obligation to not react to the run of play, but I will admit that I am enlivened by the roar of the crowd. I’m still not jumping up and down or anything, but it puts a smile on my face.)
CLOWN MOVE: I have neither the time nor the inclination to consider every team on the eastern seaboard a “rival” so I wasn’t expecting the level of animosity between RBNY & OCSC that came to a head over the course of the match.
Additionally, the Disciplinary Committee has found both Orlando and New York in violation of the Mass Confrontation Policy in the 94th minute of the teams’ meeting. Both Orlando City and the Red Bulls have been issued warnings for each club’s first violation of the League’s policy this season.
And then there was the Video Review of this interaction, which resulted in a red card for Kaká. This made the 4 minutes of stoppage time in the 2nd half become 8 minutes. That’s just… unnecessary. And I’m not really convinced that the action was worthy of a red card! But the final whistle eventually blew, and the Red Bulls had won the day. The fireworks between the teams were replaced by actual fireworks to light the sky above the arena.
Courtesy Fernando Gonzalez via Twitter
With barely enough time to breathe, RBNY headed to Cincinnati for the Open Cup semi-final…. but that’s for another article.
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: