By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith
Going into Wednesday’s game against regional rival New York Red Bulls, New York City Football Club had a few challenges: Namely 5 injured players and one red card suspension. NYCFC coach Domènec Torrent chose to utilize a 3-4-3 starting formation clearly to work around the absence of injured defender Alex Callens.
The real highlights of this drag down, dirty, chippy fight, also known as the Hudson River Derby, happen to be the reactions by NYC to the obstacles thrown at them in facing the Red Bulls this go-round. In many ways this felt like we were spectating a live action video game, one where the difficulty level for NYCFC was slowly cranked up to the “un-winnable” level:
- Level 1- RBNY forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scores a goal in the 36th minute putting NYC down a goal.
- Level 2- In the 39th minute midfielder Eloi Amagat, in his debut game for NYCFC, gets ejected on a straight red card for a “serious foul”. No cards had been shown to anyone prior to this. City was now playing down a player.
- Level 3- Goal scoring machine Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is subbed out in the second half bringing in Jo Inge Berget to replace him. Was this tactical or is Isi hurt again?
- Level 4- In the 51st minute, David Villa gave the fans another taste of his brilliance with a volley shot on a header pass by Berget which flew under the grasp of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. Level cleared! Game tied 1-1 but Berget is subbed off 10 minutes later presumably due to an injury.
- Level 5a- Warning: Nobody has ever gotten past this level Around the 70th minute on a breakaway foot race between Wright-Phillips and Ebenezer Ofori, the Red Bull went down on contact and refused to get up, despite lack of a call and the continued play. When medics came on to the field to tend to him (and seemed to stay on the field, despite the teams setting up for the re-start), it was clear that Wright-Phillips was not going off the field despite no card being shown. Fans and players were yelling for him and his medic to leave the field. It appeared that this angered referee Ted Unkel, who then had a sudden change of heart and sent the play to VAR to be analyzed (by the universally scorned Mark Geiger). This resulted in Ofori being issued a red card for “stomping” on Wright-Phillips’ leg. I challenge anyone watching the replay to come to this conclusion. It’s very hard to stomp a moving object when your eyes are focused elsewhere and you are also losing your footing. NYCFC was now down 2 players with at least 20 minutes to go, including injury time.
- Level 5b- aka Adding Insult to Injury – As Ofori leaves the field, Villa expresses his displeasure with the call and is issued a yellow card. Somehow Kemar Lawrence goes toward Villa, which Anton Tinnerholm intercepts and gets struck in the neck by Lawrence, who stunningly only receives a yellow card.
With the game seemingly out of control and all sense of right, wrong, justice and fairness eliminated, all fans could do was stand, scream and cheer our hearts out in support of our team. They had to know that we were with them while they played the terrible hand they were dealt. Every play destroyed by a City defender and every attacking sequence was met by deafening roars from the crowd. We were going to will the players to survive this battle.
They say a lot of things about what you learn about yourself and your supporters when you’re up against the ropes, facing your greatest challenges. NYCFC dug deep and boy, did that tie feel like a win.
Images by Keira Smith
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