Tag Archives: Patrick Vieira

The End of a Vieira in New York

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot has been going down in the soccer ‘hood in the past week. It seems like every hour news is breaking in both the MLS world and internationally.  It’s been hard to catch your breath before something else happens.  Hot off the press is the big news that the joint bid for the FIFA 2026 World Cup by the US, Canada and Mexico was successful.  

The other news is the departure of head coach Patrick Vieira for OGC Nice and the subsequent announcement of the appointment of his replacement Domenec Torrent.  It’s been rumored for weeks that Vieira would be leaving and despite his denials, the club made its official announcement on Monday.  Not only did Vieira leave his contract mid-season but he took much of his supporting team with him including Christian Lattanzio,  Kristian Wilson and Matt Cook. I was not quite pleased.

New head coach Domènec Torrent brings a plethora of experience working under Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola as well as an endorsement from fellow Spaniard David Villa.  Fans expressed their optimism about Torrent over social media. 

Angela Singh, an active member of The City Celestes supporters group, wrote: “I personally am looking forward to seeing him and his style. He’s got AMAZING credentials (including being the former assistant coach for both FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona), and thus won a total of 21 trophies with both teams, the former head coach for Girona FC, and he helped Manchester City as they became the #Centurions and won the Premier League Cup this year!! I’m pleasantly surprised and completely sold – this guy seems like the one who will lead the “Boys in Blue” to the 2018 MLS Cup!”   

Dominic Torrent, Head Coach NYCFC
Domenec Torrent

The first game with Coach Torrent at the helm will be on June 24th when we host Toronto FC. 

Before we completely close the book on the Vieira Era, it’s important to reflect on his last game with New York City.  Hosting Atlanta United on Saturday June 9th had most fans both excited and nervous.  It was Military Appreciation day and featured the US Military Academy parachute team making an aerial entrance onto the pitch.  Atlanta fans were representing all over the stadium along with the anticipated packed and enthusiastic visiting supporters’ section. 

I have to mention our supporters’ section was in especially fine voice.

IMG_1780
NYCFC Supporters’ section filling in pre-game.

New York started with a 3-4-3 lineup which seemed to work extremely well against Atlanta, who have the league’s leading scorer in Josef Martinez.  Although Martinez did score against us, our defense especially Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha contained him well and made his job much more difficult.

Both Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco were basically non-issues.  Sean Johnson only had one save and claimed one cross. I was surprised at how well NYCFC moved the ball aggressively throughout the field and at the same time were able to apply many layers of defense on Atlanta.  I was expecting the team to be shaken by the rumors of their coach’s imminent departure as well as the lack of consistency in the starting lineup but I was wrong. 

Alexander Callens steals the ball from Josef Martinez.

We had chance after chance to score in this game with a vice of pressure applied to Atlanta’s defense however Brad Guzan was equal to the task making one incredible save after the other with 10 in total.  NY’s shot after shot were repeatedly hitting the posts and crossbar. Until the 77th minute when David Villa perfectly crossed the ball to Callens who finished it with a low, swift diving header that Guzan couldn’t touch. 

With all the chances by New York City, the score stayed even at 1-1, the same ending as when we visited Atlanta in April.  Although it’s hard to come away with only one point, it felt like a bigger picture win to see our Boys in Blue play so well against a strong team.

Atlanta United visiting supporters’ section looks on as Miguel Almiron goes down at Alex Ring’s feet.

Our difficult home stretch has seen us get 4 out of 6 points against two Eastern Conference playoff rivals.  All eyes will be on our new gaffer as we face our nemesis Toronto FC.  I’m optimistic.

All images: nycfc.com

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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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U.S. Oh, Who Cares?

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, June 14: 1-0 Loss

Honesty is my only policy, so let me start this as honestly as possible: I just don’t care about the U.S. Open Cup.

Is that a side effect of New York City FC never making it past the first game? Probably. But even if they did manage to make the third time the charm and pull through, I can all but entirely guarantee I still wouldn’t care. Cups don’t have to feel like afterthoughts to leagues — the Coppa Italia sure isn’t — but this one absolutely does. It isn’t enthralling, it isn’t interesting, and if clubs themselves don’t care, why should I?

But here we are. And to their credit, NYCFC did care this time. Patrick Vieira put out a full-force starting eleven, and the New York Red Bulls responded in kind. Looking at the lineups, you could easily mistake it for a derby in the league. (By the way, that’s in a week and a half.) So that’s nice! Great to see both teams taking the Cup seriously!

That’s about where the great things end.

The boys in blue found themselves victims of utterly terrible luck. Early on in the first half, David Villa delivered an inch-perfect pass that landed gracefully at the feet of an unmarked Tommy McNamara. T-Mac wound up, T-Mac kicked, T-Mac somehow managed to ping the ball off the crossbar, then the ground, then the crossbar again, then the ground again. A perfect vertical arc that kept the ball squarely out of the net.

From that point on, it was fated to be that kind of game. As the first half was dying down, Villa’s otherwise brilliant shot on goal deflected off the post and went straight into Ryan Meara‘s arms. At the other end of the pitch, the Red Bulls did their fair share of testing NYCFC as well. Sean Johnson made several stunning saves, and all told, it was a strong showing from both sides over those first forty-five minutes.

Then Maxi Moralez went down with an injury before the break, and things rapidly fell apart.

There’s not much that can be said about the second half. With John Stertzer coming in to replace Maxi (and only lasting twenty weak minutes before getting subbed off himself) the midfield couldn’t connect, and NYCFC were pinned back in their own half more often than not. It was only a matter of time before the Red Bulls beat them back, and god, did they ever.

In typical gutsy fashion, Johnson came off his line to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips, leaving an open goal that Daniel Royer capitalized on. Though we could all feel a Red Bulls goal coming, I wish it hadn’t been that kind of goal. It was embarrassing to be caught with an empty net, and what little Frédéric Brillant did to try to defend the line in Johnson’s stead was… well, too little by far.

Losing to the Red Bulls is familiar in the worst way. But, you know… It’s the Open Cup. Who cares?

Get it together for the derby, boys. Hit them where it really counts.

I can spare you a random thought or two:

  • Maxime Chanot picked up a hamstring injury during the international break, and I don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say I want to burn down our back line without him. Too much? I don’t care. Bring back Mad Maxime!
  • Obvious observation is obvious, but Stertzer’s substitution was useless and wasted a potentially valuable slot that could have been used to bring in Jon Lewis or Ugo sooner. I want to understand Vieira’s substitution logic, but sometimes I just don’t.
  • Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders also happens to fall on NYCFC’s Pride Day. In general, the commercialization of Pride is something I am entirely against — but NYCFC does a good job of not turning it into a cash grab, which they so easily could. As a queer football fan, seeing a team acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ history of the city they inhabit and the very real, very passionate sector of their fanbase is so heartening. To be acknowledged and validated is invaluable. Personally, I can’t wait for NYCFC’s first ever Pride Day. I have a feeling it’s going to be something really special. (And if we win on top of it, all the better!)
  • Anyway, who here’s seen The Producers? When I think of NYCFC and the U.S. Open Cup, I think of this:grx32x04r7yxez

For the next few days I’ll be salting the earth and praying that Nicolás Lodeiro doesn’t do Nicolás Lodeiro things to us when the Sounders come to town. Please, join me.

See you then!

Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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Misery in Sandy

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

By C.M. Brandon // @lukacharms

Wednesday, May 17: 2-1 Loss

NARRATOR: Previously, on Hubris FC…

SEPIA FLASHBACK C.M.: Not to get ahead of myself, but I sense a road win for the boys in blue…

NARRATOR: She had gotten ahead of herself.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, gang. That was an unconscionably bad match!

For the second of New York City FC‘s three back-to-back away matches in one week, Patrick Vieira decided heavy rotation was the way to go. I’m all for rotation; it’s what keeps regular starters rested and fresh, and it lets the backup players shine. But for squad rotation to be an effective strategy — a strategy that produces wins — it helps to have a deep bench.

Instead, NYCFC’s lineup resembled a newborn deer trying to run on its wobbly legs. Andrea Pirlo, Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring and captain Tommy McNamara did their best to provide stability and structure, but it never quite came together. Even with Ugo Okoli‘s first MLS goal coming just three minutes in, the boys in blue couldn’t find their footing to keep up the pace.

C.M. Brandon - New York City FC/mlsfemale
First MLS goal!

Vieira did his best to mitigate the leaking ship after Real Salt Lake scored their second goal of the night and made a quick double substitution, letting David Villa and Jack Harrison off the bench and onto the pitch with their eyes on the goal. NYCFC looked markedly better in that final half hour with Villa and Harrison’s combined magic, but it was still too little, too late.

The result would be disappointing but unsurprising if it came from a team that soundly outplayed us, but ultimately Real Salt Lake weren’t even particularly strong. NYCFC just happened to be much worse. It made for a resolutely boring match that was frequently cringeworthy to watch. Between NYCFC’s defensive blunders (Maxime Chanot, you were sorely missed) and a solid performance from RSL’s veteran keeper, there was just no way we could come up from behind on this one.

To his credit, Vieira took responsibility for the thrashing NYCFC received almost immediately after the final whistle. He admitted flat out that his squad selection was off, and that he bears the blame for the loss. Disappointment in the result aside, I’ll take a manager who owns his mistakes and doesn’t throw his players under the bus any day of the week. Obviously the hope is that this was a learning opportunity for Vieira and the entire team — that player dynamics have become clearer, that it’s just as valuable to learn what doesn’t work as what does.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Here are a few good things to wash the bitter taste out of your mouth:

  • Ugo’s first career goal did well to show his strength and ability to hold off defenders. Of course, we all wish it had led to an avalanche of more goals — nobody likes their first tally on the score sheet to still end in a loss — but if it’s a sign of things to come from Ugo, I’m happy.
  • Alex Ring, Alex Ring, Alex Ring. Every day I grow more convinced that he’s the signing of the season for NYCFC. I can’t sing his praises enough. He’s such a solid, all-around midfielder and I’m thrilled we have him. (Also, I’m a huge fan of any footballer who encourages his daughter to play.)
  • Playing in the snowy, high elevation of Sandy isn’t ideal, but if absolutely nothing else, you have to admit that the training photos that come out of these away matches are gorgeous.
  • …I mean, nobody spent their entire match trying to stomp Maxi down into the ground this time, so that’s a plus.
  • Oh cool, we drew the NY Red Bulls for the Open Cup, of course we did, never mind, everything is fire and pain and suffering.

God only knows if we’ll see the fruits of such a painful labor this weekend against Orlando City. NYCFC has still never won there, so no pressure.

Since I clearly cursed this match last week, what if we try it the other way around this time? It’s worth a shot, right? In that case, I fully expect NYCFC to roll over and show their belly and lose 17-0. Wink.

Featured image courtesy: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @lukacharms

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David Villa Did That

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

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

Friday, April 14: 2-0 win

I had a different article in my head.

Finding narrative threads in football is what connects me most to the game. I can’t turn it off; in the back of my mind during every match, there’s a little machine whirring away, trying to spin a narrative out of the beautiful game. It’s come in handy with match reporting, and I often find myself forming the skeleton of an article while the game is in progress.

That’s what I was doing while New York City FC was grinding out a win on the road against Philadelphia Union. Between chaos and dashes of bad luck in front of both goals, heroics from both Sean Johnson and Andre Blake, and Jack Harrison’s goal scored in the 52nd minute, I had an idea of where I was going to go with this. Something about a scrappy win still being a win. Something about the morale (or lack thereof) of the stadium and how it did Union no favors in staving off NYCFC. Something about the metaphysical importance of picking up these points on the road beyond just crunching numbers for conference standings. Something, something, something.

Then, in the last dying moments of the game, David Villa wiped out everything I had planned.

I’ve mentioned Villa’s goal in the 2010 World Cup against Chile before. It was the moment that threw football into sharp relief for me, the moment I knew I was in deep. Beyond that, it was a stunning goal: A curling shot off his weaker foot from 50 yards out. Gorgeous. I think about that goal all the time. I never considered he could outdo it.

As the clock turned to the 90th minute, Villa was on the break. Flanked by two Union players, he barely broke stride as he took a shot on goal. A ridiculous shot, the kind attempted in training for the thrill of it (in fact, the kind he attempted last season only to have it hit the crossbar). Nobody thought it was going in, least of all Villa himself.

But he is David Villa, and even at 35 years old, the laws of physics still occasionally bend around him. He shot from 53.5 yards out, chipped the goalkeeper, and clinched NYCFC’s victory in the most impossible way.

I have watched this goal upwards of fifty times tonight trying to understand it. I still can’t. It’s beyond my comprehension. David Villa did that.

Just see for yourself:

On top of all this, when Villa was interviewed post-match about the goal, he said he was tired from running so he just tried the shot. Who does that? Who feels the ache in their legs, the burning in their lungs, the inescapable exhaustion and decides to go for glory rather than peter out? Our captain does.

New York City FC, in its current iteration and with Patrick Vieira’s philosophy running through its veins, its a stubborn club. They will play the way they want to play, consequences be damned. While it may not always work out, it does allow a goal like this to happen. Vieira has said many times that he wants them to have fun with their football. That’s a concept that doesn’t come up too often in professional sports. Have fun. Take that preposterous shot. Why not? Even if it doesn’t work, it’ll be fun — and if it does work, it’ll be legendary.

The goal was all Villa’s and nobody can argue that. But I’m incapable of watching anything — even a goal as jaw-dropping as this — and resisting the urge to pull a narrative out of it. It’s a goal that’s emblematic of the club, of the foundation Vieira has built for this team to play on, of the tenacity to play our way no matter what.

It’s the sort of moment that overshadows all else in the match. However, there were 89 other minutes, so here are a few random thoughts:

  • I’d be remiss not to give Jack Harrison credit for opening the scoring — without that boost of confidence, who knows if we’d still have that screamer at the end? Rónald Matarrita fed Jack a lovely through ball, and NCYFC’s wonder kid beat his defender and Andre Blake to find the back of the net. It was a classic bit of magic from Mata and Jack, and I loved every second of it.
  • I’m waiting on pins and needles for Alex Ring’s first NYCFC goal. He wants it, he wants it so badly, and you can tell the fans want it for him too. Every time he pushed forward, I held my breath hoping that this would finally be his moment. I know it’s coming, I just hope it’s soon. He deserves it.
  • My messy notes for the second half of the match include “RODWAL. OPEN GOAL. AND YOU DIDN’T! AND THEN MAXI DIDN’T!” followed by angry pen scribbles. Yeah… Maybe Villa’s goal will erase Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez’s point-blank, empty net misses from our minds?
  • Is the return of Mikey Lopez imminent? I miss him.

Well, now that Goal of the Year is all wrapped up, I think we deserve a week off to celebrate. Next weekend the boys in blue host Orlando City SC. Until then, you can find me forcing everyone I come across to watch Villa’s goal.

Featured image courtesy: ESPN

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Season Opener – NYCFC

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

It’s 2017 and New York City FC still hasn’t managed to best Orlando City SC on the road.

I’ll admit to a lingering fondness for Orlando City. Chalk it up to being expansion team twins, how deeply I appreciate their tribute to the victims of the Pulse shooting, and Kaká. Just… everything about Kaká. I genuinely like them, and I get some warm fuzzies when we play them.

That said, I would love it if we could defeat them in their own home.

It is a really nice home, for the record. This was the inaugural match in the new Orlando City Stadium, and throughout the game I kept marvelling at just how slick it is. Good job, Orlando! You built a beautiful stadium that I think we all covet, at least a little bit. And naturally the narrative of the team and supporters getting a win for their first game in a new home is a lovely one.

But again: It would be great if we could go down to Florida and win.

Despite the 1-0 loss, there are still some positives we can take from this match.

Usual defensive shakiness and some lag in the midfield aside, I thought NYCFC looked comfortable. So often the first few matches of the season are plagued with nerves as the team is still growing together, but I didn’t see any of that. The team gelled, for the most part, which is more than I expected.

Andrea Pirlo – NYCFC Facebook

We held the lion’s share of the possession, and though we weren’t able to finish any of the chances created, the fact is that there were plenty of chances. It’s easy to see that there’s already more play opening up to supply strikers with opportunities. In particular, the link-up between Jack Harrison, Maxi Moralez and David Villa (before he was called offside — in other news, water is wet) was stunning. More of that, please.

(And, you know, more clinical finishing for more goals. Goals would be great.)

There are, of course, old ghosts that continue to haunt NYCFC. To say our defense is weak would have been a lukewarm take last year — does it even bear repeating this year? It was especially stark going up against Orlando City, who are similarly notorious for defense issues, and yet… they defended against us fairly well. What? Guys, come on. If Orlando City can mold their defense into something semi-firm after all this time, so can we. Please. I don’t ask for much.

One of the things I like best about Patrick Vieira is his willingness to alter lineups to find winning combinations. The beginning of the season is always full of growing pains, so I don’t expect a dramatic change right away, but I am confident the starting lineup next week will look different. My biggest question is if he’ll bench Andrea Pirlo, who didn’t exactly have the game of his life in Orlando. My second biggest question is, can I really live in a world where Pirlo is on a bench?

I leave you with a smattering of random observations:

  • We play better when we have a second striker. We didn’t have a second striker until the 84th minute. It was a little hard to watch.
  • At one point in the second half, Cyle Larin and Maxime Chanot got tangled up on the ground and it looked a bit like Larin was trying to spoon him, to which I say: Same.
  • Jack Harrison is still doing brilliant Jack Harrison things, and opposing teams are still dealing with brilliant Jack Harrison things in the only way they know how — by throwing every defender at him at once in hopes that he won’t be able to dance his way out. (Sometimes he does anyway. I love those times.)
  • Bench depth is the best problem and we’re lucky to have it, but man, I miss T-Mac. The game inarguably changed pace for the better when he came on.
  • UGO. Ugo! Here’s the part where I confess that I was unable to watch a single minute of preseason, so I hadn’t yet been introduced to the wonders of Ugo, but now that I have: Ugo, you guys. What a firecracker! I can’t wait to watch him play this season.
  • Taylor Twellman commenting that NYCFC “played a sexy kind of game” has been looping in my head for hours. Please help.

Next week we’re back home to take on D.C. United! What do you think we should do differently? Who do you predict will score the first goal of the season? (Don’t say David Villa, that’s cheating. Get creative.) Is it too early to wonder if Jack Harrison’s beard might be bad luck?

Featured image David Villa courtesy: NYCFC Facebook

Come talk to me on twitter about all this and more: @lukacharms