Tag Archives: NYCFC

The one where we refuse to cry “Unkel!”(NYCFC tie RBNY 1-1)

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

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.
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First-row action. Image: Keira Smith

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.

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New York is Blue. Image: Keira Smith

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.

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Felt like a win. Image: Keira Smith

Images by Keira Smith

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I’m Upset: NYCFC loses to Seattle 1-3

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In honor of my two teenagers and the young players on my favorite team, I have decided to release my NYCFC versus Seattle Sounders version of Drake’s “I’m Upset”.  It will most likely be cringe-worthy to many but it allowed me to work through my feelings of disappointment.  So thank you for humoring me.

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I’m upset
Only 3 wins on the road- it’s disrespect
Seemed wrong I know, I double-checked
Even with return of Jo Berget
Our shut-out streak had to end
I’m all verklempt
Got a lotta love for the Blue
Captain Villa, it’s kinda hard without you
Como está su rodilla?
Can’t win Cups without wins on the road
Every game New York fans expect a win
We have no stadium!
We still have 5 plus years of searching for a home
Atlanta sits up top of the chart with 47
Over in Jersey they talk a lot of trash but they’re still in 3rd.
Word to Coach Dome J- Lew finally seeing the pitch
Why the hell no Chanot?

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I’m upset
Travel 3000 miles, what’s the effect?
Dome worried about jet lag, can’t play their best
Maxi was spent
But this is MLS life
We got points to collect
So what’s next?
After an L to Seattle, what the heck?
Even with good clearances from Seb
At least Medina got one on a cross from Berget
In the end no effect
Only other offense was from Mata on the left
Where was halftime magic from Torrent?
Sean Johnson, we still love you, no disrespect
Got a lot of love for the Blue
Ring, it’s hard to win without you,
Thankful you’ll be back in the next one
Can’t win a Cup without wins on the road.

Domènec Torrent
Head Coach of NYCFC, Domènec Torrent.

Behind the lyrics

After New York City Football Club lost another match on the road to Seattle Sounders, the author/terrible rap lyricist talks about the return from injury of forward Jo Inge Berget, the continued absence of injured captain David Villa and how we still have no stadium to call our own.  In the MLS Eastern Conference,  Atlanta FC has 47 points with 23 games played, NYCFC has 43 points with 22 games played and New York Red Bulls has 41 with 21 games played.  Fans regularly express excitement that coach Dome Torrent continues to give Jonathan Lewis an important role as a “Super Sub”.

The game was about 3000 miles away from their previous game in Orlando three days prior and coach Dome expressed concern about the jet lag.  Fans noticed how unusually winded midfielder Maxi Moralez looked in the second half.

In the first half, Seattle scored two goals, yet NYC usually gets a big boost after halftime, even when they are down.  Alas, despite some strong attacking attempts and crosses by Ronald Matarrita, some good defensive clearances by Sebastien Ibeagha and a beautiful goal by Jesús Medina on a low cross by Berget, New York just couldn’t equalize.

It is also very apparent how vital to the team midfielder Alex Ring is and how deeply we felt his suspension due to yellow card accumulation.  Although I was disappointed in the loss, the team had recorded 4 shutouts prior to the loss and a great portion of the credit goes to stellar goalkeeping by Sean Johnson.  And yet, if City wants to win the MLS Cup, it’s essential that we record more wins on the road.

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Next game is home on Saturday, August 4th against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Check out my colleagues’ coverage of the MLS All-Star Game on August 1st by following @mlsfemale on Twitter and Instagram.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale 

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Meanwhile, up in northern California… NYCFC defeats San Jose 2-1

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, March 31st.  It was a day ripe with drama in Major League Soccer.  The state was California.  Two matches, hours apart at opposite ends of the state.  As if the day’s events were scripted. 

In the south, where celebrities and paparazzi are the blood that runs through its veins, one of the biggest personalities in soccer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his star-spangled, man-bunned debut for the LA Galaxy with the biggest bang possible.  You’ve seen the footage no doubt since Ibrahimovic’s debut basically broke Twitter for a few hours.  It definitely featured the largest lion tattoo in MLS history.

In the north country of San Jose, all signs were pointing towards a strong New York City Football Club lineup versus the San Jose Earthquakes until, dun, dun, dun, literally minutes before the game when captain David Villa was pulled from the lineup for a mysterious injury which occurred in the pre-game warm up.

This news was the cherry on top of the previous reports of defender Ben Sweat being too ill to play, Rodney Wallace being allowed extra rest from international duty, as well as continued absences of Alexander Ring and Ronald Matarrita due to injuries.  Will we ever have a full lineup? And why must we always learn about Villa’s absence in this manner? 

The lineup had some last minute changes and it did not start well for NYCFC with San Jose scoring off a corner kick in the 3rd minute.  Down 0-1 for the entire first half, NYCFC stayed patient and their chippy and hot first touches eventually calmed down.  By the 28th minute, they gained momentum by patiently keeping possession and carving out space for through passes and looking for the long crosses.  Opportunities were finding substitute striker Jo Inge Berget but he could not find the goal. 

Second half, Berget was moved left to make way for Jesus Medina to focus on the middle and for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to move to the right flank.   At about 48:30, Maxi Moralez’s corner kick found Anton Tinnerholm who volleyed in a rocket to even out the score 1-1. 

Much is made of this beautiful shot but more credit should be given to Yangel Herrera, Ebenezer Ofori and Abdul-Salaam for keeping the defenders physically attached to them (and in Herrera’s case, being thrown to the ground), which allowed Tinnerholm to be open. And major kudos to Moralez’s brilliant vision of the situation and to his ability to give Tinnerholm a perfect ball.

The second NYCFC goal was orchestrated by Tajouri-Shradi who weaved through defenders on the right side, ultimately finding Moralez in the center to give NYCFC the 2-1 lead. 

San Jose pulled everyone up on attack whenever possible. The rest of the game belonged to goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who denied every scoring opportunity San Jose could muster. Tempers flared in the last quarter of the game about possession at the restart after a series of ugly collisions and injuries. 

After 7 plus minutes of stoppage time (aka FOREVER), when the referee finally blew the whistle, there were audible sighs of relief that the battle was over.  It was tough, gritty and physical but the beautiful moments were memorable. 

Players making 2018 debuts:

Cedric Hountondji

Gold medal for gymnastic prowess to Ebenezer Ofori for his painful looking front split.  (And for all that, he got a yellow card?)

Images courtesy: @NYCFC

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Most blocks ever for NYCFC

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City FC started its season at Sporting Kansas City on a sentimental note with captain David Villa’s donning of a “Siemprequini” jersey on the walk out to the pitch- an homage to his recently deceased soccer hero and legend Enrique Castro aka “Quini”. 

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Image courtesy Keira Smith

My take on the game in 200 words

NYCFC dominated SKC for much of the game by retaining possession with movement down the wings and pressing early and hard.   We had some good luck when SKC’s early big chance at a goal was headed wide by Roger Espinoza and when three consecutive corner kicks by SKC ended up fruitless. 

It looked at that point that the game might even out until Villa fed a ball from the left across the goal where Maxi Moralez finished it.  The first half ended with a breakaway by Villa which was ultimately destroyed by SKC’s sprinting defender. 

The second half was much of the same as NYCFC dominated possession, capped off by a gorgeous sequence of a backward flick by Yangel Herrera to Ben Sweat on the left who quickly crossed it to the finisher, Jesus Medina.  Up 2-0 NYCFC kept the lead by defending well in all parts of the field, quickly doubling up pressure on SKC players.

Restarts out of the back need to be smoothed out a bit.  NY continued to pass back to Sean Johnson amongst heavy pressure from SKC. In general, however, the team looked solid.

The little details

I will make a giant leap and say definitively that NYCFC blocked more shots in this game than all previous seasons combined.  No, I don’t have the stats to back it up, I just know.

NYCFC debuts in this match: Medina, Anton Tinnerholm, Sebastien Ibeagha and Ismael Tajouri

Despite offensively dominating the match, there were some great saves by Johnson.

Awards!  In honor of the Oscars which I did not watch this year…

The oddest throwback to high school soccer moment of the match: The drop ball after the first VAR review.   

Worrisome injury of the match: Maxime Chanot and Sean Johnson both on the ground clutching their heads after the collision with SKC’s Ike Opara.  And also worrisome is the seeming lack of adherence to concussion protocol.  I mean were they even examined before being able to return to play?

Surprise of the match:  1st- How many times VAR was consulted and how long the process takes.  Hopefully, that will get faster as the season goes on. 2nd- Chanot’s first tackle in the box not being a penalty kick but the second one just outside earning him a red card.

Unsung hero of the match: Moralez.  He was everywhere on the field.  Pressing, passing, making runs. 

Award for most absurd yellow card:  (tie) Medina and Johnson both for “delaying restart”.

Mother of God! moment of the match:  The back passes to Johnson to restart out of the back that came in a bit hot in the first half.

Extra time:

Thoughts for the home opener versus LA Galaxy.  Who will be in our starting defensive line now that Chanot is out?

And why does the word “Brujo” seem to have only positive connotations but “Bruja” mostly negative?  Asking for a friend.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC Facebook

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NYCFC predictions 2018

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Trees were uprooted, ice and snow swirled, barges on the Hudson River came loose from their anchors and careened down the Hudson River.  It was Friday’s anticipatory MLS 2018 Bombogenesis to kick off the season.  In most of MLS territory, we start the season with vicious weather and we end that way. 

So, as the season kicks off for NYCFC in literally minutes against Sporting Kansas City, I will share my very non-scientific but loosely intuitive predictions for the NYCFC season.  (An aside: Anyone else do the Myers-Briggs personality assessment?  Fun self assessment.  I recall I was an INFJ.  But I digress…)

Ten things that may or may not happen in 2018:

1- I say this first so fans can savor every moment, even the bad ones: This will be the last season for David Villa and head coach Patrick Vieira.  I think Villa will stay and run his youth academies in the US, perhaps shuttling back and forth to Europe.  All conventional wisdom states that Vieira will be offered a team to manage in Europe. He’ll stay the full NYCFC season but this will be it.    

2- Maxime Chanot will be injured again relatively early in the season putting Cedric Hountondji and Sebastien Ibeagha into the mix, more fiercely competing for time at center back. 

3- Striker Jo Inge Berget will recover from his injury and score a few goals and draw a few fouls.  He’ll give Villa a bit of a rest in physical games.  (He’s a Viking!) He will become a fan favorite.

4- Villa and Jesus Medina will have some chemistry pains for the first few months with which fans will be frustrated.  They’ll get into a groove but Wallace and/or Matarrita will leave for international matches for Costa Rica changing the lineup a bit. 

5- Ebenezer Ofori will quickly get playing time and make a positive impact at midfield with his quick pace.  Sort of the opposite of Andrea Pirlo.

6- This one is my wildest: Goalkeeper Sean Johnson will have a mild injury and backup keeper Brad Stuver will be in for three to four games due to his good showing in training and the preseason. (See, it wasn’t useless) However, Johnson will come back in full form. 

7- There will be terrible calls against our defense by the referees, with continued resistance throughout the league to VAR but it will be used more often than last season. 

8- Rivals New York Red Bulls will not be an issue this year.  Most of the NYCFC players with PTSD from prior losses to them are gone, so the psychological factor is removed.  We will defeat them twice and tie once.

9- Our biggest challenges in opponents will be Atlanta United and Toronto FC.  Both LA Galaxy and LAFC will give us good matches with strong play.  We will lose to a weaker team like Minnesota United or San Jose Earthquakes.

10- Sorry guys, but I don’t predict that we will win the MLS Cup. This league makes it almost impossible to predict the winner but my money would be on Atlanta. 

Enjoy every moment of this season as if it’s our last.  And bundle up.  For most of us, it’s cold out there.

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NYCFC Signs Center Back Cedric Hountondji

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Just as the ink was drying in my last column lamenting our lack of a definitive center back comes today’s news.  (It’s as if they heard me!)

New York City FC today announced the signing of Cedric Hountondji.  Hountondji comes to us most recently from Gazelec Ajaccio, a Ligue 2 team in Corsica.  He previously played at Chateauroux, Auxerre, and Rennes and has taken the pitch internationally for both France and Benin.

As many have discussed, the club had been seeking a more (literally) sizable presence in central defense.  Last season, Maxime Chanot played a pivotal role in anchoring the defense but an injury took him out at the end of the season.  23-year-old Hountondji is listed as 6’5”, making him the second tallest player in MLS, behind the 6’7” Axel Sjoberg of the Colorado Rapids. 

Full disclosure, there are seven other players in the league who are also listed as 6’5” but still, it’s rare.  Head coach Patrick Vieira called Hountondji “a strong player who is dominant aerially and physically” and his addition to the team will give him more options “to strengthen our back four”. 

Sporting director Claudio Reyna summarized the attractiveness of this acquisition most succinctly in describing Hountondji as “a tall, athletic defender with a very good understanding tactically on how we want to play and will adapt with how we want to defend as a unit.” Two other strengths worth highlighting, according to Reyna, are that he can “compete for a place to play” which we know is critical to playing for Vieira and he “will be able to adapt to MLS”. Hountondji joins other recent defensive acquisitions Saad Abdul-Salaam and Anton Tinnerholm

Hountondji is the club’s fifth offseason signing, joining Jesus Medina, Brad Stuver, Abdul-Salaam, and Tinnerholm.  Seeking out young international players with their best years ahead of them is definitely the strategy that the club is utilizing. 

My two cent observation: Our team seems to gel when we have at least two Francophones in the defensive line and at least two Spanish speakers attacking up front. 

Extra time-

And the winner of the SuperDraft trivia question was Twitter handle @bellenbaum with Chicago Fire as the team who drafted Jack Harrison in 2016.  We had many correct answers but he was first to respond.

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Spring on the Horizon and SuperDraft

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

When it’s mind-numbing and skull-crushingly cold, I always look to the prospect of spring to give me hope.  I can easily conjure up the smell of thawing soil and the sight of our New York City FC players slipping on the overwatered turf in just about every second half of every home match at the Stadium, especially on the grass that covers the Yankee stadium infield.

These thoughts of greenery keep me going through the white, grey and black of January and February.  As NYCFC fans we have roughly two months until our season opener in Kansas City on March 4th.  

Things are far from frozen with our club, especially with our new DP Jesus Medina arriving in New York last week.  The young Paraguayan with the wicked left foot checked out his new home and future NYCFC training facilities, although they were covered in snow. I am sure he had to use some of the imagination and creativity we hope to see on the pitch.  It will be interesting to see how his offensive strengths, he scored 17 goals in 74 appearances for Club Libertad, will gel with Villa, Harrison, Wallace, and Moralez.   

We also recently acquired Anton Tinnerholm and Saad Abdul-Salam to firm up our defensive line.  We still seem to be lacking a definitive Center Back outside of Chanot but it seems Coach Vieira will have plenty of options and combinations to try albeit with a lot of new faces.  Rumors of the addition of Yaya Touré have been quashed, at least for now, with the addition of Medina.  Many are still hoping that some creativity can bring Yaya here as a non-DP – I guess we will have to wait and see. Personally, I am not sure how that would work. 

While there isn’t any actual soccer until NYCFC’s first preseason friendly in Mexico on February 13th versus Club Atlético de San Luis, closer on the horizon is the MLS SuperDraft, which starts on Friday 1/19.  Remember 2016, when Jack Harrison was the #1 pick in the SuperDraft? I am happy to announce that I will be reporting to you from Philly at this year’s SuperDraft on 1/19. Follow me on instagram @keirams

Excitement seems to be building for the new secondary kit.  The players were traveling to Abu Dhabi this week for an “exciting Etihad NYCFC video project”. Perhaps this project is tied to the release and marketing of the new kit.  I loved the inaugural all black secondary kit, let’s say I didn’t hate the more recent “swirly jersey” – but I am still looking forward to its replacement.   

So until next time when we talk even more about SuperDraft,- adiós! 

Peace, love, soccer.

Extra time:

Without the use of Google, who can tell me the name of the team who drafted Jack Harrison in 2016?  Be the first one to tweet me the correct answer and I will send you an NYCFC prize/tchotchke.  (This is the honor system, I trust you!)

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The Pirlo Problem

C.M. Brandon - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 8: 2-1 loss

While I was on my way to San Jose to watch the Seattle Sounders bottle their lead in the 90th minute, DC United got their revenge on New York City FC.

I kept up with the match in live time as best I could via Twitter, and honestly? It felt a bit like the olden days of supporting NYCFC.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing.

From a first half filled with possession and chances but no actual finesse on the finish to disastrous defensive blunders in the second half, it was vintage NYCFC at its worst. I’ve now watched and rewatched the error between Maxime Chanot and Frederic Brillant that led to DC United’s first goal upwards of twenty times, trying to figure out where the communication breakdown between defenders occurred. My ultimate conclusion: It never existed in the first place, and that’s the crux of the problem.

Ethan White, who’s been a phenom for NYCFC’s defense in his last three starts, was inexplicably benched for Brillant. Now, do I think that switch alone was what doomed the boys in blue? Not at all. Club over players, always. The team was low-energy, and to lay that blame at the feet of whoever is sitting at right-back would be foolish at best.

When Tommy McNamara was substituted on at the hour mark, I know I wasn’t the only one waiting for his patented brand of McMagic. After all, it worked last time, didn’t it? Unfortunately there’s one huge difference between this match and last week’s comeback. Last time, T-Mac took the place of Andrea Pirlo.

Again: I refuse to ever pin the result of a team on one player, for better or for worse. Even if someone’s a superstar or a total flop, it does a disservice to the rest of the team to only laud or blame one member. Pirlo is not the problem for NYCFC.

But he is most certainly a problem.

Even with Tommy’s presence, NYCFC’s pace still left a lot to be desired. After a sloppy giveaway in midfield from Pirlo, DC United scored their second goal of the afternoon. Alex Ring does an admirable job covering Pirlo for the most part, but he shouldn’t have to do it for the full ninety minutes of every match. Leaving Pirlo exposed for a moment shouldn’t mean we’re open for such an aggressive counter-attack. It was messy, frustrating, and somehow exactly what I expected.

The tempo of the game changed palpably just one minute later when Pirlo was subbed off for Khiry Shelton and for the first time all match, NYCFC looked alive. David Villa managed to carve out one goal not long after that, and they never stopped looking for an equalizer, but by that point it was too late.

For next week’s match against Philadelphia Union, I want to see a different midfield from NYCFC. It’s clear that unless the team is structured around him, Pirlo is more of a liability for NYCFC than anything else. I just want to see what we’d look like with him being rested. Just for one match. Just this once. Please.

No random thoughts this time, as only being able to watch a 20 minute highlight reel doesn’t give me much to work with, but I will leave you with this: My wonderful girlfriend Amanda joked about watching the match and writing a report for me. She doesn’t watch MLS, but she is incredibly insightful about football and approximately a thousand times funnier than I am. I didn’t expect her to actually follow through on that threat, but she did — with six pages and over 1700 words of notes. They’re all hysterical, but in the end this one bit sums up the match and my recap better than I ever could:

#cm

Until next week!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

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Leave ‘Em Quaking

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday, April 1: 2-1 Win

I love when soccer stresses me out.

Yes, it’s nice to get decisive, comfortable wins. I’d certainly never be foolhardy enough to turn down an early lead and a clean sheet. That feeling of assurance that your team will win is irreplaceable (and rare).

But there’s a certain magic in coming up from behind.

The true mettle of a team tends to show its face when the scoreline isn’t skewing in their favor. It’s easy to fall to pieces when the opponent has the advantage. It’s easy to panic, to get desperate and sloppy. It’s much harder to keep heads up, eyes forward, and minds clear. Despite San Jose Earthquakes‘ early goal on Saturday, the boys in blue managed to retain their focus and pushed hard to come back.

Jack Harrison scored the equalizer just ten minutes in, off of a so-casual-it-couldn’t-possibly-have-been-on-purpose (but it was!) backheel from David Villa. I’m a huge fan of the Villa-Harrison connection. The two of them read each other incredibly well and always seem to know where the other is without looking.

That quick comeback gave New York City FC the confidence to keep persisting through the first half, though nothing came to fruition. Alex Ring, in particular, was doing the most he could to get a goal. It never quite came together, but he was delightful to watch. Ring is graceful with the ball at his feet — the word delicate even came to mind as I was watching him. It’s refreshing to watch.

Image courtesy NYCFC.com

Things never looked hopeless for NYCFC, but the struggle to find attacking harmony in the second half was undoubtedly real. And then, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Just six minutes after his substitution, West Nyack’s golden boy Tommy McNamara found the back of the net. Who else? Who but T-Mac could pick us up when we’re down?

Of course, to credit the goal just to Tommy would be doing a disservice to the beautiful play that led up to it. It truly was a team goal, which makes the turnabout win so much sweeter. Rodney Wallace passed to Villa, who coolly laid it off for Rónald Matarrita — and he could have gone for goal there, he really could have, but at the end of the day Mata is an architect, not a showboat. He saw Tommy with space and handed him the goal on a silver platter. It was one of those glorious moments in soccer where everything comes together so quickly and seamlessly, you have to wonder why you were ever stressed to begin with.

Those three points at home bring NYCFC up to a three-way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early, but I remain confident as ever that this is a stronger, better, faster NYCFC. This comeback just solidified it for me. Nothing is impossible if we keep this attitude up.

What else went down?

  • Death to short corners. I’m over them. Give me a long, elegant arc over the top for a set piece goal any day of the week.
  • Not that I ever want to think about David Villa leaving us, but when he inevitably does, I hope T-Mac is still around. He has all the qualities a captain should possess — dedication, humility, grace under pressure — and, perhaps even more importantly, the undying love of the supporters.
  • My Andrea Pirlo feelings remain complicated. To echo what I said after our opening match, I’m not sure I can conceive of a world where he’s relegated to the bench. It simply doesn’t compute in my head. At the same time, it’s hard to come to his defense after a showing like this one. And yet, because he’s Andrea freaking Pirlo, there’s a tendency to gloss over what his game lacks — to wit, Patrick Vieira was adamant in his post-match comments that he did not sub Pirlo off because he was playing poorly. I can’t imagine we’ll see a reality where Pirlo isn’t starting with some regularity, but still, I’d be interested in knowing what shape the team can take without him.
  • Maxime Chanot was a verifiable wall in this match. He was everywhere, tackling and intercepting and clearing like it’s his job — I mean, it is, but you know. Man of the Match is an accolade that rarely goes the way of defenders, but if I could give it to him, I would.
  • Off the pitch, Rónald Matarrita is leading the team in fashion. Fresh to death, Mata. I love it.
  • To celebrate April Fools’ Day, NYCFC adopted a pigeon. I choose to believe this was not a prank, and I look forward to seeing what Theodore brings to the team. New York is coo.

Next weekend you can find me at Avaya Stadium in the Sounders supporters’ section with my Seattle-loving friends! But I’ll be back on Sunday to watch a replay of NYCFC’s match and report on it… if we win. If I find out we lost, I may mysteriously be too busy.

Just kidding.

Probably.

Featured image courtesy: NYCFC.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

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Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017

One Point None The Richer

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Saturday March 18: 1-1 Draw

Some draws may as well be wins. A last gasp equalizer against a rival team. A hard-fought level scoreline that could have gone the wrong way too many times but miraculously didn’t. A point, better than nothing, just enough to keep you afloat on the table. A push into extra time when tournament advancement or silverware are on the line. A reminder that the beautiful game can turn on a dime, to not get too complacent, to fight until the end. A little salvaged pride.

Then again, some draws feel barely a step above a loss.

New York City Football Club scraped out one point against Montreal Impact on Saturday, in what were essentially two separate games.

The first half was all NYCFC. While the boys in blue weren’t quite as explosive right out of the gate as they were last week, they still enjoyed playing aggressive attacking football. Everyone had their moments to shine, but Jack Harrison rose above and put on his own clinic. It would be quicker for me to tell you how many times he didn’t dance his way out of a cluster of Impact defenders, leaving them frustrated and dogging his heels. To simply give him Man of the Match would be doing a disservice to how stunning he was today.

Rodney Wallace image courtesy: @nycfc instagram

Rodney Wallace scored the lone goal of the match. After providing Alex Ring a cheeky backheel, Ring shot for goal and was summarily dismissed by Impact’s keeper. However, RodWal was there — he stayed composed, collected the ball on the rebound and made his mark for the second match in a row. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. Wallace is dedicated in his pursuit of the goal, and he sticks with the play until it’s thoroughly complete. He creates chances in those precious seconds after it looks like the opportunity has finished, and I love him for it.

By contrast, the second half was Impact’s game to lose. Aside from a stunning play between David Villa, Wallace and Maxi Moralez that somehow didn’t end in a goal, there wasn’t much to be done. You could feel the inevitability of an equalizer in the air. Sure enough, Montreal played a ball over the top and caught our defense in dire straights with just enough time for Dominic Oduro to chest it down and score.

At least NYCFC didn’t give up. They stayed hungry for goals right up until the final whistle, especially Tommy McNamara, whose header off a free kick in the dying minutes of the game sadly went over the crossbar. The scoreline wasn’t for lack of trying. NYCFC battled until the end, and that’s what makes the draw sting like a loss.

Well, that and the fact there was a lot of sloppy chaos in front of Impact’s goal. The first half saw three sitters where Harrison, Ring and Andrea Pirlo just couldn’t find the back of the net, while Villa chipped the ball up and over to the wrong side of it. Maxi shot his attempt in the second half just wide. It’s never fruitful to play the “what if?” game in soccer, but at the same time, it’s difficult to deny that the match would have gone in a different direction had we scored even one of these chances.

This wasn’t lost on Patrick Vieira, who remarked after the game that “it will be important for us to take our chances because we are not going to create a lot of chances like that in a lot of games.” I foresee more finishing drills in the future.

What popped into my head during this match? Well…

  • Wasn’t I just talking about Ethan White? What a game he had! He was solid at right back, and even pushed forward well in the attack a few times. Montreal nearly managed to catch us on a counter in the first half, but White beautifully blocked Ignacio Piatti‘s attempt at a goal. He’s been the unsung hero of our defense over the past two matches.
  • Color me well and truly shocked that Pep Guardiola let two injured Manchester City players out of England. Ilkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus were present for the match and seemed to have a blast despite the result. Maybe they snuck out after curfew and Pep wasn’t supposed to know. Maybe Pep was still busy frantically rewriting the rules of the Premier League and just didn’t notice. Maybe the story is better in my head.
  • Jon Lewis made his NYCFC debut! I enjoyed what little we got to see, and I’m sure it won’t be the last of him. Congratulations and here’s to many more games with us, Jon.
  • I dozed off between halves and had a dream (nightmare?) Tancredi Palmeri was commentating the match. So… that’s where my subconscious is at these days.

Happy international break! I’m one of those rare fans who prefers international soccer to club. My heart just beats in a different way when it comes to the worldwide stage. So I love international breaks — provided all our players return injury-free, of course. If you’re hankering to watch your favorite NYCFC players represent their countries, I’ve got you covered!

  • Miguel Camargo (Panama): 3/24 vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 3/28 vs. USA
  • Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg): 3/25 vs. France
  • Yangel Herrera (Venezuela): 3/23 vs. Peru, 3/28 vs. Chile
  • Rónald Matarrita, Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica): 3/24 vs. Mexico, 3/28 vs. Honduras
  • Alex Ring (Finland): 3/24 vs. Turkey

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @lukacharms

Subscribe + get caught up: Weekly Dispatch 2017