Tag Archives: NYCFC

NYCFC’s chaotic win over New England Revolution, 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Walking into our seats tonight, our friend, a row over said “This is going to be Jesús Medina’s night.”  We laughed, winked and then commiserated about missing players due to international duty.  

If you have been following New York City Football Club over the past two years, you are aware that one of the Designated Player spots is occupied by Medina, a now-22 year-old Paraguayan forward who frankly, doesn’t play very much.  There are many theories as to why he has produced paltry goals or assists since his signing in 2018.

Going into this match versus New England Revolution, NYC was down a few key pieces of its regular attacking regiment due to international duty (Ronald Matarrita) and injury (Héber).  The team also went into the game without its regular starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was called up to the US Men’s National Team for international friendly matches.

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The match was a strange brew of yellow cards, a red card, an early goal, late use of VAR and very uneven possession.  City was down a goal from 2 minutes in and then was up a player from the 7th minute due to a red card ejection for New England’s  Antonio Mlinar Delamea. But City just could not finish.  

NYCFC did not look like a team that was up a player for much of the game as the Revolution defended extremely well and goalkeeper Matt Turner had quite a game of beautiful saves.  Nobody would have predicted that the most important substitution of the match would be in the 60th minute, when Jesús Medina came in for Sebastien Ibeagha.

This substitution reinvigorated the attacking efforts of NYCFC in the middle and attacking thirds of the field.  Ten minutes later, Medina was able to bury a ball into the back of the net, his goal leveling the game. In stoppage time, Medina successfully executed a penalty kick to seal the deal for a NYCFC victory.

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I was not only happy for the win for the obvious reasons but also because another City player who was called up for international duty, defender Maxime Chanot, found a way to push back his date of reporting to the Luxembourg National Team until after he played in this game.  Chanot made his life a bit more complicated for the good of the team and his strong play in this match was necessary and much appreciated.

No matter how much chaos, luck, and uneven calls by the officials contributed to this victory, the player who stepped up big is Medina.   He delivered when the team desperately needed it and can consider himself back in City fans’ good graces.  More importantly, our friend Luis can call himself a psychic.

All images: @NYCFC

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Hudson River Derby Part Deux: NYCFC best the NY Red Bulls 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was NYCFC’s turn to host their regional rival, the New York Red Bulls, during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.  NYCFC had been on a winning streak, beating both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC in a congested schedule.  

Although City walked onto the pitch with confidence and spring in their step, everything positive was quickly deflated in the the first few minutes.  The predicted runaway train pace of Red Bulls instantly threw a wrench into NYCFC’s plan of tight possession.

Coach Doménec Torrent has been consistent in his post match talks about the type of game that he wants the team to play, and that plan leaves no room for long balls leading to counter attacks.  

In the first 25 minutes of the match, much of the New York City squad looked like deer caught in the headlights of the incoming Red Bulls high, hard, and fast press.  Every attempt to string together an attacking sequence met by Red Bulls pressure was cut short, sent long and then the counter-attacking hounds were released.

Alex Muyl, who seems to have taken over the ‘lead bad guy with the bad mustache’ role from Sacha Kljesten, put one past Sean Johnson in the 10th minute off a pass by “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.  It was increasingly frustrating to watch.

Then something happened, and I don’t know what “it” was exactly, but NYCFC seemed to remember that they were a good team and trained for this.  

The passing sequences were tight and met by RBNY pressure but City seemed to relax and make calm and smart decisions.  Players remembered to make runs and do crazy things like get open.  Once the offensive spigot opened, NYCFC continued for another good 30 minutes, resulting in a successful PK converted by Maxi Moralez just before half time, and later, a fiery finish off a back heel by Héber in the 53rd minute.  

Forward Alexandru Mitrita must be back to full fitness as he oozed speed, accuracy,  vision, and creativity in generating attacking chances. The score could have been much higher for City, had the goal posts and crossbar not gotten in the way at least three times.  Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles also made some unbelievable saves.

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The last twenty minutes probably caused many a nail biter, as a revert to old habits with the Red Bulls piercing the midfield and generating attacks were eventually destroyed by either Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, or Anton Tinnerholm.  

Of course  an altercation was inevitable given the heightened emotions of the match. This time is was between Ronald Matarrita, who came into the game with a yellow card and Red Bulls Michael Murillo.  Although Murillo started the head butting sequence, it was solely Matarrita who was caught and booked, leaving NYCFC to play with 10 men in the last 4 minutes of the match.  Fortunately, RBNY were unable to level the game.

Next Saturday (August 31st) NYCFC will now have to face Vancouver Whitecaps, their farthest geographic opponent, without key player Matarrita on the squad. After that schlep, the team will be back home for three consecutive games facing New England, Toronto, and San Jose.

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Oh and by the way, New York is blue.

All images are by  Tisha Gale // Twitter: @TishaGale // Instagram: @tishagale15

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC cuts off the Columbus Crew 1-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced off against an inconsistent Columbus Crew and managed to pull out a win.  As I’ve said recently, I was nervous about how this game would play out. As low on the table as Columbus sits, they have recently taken down good teams on the road, such as during their match with the New York Red Bulls.

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The Good

Defenders Alex Callens and Anton Tinnerholm returned to the lineup from minor injuries.  The first half was smooth sailing for NYCFC as they maintained tight possession in the middle and attacking third –  70% possession in fact.  

The attacking partnership of Héber and Taty Castellanos looked strong with both attempting through balls and diagonal runs in or around the box. Sometimes the passes were a hair off, but it looks like they are getting more and more in sync each game.  Castellanos also continued his goal scoring run by putting one in off a pass by Maxi Moralez in the 36′.  

The NYCFC attack was complemented by the left wing runs of Ronald Matarrita, which opened up space in the middle.  It must be noted that the eternally peppy Mata will attempt to chase down any and all passes.  In this match, his aerial crosses were not necessarily hitting their target, but they worked to scramble the Crew’s defense in front of the goal.  Columbus Crew’s goalkeeper Eloy Room worked very hard in the first half to keep it to one goal allowed.

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The Bad

The immediate reaction after the match was that NYCFC played terribly in the second half.  The main difference was Pedro Santos being subbed into the game for the Crew.  He played on another level from the rest of the fielded Crew team last night and is incredibly hard to predict and defend.  

Santos’ bursts of speed and runs into open space set NYC’s defense on their heels causing the team to lose patience with their tried and true plan of tight possession which had been set forth by head coach Dome Torrent .  Once Santos entered the equation, the team seemed to get impatient and would send long balls or crosses too soon and then were quickly needing to deal with the ensuing counter attacks.

A bit more good, though

With James Sands out for 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone and Ebenezer Ofori out with a knee injury , Tony Rocha started at midfield and looked like he’s been drinking the Dome Kool-Aid.  With his short quick passes to and from Maxi while making diagonal runs and his physical defensive pressure, he appears to be settling into the lineup.

Maxime Chanot defended extremely well throughout both halves, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson had to become very active in the second half.   At one point fans were worried about both of them as they  were down and clutching their heads after saving an attempt on goal.  Minutes later, Johnson saved a goal just outside the box with his own head.

So many questions

I can say that home fans breathed a sigh of relief to escape that game with three points.  Next up is a match with regional rival NY Red Bulls on Saturday.  

How will NYCFC deal with the typical RBNY high press?  Will they stay patient and stick to their game plan?  With RBNY’s physical style, will Matarrita start with a yellow card on his back?  Will RBNY be able to start the seemingly injured goalkeeper Luis Robles? Will any of this matter as Red Bulls seem to be the LA Galaxy to NYCFC’s West coast counterpart LAFC?

All photos by Juan Carlos Rubiano // IG: @ohcitysaidi // Twitter: @OhCitySaidI

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The yin and the yang of NYCFC vs Colorado Rapids

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In last night’s Rocky Mountain duel versus the Colorado Rapids, New York City Football Club came away with the 2-1 win. It was not an easy result.

The team, near full health with Alexandru Mitrita, James Sands and Héber returning to the lineup, dominated possession with a continuous onslaught of attacking chances on Colorado and yet had a hard time with finishing. The match was filled with dualities which seemed to both hold the victory a bit out of their grasp and yet also paved the way for them to walk away with three points.

Many New York fans were eager to see Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis face off against his old teammates.  Lewis has been a welcome addition to the Rapids with his speed on attack and was the player who orchestrated the first goal of this match.  Lewis easily sped past Sebastien Ibeagha and fed the ball to Sebastian Anderson who buried it in the 6th minute.  

There was definitely a sense of poetic justice for Lewis as he struggled to gain playing time while at NYCFC.  Minutes later, 16-year-old Anderson was shown a red card on an apparent studs up tackle on Ronald Matarrita.  The highs and the lows of soccer seemed to happen within minutes for Anderson.

Rapids played down a player for most of the game but were able to defend well against NYCFC who just could not finish.  Colorado was up 1-0 until the 40th minute when Héber put one in on a ball by Maxi Moralez.  

From the television camera angles, Héber looked off side but the goal stood and the game was level.  Although NYCFC continued to dominate, they struggled to put the last piece into the offensive puzzle until Mitrita came in and they found their missing attacking element. Mitrita converted the goal that fans were salivating for in the 83rd minute.

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Oh, and did I mention that Colorado Rapids had to utilize their backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin for half the match as Tim Howard went out with a strained calf?  

In theory, this should have been a easy and decisive victory.  Despite being down a player, Colorado continued to park the bus in front of their goal with occasional attempts to counter attack.  These counter attacks were particularly scare-inducing during the last 10 minutes when almost the entire NYCFC team was above the half line.

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Perhaps the referee gods were on the side of New York City during this match.  There was the early Colorado red card, the lack of off side calls and a lenience by the referee on players like Alex Callens, who elbowed  off the ball on the edge of the box in extra time.   Was all of this karma for last week’s “Throw-in Gate” versus the New York Red Bulls? We will never really know.

Next test for NYCFC is at home versus a bruised Sporting Kansas City on Friday 7/26.

All photos:  NYCFC

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This is not an NYCFC recap

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Originally, this was going to be a look back at the last three New York City Football Club matches with some crossover between the conviction of soccer fandom and playing mahjongg.  Then I made the questionable choice of opening Twitter right before laying out my thoughts. I learned of a change in the NYCFC home grown media family that quickly altered my plans.

Truth be told, the main reason I have a presence on Twitter is to be informed on all things related to soccer.  However, on any given day one can drown in the sludge of overall political polarity and the negativity of “calling out” culture that is prevalent amongst keyboard warriors and trolls.  It can be overwhelming for anyone with an actual beating heart in their chest.

Soccer to me has always been a mechanism for bringing diverse people together.  So many components of the “American Dream” are built into American soccer culture:  hard work, creativity, international influences, the lack of time outs and the passion for winning.  It’s a bit ironic that it’s easier than ever for people who live in the US to take in soccer in all its multi-cultural glory, and at the same time watch blatant racist and xenophobic statements being initiated by the leader of our country.  My younger self would never have predicted these overlapping arcs.

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Taty Castellanos (right) stretches for the ball.

I’ve met some of my closest friends and extended family through my connection with NYCFC.   So, please pardon me while I wax sentimental reading about how one person in particular Andrés Emilio Soto, the creator of NYCFC Nation podcast, hung up his microphone and editing equipment upon conclusion of this week’s 200th episode.

I met Andrés last season when he invited me on “The Nation” podcast to talk about my new gig as the NYCFC Reporter for MLSFemale.  This was  my first podcast. I had a lot of handwritten notes which crinkled loudly into the microphone and I said “um” a lot, which I’m certain created a lot of extra editing work for Andrés.  I will never forget how welcoming he, Chris P, and Chris M (the other long time contributing members of NYCFC Nation), made me feel, as we chatted openly about all things NYCFC.

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Andrés Emilio Soto flanked by Chris Magalee (aka Chris M) and photographer Juan Carlos Rubiano in the NYCFC press box. Image courtesy of A. Soto.

Andrés is a true fan of the sport and NYCFC.  He’s volunteered a huge portion of his time over the years through his work on “The Nation”, donated personal money to hosting viewing parties and social events, and raised money for City in the Community.  He’s also conveyed to me his support in promoting female soccer fandom.   (To clarify:  Andrés is not leaving but pursuing other non-podcasting avenues with NYCFC Nation.)

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Andrés Emilio Soto (right) with former NYCFC player Ethan White (center) and Chris Puntarelli (aka Chris P).  Image courtesy of A. Soto.

So, this isn’t a recap of the last few NYCFC matches because most of us know that the team lost versus Portland Timbers 1-0 (the first home loss in 2019), lost in a penalty kick shoot out versus Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and again lost 2-1 versus regional opponent New York Red Bulls.  City still have about 4 games in hand with room to move up in the standings and have the second highest points per game number in the Eastern Conference with 1.61.

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Sebastien Ibeagha (left) clears the ball.

Writing this piece has been a much needed chance for me to inhale and breathe in the beauty and positivity that is my NYCFC family and MLSFemale family.  It’s also my thank you to Andrés and the extended NYCFC Nation podcast squad.  I was like the new kid who just transferred schools and you immediately invited me to sit at your table in the cafeteria.  I am grateful for the opportunity and support.

I love this sport and welcome all who appreciate the game and the diversity of its fan base.  I am excited for the soccer dabblers to taste it and figure out if it’s for them.  The door is always open and I’ve got some nice cold beers in the fridge.

Images by Tisha Gale unless otherwise noted.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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How Deep Is Your Team? NYCFC Bests Seattle Sounders 3-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

NYCFC banged out another home victory Wednesday night versus the Seattle Sounders with a score of 3-0. Both teams were missing players due Gold Cup and Copa América call ups, but City, even with injuries to key starters, proved the deeper and more persistent team of the match.

Ebenezer Ofori celebrates his goal.

In goal, Brad Stuver stepped up with key saves while usual starter Sean Johnson represents Team USA at the Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Sebastien Ibeagha diffused Sounders attacking chances with ease, sliding in for Alex Callens who is representing Peru in Copa America. (Both US and Peru will be heading to their respective tournament finals. Bam!)

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver applauds the supporters.

If we are being honest, it must be said that NYCFC midfielder and MLS All-Star Maxi Moralez did not play his best football last night. Yes, I know he scored a goal. However, passes seemed a tad off target, tackles a bit slow. He went down a bit too easily in some one v ones. He’s allowed to have an off night, I mean he’s human right?

In my opinion, NYCFC is a strong and creative team due to Moralez and his vision. He truly does weave a web around the other team, many times leaving them on their heels. It’s particularly fine for him to be off once in a while when the entire team seemed to step up and give 110% to make sure that the attack wasn’t turned over or key counter attack chances were not surrendered.

Did I also mention that New York City was playing without solid starters Héber at striker and James Sands on defense? Héber, out with a hamstring injury, has been a constant goal scoring threat since he joined the team. In the absence of Sands in a central defender role due to a fractured arm, Head Coach Dome Torrent switched up the lineup and has repositioned Maxime Chanot and Ibeagha in dual center back positions. Ronald Matarrita returned to left back from Copa América, mirroring Anton Tinnerholm in the right back role and – despite the lack of “wing back” label which is utilized with a healthy James Sands – both vigorously embraced their dual roles of defending and initiating attacks down the wings.

NYCFC lineup. Image by MLS

Goals were scored by Moralez, Jesus Medina and Ebenezer Ofori -another massive banger by the midfielder. Both Medina and Ofori came in as subs for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Alexandru Mitrita, respectively, and delivered for the team.

Keaton Parks supports Jesus Medina.

I like to give out awards (shhhh, don’t tell anyone that they are merely symbolic) and to me the two MVPs for this match were Ronald Matarrita and Taty Castellanos, whose grit, never ending hustle and pressure initiated many of the team’s goal scoring chances. Runner-up was Keaton Parks who was unflappable in midfield.

Next match is Sunday 7/7 at 6:30 pm, when NYCFC hosts Portland after the Women’s World Cup final.

Featured and other images:  @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC players proudly show their 2019 world Cup colors

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Brad Stuver, Anton Tinnerholm and Sebastien Ibeagha sporting their jerseys for US, Sweden and Nigeria (respectively).

The 2019 World Cup is under way across France and the players of New York City Football Club are here for it. Here’s how some of the team will be supporting their favorite national team and checking out the matches:

Sebastien Ibeagha

Defender Sebastien Ibeagha is rooting for Nigeria’s Super Falcons but his favorite female footballer right now is Carli Lloyd.

He will most likely watch the majority of the games from the comfort of his couch and if he gets an urge to grab some of his favorite Nigerian foods, he “can easily find them in New York”.

James Sands

Native New Yorker James Sands is supporting the United States. He too is a fan of Carli Lloyd and plans to watch the matches at home with his family. Sands’ favorite game day snack? Chips and Salsa.
And who does he think are the toughest teams in the tournament? “France and the USA”

Valentín “Taty” Castellanos

Taty Castellanos will be cheering for Team Argentina from his home in New York. His favorite Argentine dishes are Asados or Milanesas con pure, which can be found in select Argentine restaurants in the city.  Castellanos likes Argentina’s chances to take home the Cup.

Brad Stuver

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver is a fan of Team USA. He too enjoys watching the games from the comfort of his couch, possibly while indulging in his favorite game day “watching sports” snack of chicken wings. His favorite player in the tournament? Tobin Heath.
Stuver predicts a battle between France and the US in the quarterfinals.

Taty Castellanos, James Sands and Héber share a laugh.

All images are by  Tisha Gale  and are part of her photo project “For Club and Country”. For more photos from this shoot, check out: Summer of Soccer, For Club & Country.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Un despelote: TFC destroys NYCFC 4-0

 

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced Toronto Football Club on Friday night and it may have been the team’s worst showing in its history (that did not involve conceding seven goals to our largest rivals). 

For most of the game, it appeared Toronto had 16 players on the pitch and that New York City left their technical abilities elsewhere. Absent of an injured Maxi Moralez, the team was a rudderless ship and spent the bulk of the game chasing Toronto.   

The only positive to the game was the beautiful soccer played by Toronto.  At some point in the match, perhaps when it was 3-0 TFC, I subconsciously stopped paying attention to the atrocious soccer being played by New York and began admiring the seemingly immediate chemistry between Toronto’s new Designated Player Alejandro Pozuelo and his new team, particularly with Jozy Altidore.  It looked like they’d been playing together for years.  Less subconsciously I began feeling jealousy.  “Why can’t NYCFC get a DP like that?  Not fair!”

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Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto FC.  Image:  Torontofc.com

What does this mean for the team?

Many fans I spoke to during and after the game were so disheartened that they turned the game off.  One fan said, “There is nobody on this team to get excited about.”  Maybe new Brazilian striker Héber Araujo dos Santos, known solely as “Héber”, will bring the necessary spark to reignite this team? 

Héber arrived in New York on Saturday and is anticipated to play in next week’s home game versus another team who just got shellacked:  Montreal Impact.  If NYCFC does not beat Montreal, I’m anticipating that the club will part ways with Head Coach Dome Torrent.  

With no wins and no stadium, fans will be furious – and rightly so.  Perhaps the scheduling gods that didn’t grant us a single home game in May have blessed us with the perfect opponent this coming Saturday with struggling Montreal.  

It will take something special to bring back some faith in this team. I think we are all looking for an impact player to step up versus the Impact and start turning this season around.

Featured image: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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A little magic keeps NYCFC to a 2-2 tie in Orlando

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, New York City Football Club kicked off its 2019 season facing off in Orlando against Orlando City Soccer Club.   Since NYCFC has no true striker on its roster, fans were wondering what kind of lineup and strategy would be employed.

The back line was as expected with Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with Ben Sweat filling out the four-man back line on the left side instead of an injured Ronald Matarrita.  In midfield were Ring, Sands, Ofori. Fan favorite Lewis with Maxi Moralez, and new Designated Player Alexandru Mitrita (“Mitri”) served as forwards.

It didn’t look like a true 4-4-2 however.  In expected Coach Dome Torrent fashion, the formation seemed less than standard and more like a 4-1-3-1-1 much of the time.

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Orlando City jumped into the game with speed and aggression taking charge of most of the possession and offense for a good portion of the first half.  NYCFC seemed much more defensive and less eager than in past seasons, to maintain possession.

The most dangerous player on the field for most of the game was OCSC’s Christopher Mueller, who along with Johnson dominated both offensively and defensively.  GK Sean Johnson made one impressive save but strangely it appeared that Sacha Klejsten, who historically gave NYCFC trouble, seemed a bit rusty and wasn’t taking shots.  It could also be that the back line was adequately prepared for his predicted style of play and took away his chances.

In a moment of “Wait, what just happened?” Midfielder Ebenezer Ofori, at the 13th minute, took NYCFC’s first shot on goal in the 2019 season and put it into the back of the net.  At the 45th minute, the lead was solidified by a banger by Alex Ring assisted by Mitri.  Despite the relative lack of possession in the first half, New York City closed out the 45 with a 2-0 lead.

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Sadly, the lead was blown in the second half by Orlando City goals scored by Mueller and Tesho Akindele.  The first Orlando goal appeared that to be savable and Johnson may have judged the ball’s path incorrectly.   The second goal was executed pretty quickly after Orlando substitutes Nani and Dom Dwyer came onto the field.

The controversial piece of the game was a handball by Chanot on a shot that was ruled by VAR not to have been a handball. To all viewers who saw the replay in slow motion, it was clearly a handball but VAR is viewed by one camera angle and in real time.  NYCFC dodged a bullet on that call and were able to finish the game level at 2-2.

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Of note, were inclusions of James Sands and Jonathan Lewis in the starting XI.  Sands played well in his first start but Lewis’ work was below expectations, considering his recent success with the US Men’s National Team. He seems to be doing a better job of getting back to provide pressure in our defensive third of the field but was generally unsuccessful in adding his usual offensive spark.

I did like what I saw in Mitri’s style of play after the first twenty minutes when he was settling in.  He’s quick, sees space very well and dishes out precise passes.  He also placed his corner kicks almost perfectly.  Dome said that he is not yet fully fit so I am looking forward to seeing the damage he can do to opponents when 100% in game form.  My takeaway is that Orlando City was the better team and deserved the win so we were lucky to get away with a point.

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Next match is the home opener against D.C. United on Sunday, March 10th. D.C. just picked up a home win off reigning MLS Champion Atlanta United. D.C. looks strong and will be a formidable opponent for NYCFC.

Will NYCFC return to its strategic standard of maintaining possession and play a more attacking lineup with players like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Ronald Matarrita, or will we see an overall change in team tactics to defense and counter-attacking?

All images:  NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Keaton Parks’ Unconventional Path to MLS

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In a few days, the MLS season will kick off with New York City Football Club facing Orlando City FC on March 2nd.  A handful of new faces were brought onto the NYC roster, with quite a few being US nationals.  After our very international 2018 squad, NYCFC seems to be going in a different direction with the signings of teenaged homegrowns, Joe Scally and Justin Haak as well as acquiring 21-year-old American Keaton Parks on a loan from Portuguese top tier club SL Benfica.

Parks is an interesting acquisition as his career is an almost complete foil to those of Haak, Scally and James Sands.  Haak, Scally, and Sands all worked their way from the club system to spots in the NYCFC developmental academy.  Sands was signed by NYCFC in 2017. In an interesting aside: Sands has a twin brother Will who has committed to play for Georgetown University.  Perhaps we can check back in with both of them in say, ten years to see how their careers compare.

Parks grew up in Texas where he did not enter the DA but continued to play for Coach Armando Pelaez at various local club teams as well as for his high school. Developmental academies do not allow their players to suit up for their high school teams.  It looked like Parks would be playing next for Southern Methodist University but instead was recruited by Varzim, a LigaPro (secondary division) team out of Portugal for his first foray into professional soccer.

Those who have watched his progression, point out his high level of technicality with the ball at his feet which seems unusual for his 6’3” frame.  Parks was physically a late bloomer who learned to dominate in his early years via tight ball touches usually in the 10 role before eventually sprouting up in his junior year of high school to his current height.  This style is still at the root of his play but his post-growth-spurt size made him a better fit for a defensive midfielder position. A viewing of his highlights from Benfica B, show him physically strong, difficult to take down and a proclivity to feeding long attacking balls to the front line. It will be interesting to see how Parks’ style will fit in with New York’s other midfielders like Alexander Ring, Ebenezer Ofori, James Sands and Maxi Moralez. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these long feeder balls mixed in with City’s trademark tight touches/high possession with hopefully this new ingredient leading to more scoring.

With his unconventional rise to professional soccer, I can’t help but think of another former NYCFC player who found his way to the pros via the road less traveled:  Jack Harrison.  As many fans are aware, Harrison left the prestigious academy system in the UK for the US college route, playing for Wake Forest before quickly getting scooped up as the number one draft pick in the MLS super draft in 2016.  Harrison is currently on loan by Manchester City Football Club to English championship level club Leeds United, who are currently in contention for promotion to the premiership.

Jack Harrison, Leeds United
Jack Harrison. Photo- Leeds United Football Club

For both Harrison and Parks, their careers took them abroad early before returning to their home countries. Parks is on a loan from Benfica so if he wants to stay at NYCFC beyond the season, he’ll need to make an impression pretty quickly, which may be challenging in the crowded field of rostered midfielders.  It all begins on Saturday.

Featured Image: NYCFC

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