Dion Dublin Interview

Dion Dublin chats with Man Utd fans at Smithfield Hall, NYC

Dion Dublin chats with Man Utd fans at Smithfield Hall, NYC

By Matthew Nelson

Dion Dublin was in town recently for a weekend break from a busy schedule. During his visit, the ex-EPL star and next presenter of BBC’s ‘Homes under the Hammer’ went to Smithfield Hall to watch his beloved Manchester United demolish Spurs. He then stuck around to chat with delighted Man Utd fans.

First Touch reporter Matthew Nelson sat down with the ex-Cambridge, Celtic, Coventry, Leicester, Norwich, Aston Villa, Man Utd and England striker for a chat about Keano, Sir Alex, racial equality, and the Dube.

So Dion, What brings you to New York City?

I’ve been a few times now, made some good friends, I’m just on a four day break so as always I thought I’d pop in and see Tommy in Smithfield Hall.

Dion, Soccer In The US Continues To grow with NYCFC launching at Yankee Stadium, what do you make of that progress?

I think a lot of it’s down to, obviously Mr. Beckham, the man that’s turned it around, I feel. It just goes to show that the standard of football is getting better here. My friend Darren Huckerby has been here (with San Jose), Becks has been here, Robbie Keane’s been here. There’s been a few that have come, of a good standard, so it just goes to show that the draw is there for the MLS. You’ve got Frank (Lampard) coming over soon and Stevie Gerrard coming as well, so you’re not getting the worst players, you’re getting the cream of the crop and they’re coming for a reason.

Yes it’s a great standard of living, but they wouldn’t come if the football wasn’t up to their standard either. So, I think the progression has been unbelievable, and I think it will just get better.

Is it something that you ever considered, perhaps toward the tail end of your career? Were you ever tempted to make the jump across the pond?

ha ha. Actually the only time I ever played here I played in Giants Stadium for Aston Villa against Sampdoria It was absolutely rammed out, it was only a pre season game. It was absolutely roasting hot, there were about 60,000 people in the stadium and they were mad for their football..sorry, soccer (laughs). Even back in 2003 when I was at VIlla you could feel the progression, the warmth towards us. I would have loved to have had a year or two here, but towards the end of my career I went to centre-half, legs had gone, ha ha.

Dion Dublin during his England debut in 1998

Dion Dublin during his England debut in 1998

You started as a centre-half, didn’t you?

Well you know I started as a centre forward when I very first started out,  and then had a couple of games at centre half. Unfortunately I did well at centre half and so people said, ‘listen, he can play centre half as well’. I did enjoy my time at centre half but I’ll always be a centre forward. i like scoring goals. I like winning games. I like leading from the front you know.

So What do you make of the problems Manchester United have had since Sir Alex Ferguson, your former gaffer, left the club?

It’s difficult to follow Sir Alex. Difficult to follow the gaffer’s progression, his leadership, his will to win, his pure passion and the respect that he rightly deserves and gets from everybody around the world of football. You can’t follow it. You’re going to have to take a new path. Draw a line under the Gaffer, it didn’t work for Mr. Moyes either. I believe he should have had a bit more time if I’m honest.

But now Van Gaal’s in, a new era, I think they believe that this is the man to try and bring some glory days back to Manchester United. On the pitch, for me, Michael Carrick, he’s the catalyst for Man Utd – after Wayne Rooney, I must say. But Carrick’s the one. He’s the one who’s got the footballing brains, starts things off, gets the ball off the back four.

What was your relationship with Fergie like? I imagine it must have been frustrating for you because you were signed but then you didn’t actually play that much.

No I didn’t. I signed from Cambridge United, scored on my debut against Southampton, one of the first Monday night live games on television. Then I broke my leg on my Old Trafford debut, which sort of set me back slightly. What set me back even more was that they decided to sign Eric Cantona through my absence, which didn’t help me at all. So I do consider myself the catalyst to Man Utd’s success. I break my leg, they bring in King Eric and, you know, their fortunes changed. But Sir Alex and I had a great relationship then, and we’ve probably got an even better relationship now.

I work for Man Utd on Matchdays on the odd occasion, maybe ten or fifteen games a season. The gaffer always sees me and gives me a clip across the back of the head if I don’t see him and he sees me. It’s just purely a respect thing for the way he treated me. i was in a cast from my groin to my toes when I broke my leg, and he would always say to me ‘do you want to come to the European games. i’ll get you two seats on the plane, no problem at all’. If you work for him in the way he wants you to then he’ll give you the upmost respect. All he asked for was blood, sweat, and tears – and he got it from me.

I suppose that he can be a little bit prickly though and he’s fallen out with some of his former players, Roy Keane in particular. What did you make of that spat?

Two very strong characters. Two people that are not going to back down. They’ll fight their corner, and they’ll go for it. I think below the surface Roy has the upmost respect for the gaffer. I know that without a doubt, and I’m pretty sure it’s reciprocated by the manager as well so, you know, it happens. Stuff like that happens. It’s just pure passion. Sometimes passion can take over. Those two are possibly the most passionate people I’ve ever been in the game with. They do not want to draw – let alone lose. They don’t want to give the ball away. Roy Keane’s standards were so high and the gaffer is just a perfectionist. Even me, signing from Cambridge United, he expected so much of me. Which is what I wanted. I want the pressure. You put the Man Utd shirt on and you’re under pressure, so you have to deliver. And that’s what he expected from his players.

Another one of your former clubs, Aston Villa, have been struggling in general. What do you think is going wrong there, and is Tim Sherwood the right man to turn it around?

I think what has gone wrong is I don’t think the players that you would expect to stand up and be counted have actually stood up and said ‘right, here we go, this is what we’ve got to do to turn it around’. But now Tim’s gone in and he’s obviously spoke to the players in the correct way, set some boundaries, set some standards. I know what Tim’s like. I played against Tim several times. He’s a proper winner. He won’t take any messing about, there’s no gray areas. Do it my way or I’m happy for you to leave, that kind of attitude. And he’s got, in Villa terms, he’s got the two most important people back on side again with Benteke and Agbonlahor. If those two players are flying, then I think Villa will be OK. The rest of it will look after itself. Tim’s the man for the job and Villa will stay up without a doubt.

Have you ever considered coaching yourself?

Erm, there’s  been moments when I’ve dropped my guard a little bit and I’ve thought to myself, well maybe I’ll nip in and have a little go and dip my toe in it but never actually got a post in managing or coaching so at present I’m going to stay this side of the microphone and just keep doing the interviews and the chatting and presenting. I do a bit of media as well for the BBC, Premier League, Man Utd TV, which I’m enjoying.

There is a real lack of black managers in the game. Is that something that you’ve thought about? Pundits have speculated that English football should consider introducing the Rooney Rule. Would you like to see the league go that way, and what’s your take on the situation?

I can’t believe we actually still see in color, to be fair. It frustrates me that we’re still segregating black and white in conversation in Britain which annoys me anyway. We shouldn’t really be talking like that. I think maybe it’s a little bit stagnant at the top of the tree. Maybe people at the top maybe should drop their guard a little bit and come into this century and start to see what’s going on. Maybe they’re stuck in their ways a little bit. If you want a job in football, regardless of wether you’re a  player or manager, you’ve got to work incredibly hard. So if it means that it makes it more equal to have the Rooney rule then lets do it. But you’ve got to question how many black people are going for managers jobs anyway. It’s just equality for gods sake. You know, black and white, who cares.

Considering the number of black players active in English football, the lack of black coaches does seem wrong …

It’s only wrong if they’re not getting the same chances, you know they could be going for the same jobs but might not be good enough. They might not have the CV for it. There might not be enough black people going for those jobs. I’m not going to side either way on this one. Look at the CV, have the interview with the individual, disregard the color and if this individual comes along with passion and he sounds like the person you want for the job then give it him. Chinese, black, white, orange, I don’t really care. If you’re good enough, then you should get the job, as simple as that.

dubeOne of your post football ventures is quite interesting, you invented a musical instrument. Tell me about that. Where did it come from? Why did you do that?

Well I invented something called the Dube, you can go to thedube.com and you can find out all you need to find out about it. I invented it nine years ago when I was at Norwich City. I’ve always been tapping, i’ve always tapped the table, you’ve probably seen me at the table tap tapping away while the game’s going on. I’ve always tried to make rhythms, always had a musical family, and I decided to make the Dube. It’s in the shape of a cube. It’s a hollow wooden box with nothing inside it apart from a microphone. Each side that you hit of the cube gives you a different tone. So it’s all very different. Yes it’s a square box but it sounds incredible. Put a microphone inside so you can use it on stage. It’s used by Robbie Williams drummer, Ollie Murs’ drummer, Courtney Pine loves it, so I’m getting it into the right areas where one of the biggest drummers in the world, a guy called Thomas Lang, he loves it, he’s got his own signature Dube. Go to thedube.com and have a look, see what you think. It’s good fun.

And you dabble with music is well don’t you? You played your Dube with Ocean Colour Scene right?

I have yeah. I played Dube with them and Toploader. So yeah, it’s really good fun. I also manage a couple of bands, a gospel choir, a classical singer, I’ve got a couple of DJ’s so yeah it’s all fun. Music is really my passion now even though I’m working on the football side of things on the TV, but music is where I want to be. The Dube is where I want to be. I want to make it successful, I really do.  I think once you guys get it here in the US I think I’ll be OK.

Kreis Expects Improvements as NYC Host Kansas

villa3_15Michael Schwartz

After struggling at both ends of the field on the elevated terrain in Colorado, Coach Jason Kreis knows that there are a number of aspects his team must get better at. 

Despite being undefeated after the first three matches, Kreis was not impressed with his team’s performance in the goalless draw against Colorado.

“I think we allowed way too many glaring goal-scoring chances against Colorado and we are very fortunate to get a shut out there,” said Kreis at the Yankee Stadium press conference ahead of this weekend’s showdown against Sporting Kansas City. “We also weren’t good enough with the ball.”

As Rome wasn’t built in a day, New York City won’t be playing at their best out of the gate. It’s expectedly going to take time for this expansion side to overcome growing pains and Kreis understands the need to be patient with his new squad.

“I think we really need to improve at both sides of the ball,” said Kreis. “But I’ve known for a long time that we are going to need to be a team that has to improve for the first quarter or half of the season. I wouldn’t expect that we are going to play our best game but I’m going to still be after it every single week.”

That sentiment was shared by Mix Diskerud, who believes that everyone is striving to improve throughout the season. When asked about whether he’s become more settled with his new team or is is still trying to find the role in midfield that suits him best, the Norwegian-American responded,

“The soccer experts got to say that. I don’t know I’m just here to play soccer. I mean it’s a long season and every single soccer player wants to get better and better. There are a lot of things I can get better at.”

New York City will look to play better as they return home to take on Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City who has struggled at the beginning of their season.

With two draws and a loss so far, Vermes’ side will be determined to earn their first win at Yankee Stadium. Despite out-shooting and creating many more chances against the Portland Timbers, Kansas City failed to find a breakthrough in a goalless draw.

Kansas City may find it tough to beat New York City in the Bronx as defender Jason Hernandez admitted that the team feels more comfortable playing at home in front of their fans. “Anytime you’re home it feels like home so it mostly feels better for us to be here and anytime you have the support that comes out for us it makes it that much better,” said Hernandez. “We’re glad to be back here and hopefully we can put on a good performance again for the fans this week.”

Born in New York City, Hernandez feels fortunate to play at Yankee Stadium and to represent the local community. “I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weekends at the old Yankee Stadium,” said Hernandez. “I know it’s a part of the culture of being in the city. It’s a part of being from here. To be out here representing my family and friends and representing the people of this city hopefully in the right way it’s a great feeling and I feel very lucky. We all feel very lucky.”

Ahead of the match on Saturday, Hernandez recognizes the importance of how well the backline has played in terms of absorbing pressure. While crediting various aspects of the defense, Hernandez believes the team has been pushed back at times when they’ve lost control of the match.

“I think there has been spells in the match where we haven’t controlled the tempo and the possession the way we wanted to forcing us to defend for a bit,” said Hernandez. “I just think the communication has been really great. Obviously great goalkeeping with Josh and just being committed and disciplined as a group. Everyone has done their part to keep the ball out of the net and hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”

In terms of injuries, Josh Williams is doubtful according to Kreis due to viral paracarditis. Williams was a late scratch against Colorado and doesn’t seem likely to play despite Shay Facey being suspended after getting a red card. Kreis also revealed that Sebastian Velasquez is out with a serious pulled groin injury.

As a result of the injuries, Kreis could shuffle his backline with Chris Wingert returning to his old position on the left, Jeb Brovsky as a right back, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe lining up alongside Hernandez as a center half.

With Velasquez out and Khiry Shelton away to play for the U.S. U23 Men’s National Team, Kreis has a number of candidates to replace the Colombian-American. Mehdi Ballouchy, Thomas McNamara, Javier Calle, or Tony Taylor are all possibilities for Kreis to consider.

One encouraging aspect Kreis could take away from last week’s match was the turnaround in David Villa’s performance between halves. In the In the second half against Colorado, Villa seemed to be getting involved more with the team as they were building up chances compared to the first half.

When asked about what changed in terms of the approach being used after halftime, Villa reasoned that it was an evenly-contested match that was difficult to take control of. “Well in a soccer match there’s always two teams and the other team is also playing so in the first half they were defending better and it was difficult for us to find the space to create opportunities,” said Villa. “In the second half we created more opportunities and found more space but as I said it’s a soccer game so both teams are playing.”

Despite everything that needs to be improved, Diskerud believes that the team has still done well in their opening matches.

“We’re undefeated so far so it can’t be that bad,” said Diskerud.

EPL Latest

Manchester City’s Wilfried Bony (right) scores their first goal of the game past a dejected West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Boaz Myhill

Manchester City’s Wilfried Bony (right) scores their first goal of the game past a dejected West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Boaz Myhill

By Jack Simpkin

As the Premier League heads into another international break, the face for both survival and Champions League places is really hotting up as clubs begin to realise they’re running out of games. All but two sides have eight league fixtures remaining now and I’ll be previewing the first of those that will take place on the weekend starting on the 4th of April.

We start this week’s review at Anfield where Manchester United put on an extremely professional performance in beating Liverpool 2-1 to massively boost their chances of a top four finish. A goal in each half from Spaniard Juan Mata was enough to clinch the win despite Daniel Sturridge pulling one back for the hosts with just over twenty minutes to play.

The major talking point of the game however came 38 seconds into the second half when Reds captain Steven Gerrard received a straight red card for a stamp on Ander Herrera having only joined the game as a half-time substitute. Gerrard accepted full responsibility for the defeat after the game but he’ll have no say in whether or not Brendan Rodgers’ side can get back to winning ways after the international break when they travel to Arsenal in another huge match in the race for the top four.

Arsenal however go into the break off the back of a win as they beat Newcastle 2-1 at Saint James’ Park in their Gameweek 30 fixture. The visitors dominated the first half and deservedly went into the break two goals to the good thanks to a brace from Olivier Giroud but in the second half, the Magpies came back at the Gunners with all guns blazing. They pulled one back via Moussa Sissoko with only three minutes played in the second period but despite their dominance, they couldn’t find the vital equaliser that they were after. The international break couldn’t have come at a worse time for John Carver and his men as they will now have to wait an extended period of time before their next league fixture, which just happens to be the small matter of a Tyne-Wear derby away at Sunderland.

Chelsea maintained their lead at the top of the table with a dramatic 3-2 win away at Hull City. The Blues raced into a 2-0 lead within ten minutes with goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa but incredibly then scored two goals in as many first half minutes to bring the score line back level with still 15 minutes to play before the break, Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez with the goals. Chelsea were clearly shocked by the Tiger’s reaction and it wasn’t until the 77th minutes until they got the winner. Off the bench, Loïc Remy scored after just 79 seconds on the pitch to save Jose Mourinho’s side from two consecutive Premier League draws.

After the break, the Blues will be back at home to face Stoke City in a game that they will be well fancied to win, especially after the Potters’ defeat last weekend at home to Crystal Palace. Mame Biram Diouf gave the hosts the lead early on but Palace struck twice just before the break, firstly with a penalty from Glenn Murray before Wilfried Zaha gave the visitors the lead in stoppage time. It was the Eagles’ fourth win in five away games and the win took their tally to 36 points for the season, their highest at this stage of the campaign since 1992.

The odds will be stacked against them to make that 39 after their next game as they host Manchester City next time around, who got back to winning ways this week with a comfortable 3-0 win at home to West Brom.

City’s job was made a lot easier with only two minutes on the clock when referee Neil Swarbrick sent off Gareth McAuley for a foul that he thought the Northern Irishman had made on Wilfried Bony but it was in fact Craig Dawson who made the foul. Dawson went on to play the rest of the game but the red card has since been overturned by the FA and awarded to Dawson. From that moment, City were then even more likely to win the game but as an added bonus for the home supporters, Bony scored his first goal for the club after 27 minutes but the fact that the goal came against West Brom means that Bony has now scored against 16 of the 22 Premier League sides that he has faced in his career. Fernando and David Silva also scored to guarantee the three points for Manuel Pellegrini’s men as they pursuit of the title goes on.

Tony Pulis will have to pick up his side over the international break as they prepare for a home tie with Queens Park Rangers, a game they will be much more confident of winning, especially after Rangers’ defeat at home to Everton on Sunday. Seamus Coleman gave the visitors the lead after 18 minutes before Eduardo Vargas smashed home an equaliser with 25 minutes to play but January signing Aaron Lennon made sure that his new side left London with all three points as he grabbed a winner seven minutes later. Roberto Martinez will be looking for a similar result next time around when his side host Southampton in what will be a much tougher match.

A Harry Kane hat-rick gave Tottenham all three points at home to Leicester City in a brilliant game that ended 4-3. The Englishman, who has just earned his first senior call-up to the national side for this international break, raced Spurs into a 2-0 lead by himself after just 13 minutes. Jamie Vardy then pulled one back for Leicester before the break and at half-time, it still looked like a regulation win was on the cards for the hosts but the second half had different ideas.

First of all Foxes captain Wes Morgan pulled his side level with a header from a corner before Kane sealed his hat-rick with a penalty to restore Spurs’ lead. A Jeff Schlupp own goal then increased that lead back to two goals but just went it started to look comfortable once again for the Mauricio Pochettino’s men, David Nugent pulled one back for Leicester with a few minutes still to play, however Tottenham held on to the win that still keeps them in the hunt for a Champions League spot next season.

Spurs must also beat Burnley at Turf Moor in their next fixture if they are to maintain that hunt because there are too many others clubs around them competing for the same places for them to be able to slip up.

As for Burnley, they lost 2-0 to Southampton on Saturday, which didn’t do their bid for survival any favours. Shane Long gave the hosts the lead after 37 minutes and from that moment on, it looked unlikely Burnley were going to take anything from the game as the Saints have only dropped two points from winning position this season, fewer than any other team. An own goal from Jason Shackell mid-way through the second half confirmed the result.

Swansea City beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park on Saturday to ensure that they didn’t make it three defeats in a row. They left it late however as it was left to Bafetimbi Gomis to score the game’s only goal with three minutes to spare to end Time Sherwood’s winning run at the helm. Sherwood’s men travel to Man United next to start a difficult run of away fixtures between now and the end of the season as they look to move clearer of the relegation zone.

Swansea return home to face West Ham at home after the international break, the Welsh side going  into the game full of confidence after snatching an even later win at home to Sunderland. Their saviour was Diafra Sakho, who scored with only two minutes of normal time remaining to make sure that Dick Advocaat’s first game in charge of the Black Cats, ended in defeat. Sam Allardyce’s West  Ham United travel to Leicester next time around as they look to secure a top half finish come May.

Barca Gain Four Point Lead In La Liga

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Barcelona v Manchester City - Camp NouBy Cesar Benoit

Round 28 of the La Liga season has come and gone. What happened?

David Moyes’ Real Sociedad are on a roll. They’ve now won four of five after defeating Cordoba 3-1. It’s an impressive run for the former Manchester United boss, especially considering  injuries to his star players.

Sevilla defeated Villarreal 2-0 in a humdrum affair that paled in comparison to their Europa League battle earlier in the week (also won by Sevilla, 2-1. They advanced to the quarterfinals). The victory sent Los Rojiblancos six points clear of the Yellow Submarine in the battle for fourth.

Let’s not forget about Atletico Madrid’s fine 2-0 defeat of local rivals Getafe. Fernando Torres scored his first goal for Los Colchoneros (The Mattress Makers) in seven and a half years, this after netting the decisive penalty in the Champions League last 16 shootout win over Bayer Leverkusen. Not a bad week for El Nino.

It also wasn’t a bad week for Atleti coach Diego Simeone, who signed a contract extension to stay with the club until 2020. Simeone is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in European football, and was reported to have been linked with a number of clubs, including Manchester City.

He could still leave this summer. But his contract extension is a sign that whoever wants him won’t get him easily.

Speaking of Atleti, they’ve advanced in Europe and will face old friends Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals. Last time they met, Atletico destroyed Real 4-0. The two sides also met in last season’s European final, won by Real 4-1. Atleti have yet to lose to Real this season. Can the trend continue?

Barcelona eased past English champions Manchester City 1-0 (3-1 aggregate) and will now face France’s PSG in the quarters.

If you haven’t watched the second leg, do yourself a favor and watch the intricate passing of the Barca team and pay attention to the little Argentine Lionel Messi. He’s quite special.

Which brings us to the main event of the weekend: Barcelona v Real Madrid. The biggest game in the world between the richest clubs in the history of the universe.

The match didn’t decide the titlist but Barcelona’s 2-1 win puts them four in front of Madrid and eight over 3rd place Valencia. They’ll be hard to catch.

I won’t get into too much hardcore analysis of the match. There’s so much written about this game that there isn’t much more I could add.

Like the great Bill Shankly said, “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.” It’s really that simple.

Regardless, here are some takeaways I observed from the heavyweight tussle Sunday evening.

1 – Tiki taka is dead. Barca not only conceded possession throughout much of the match, they played in their half, soaking up Madrid pressure for long stretches. That’s certainly not the Pep Guardiola way.

In the past, Barca would score, play possession football and Madrid would chase the match, hoping to score via set piece. This time, the roles were reversed.

Barca scored off a free kick header by Jeremy Mathieu and later, a stroke of genius from the reborn Luis Suarez, who controlled a long ball from Dani Alves with a succulent first touch and stroked the ball past a prone Iker Casillas.

Sounds very anti-Barca. But that’s the way this team is built. Gone are the days of Xavi and Andres Iniesta dominating the midfield. Now, the forward line of Messi, Suarez and Neymar exhaust with their quick pace and dangerous shooting. It’s a new Barca style and very effective.

2 – This match could have gone either way. Neymar missed a sitter in the first half. Bale had a goal nullified. But what really did Madrid in was their energy, which faded in the second half.

Luka Modric looked exhausted and Isco was gassed. Coach Carlo Ancelotti didn’t have many options on the bench and ended up playing an out of position Jese in midfield.

Solution? Madrid need midfield bodies. They better address that in the summer.

3 – What now? Both teams host third place Valencia, who played both tough in the first go round. Both also visit Sevilla. Their European ventures could cause either a few points. And there’s the outside chance Valencia and Atletico could sneak in should one of the Big Two really slip.


But today it’s a four point lead for Barca and the championship is there for the taking. Who’s going to stop them? We’ve 10 matches left to find out.

The International Flight

FTglobe_purpleBrian P Dunleavy

Heart of Midlothian clinched promotion from the Scottish Championship to the Premiership for 2015-16 last weekend without kicking a ball.

The Edinburgh side, which has had a commanding lead in the second division since the fall, benefitted from Rangers’ 2-0 win over city rival Hibernian. With its position for next season now set in stone, Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says the club will potentially bring in new players to upgrade the squad for the higher level of competition.

“There are players I’ve earmarked that I’d like to try and get in,” he told the Edinburgh News recently. “I want as good a player as I can get for the budget.”

Budgets will also be an issue at both Rangers and Hibs, depending on which of the two clubs survive the playoff fight for promotion. The Hibees made a number of new additions in the January window in an effort to bolster their promotion chances; however, they are likely still in recovery mode financially following an overhaul in the club’s upper management heading into this season. Similarly, new Rangers boss Stuart McCall told the media in Scotland recently that while he is pleased to see a number of his current players fighting to “keep the jersey,” his squad needs to make up for the losses it sustained in recent transfer windows. Despite an influx of cash from The Three Bears—a troika of wealthy supporters—it remains to be seen whether any major signings are in the offing at Ibrox.

New signings or no, the SFA will certainly welcome the return of Hearts and either Hibs or Rangers to the top flight; the league needs the shot and the arm, not to mention the increased interest promotion of these clubs will bring. With three of the biggest club’s in the country toiling in the second division, the game in the top flight has lost more than a little luster, and television ratings—and revenue from broadcast deals—have suffered as a result. Not coincidentally, some quality players have left Scotland for better opportunities south of the border, in the English Championship or even League One. Even more foreign players have looked elsewhere when evaluating options on the transfer market. Celtic, feeling the loss of revenue from the absence of the Old Firm, have been fiscally conservative for years. That Neil Lennon’s ambitions drove him to leave Celtic, and that Roy Keane chose to be an assistant at Aston Villa rather than succeed him at Parkhead, spoke volumes about the state of the game in Scotland.

Just where the Scottish game stands in prestige can also be seen in the presence—or, rather, the lack thereof—of Prem players on international rosters during this break for Euro 2016 qualifiers. With two important fixtures coming up, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has called up a roster of players among whom only four—three for Celtic and one for Aberdeen—are playing domestically. In addition, at Celtic, only Anthony Stokes (Ireland), Stefan Johansen (Norway), Nir Biton (Israel) and Jason Denayer (Belgium) will be suited up for the Euro 2016 qualifiers for teams other than Scotland over the next fortnight. Players from Celtic and Rangers once comprised the brunt of the Scotland squad, and the two sides of the Old Firm both contributed to the rosters of the Northern Ireland and Ireland national teams, among others, as well.

It will be interesting to see if the return of three of the bigger clubs in the country to the top flight will make the league a potential destination for top players again. Certainly, the possibility to play in Old Firm matches regularly may prove a draw for both Celtic and Rangers, but don’t expect either of them to be pursuing the likes of Paul Pogba anytime soon. Scottish clubs haven’t been in that stratosphere for quite some time, and it may take a couple of years of increased TV money before player budgets even show modest increases.

So while big-name clubs may be on their way back to the Scottish Premiership, big-name players aren’t necessarily going to follow.

Lansdowne Bhoys Thrash Celtic at Gaelic Park

CSL champions Lansdowne Bhoys before their 5-0 rout of Manhattan Celtic at Gaelic Park last Saturday. Photo credit: Irish American Soccer Hall of Fame.

CSL champions Lansdowne Bhoys before their 5-0 rout of Manhattan Celtic at Gaelic Park last Saturday.
Photo credit: Irish American Soccer Hall of Fame.

By Jay Mwamba

Defending CSL champions Lansdowne Bhoys regained a share of the lead in the East after routing Manhattan Celtic 5-0 in their Irish derby at Gaelic Park last Saturday.

Anthony Grant notched a hat trick while Glen Reid and Karim Russell added one apiece in the Bhoys’ first spring outing.

The Yonkers Irish improved to 7-2-2, level on 23 points with New York Athletic Club [NYAC] who lost 2-1 to Clarkstown Eagles.  The win also moved Lansdowne a step closer towards a playoff berth with five games remaining in the regular season.

Timmy O’Driscoll bagged both goals in the Lansdowne reserves’ 2-0 win over Celtic ‘B’ in the curtain raiser.


Bledi Bardic’s 40-yard free kick and an own goal sent NYAC reeling against Clarkstown at Icahn Stadium.  Ben Barton was the NYAC scorer in the former champs’ second defeat of the season.

The reserve tussle at Icahn went true to form with NYAC’s second unit, the unbeaten CSL reserve titlists, running riot in the second half en route to an 8-1 victory.

Pat Pierre, hat trick hero Brian Kuritzky and Chris Sutherland [two] were among the scorers as NYAC struck five times in the last 45 minutes.

Elsion Pajollari had Clarkstown’s lone response.


West leaders Pancyprian Freedoms crushed New York Croatia 7-1 on Randalls Island to stay a point ahead of Hellenic rivals New York Greek Americans.

Yannick Reyering and Andreas Chronis both notched hat tricks with Julio Dos Santos contributing the ubiquitous goal.

Pancyprian, whose reserves lost 3-1, stretched their unbeaten record to 9-0-2 [29].


Greek Americans, meanwhile, triumphed 3-2 in a titanic home battle with United FC at the Metropolitan Oval on Pete Touros’ second half strike.

First Frank Alesci put the visitors ahead and, after the Greeks’ Patrick Figueroa had replied with a brace, put United on level terms.

But Touros would clinch all three points for the Greeks [9-1-2, 28] midway through the second half, earning the club a playoff berth in the process.

“A very, very good United side,” is how Zomopoulos described the opposition.

“It was a tough game and both teams had their moments, but the Greeks made us pay for two horrible mistakes in the back,” rued United boss Alex Zaretser

The reserve fixture ended in a 1-1 tie after Mike Megaloudis, Jr.’s late goal had canceled out Rati Kuladze’ opener for United.

“Our reserves battled and battled, and to be honest United let us hang around by missing several chances,” said Zomopoulos, whose second unit top the West standings.


In a showdown between two of the CSL top flight’s lowly sides, Hoboken FC run off 3-2 winners against Stal Mielec at Bushwick Inlet.

Two-goal hero Jeff Natale’s 86th minute strike earned Hoboken their second victory of the season [2-1-7, 7].

Kevin Matthews [35th] was the other scorer with his first for the club.

Steve Korfiatis [85th] connected for the Hoboken reserves in a 2-1 loss.


In the late match at Icahn Stadium, Josh Kwilecki had the solitary goal in Central Park Rangers’ 1-0 decision over NYC Rovers.

CPR completed the double on the night, with Chris Norelli, Mike DeChristopher and Hamza Deheina leading the reserves to a 3-2 triumph.


In the CSL second tier, joint leaders Shamrock rallied back from a goal down to beat Doxa FC 2-1 at St. Michael’s Playground.

Mohamd ‘Mo’ Fofana and center half Nikle Guzijan connected after Kurt Cameron had shot Doxa ahead.

Held goalless in the reserve game, the Irishmen remain level on points [8-1-2, 25] with New York Ukrainians atop the Division Two log. Ukrainians pipped CD Iberia 1-0 at McCarren Park following a 1-all draw in the opener.


Prince Yeboah, an own goal and Jonathan Mensah sent third place Polonia crashing to a 3-0 defeat at McCarren Park, as in-form New York Supreme won their second straight this spring.

“The team is coming together now and playing more consistent.  We are hoping to make a push for promotion,” said Freddie Etsiakoh, formerly with Manhattan Celtic.

His reserves succumbed 3-2.


Paul Nitto and Andrew Gayraud scripted New Amsterdam United’s first league win of the season, 2-1 at NYPD’s expense at Lincoln Park.

Collin Wynter responded for the Cops.

Dutch completed a rare double, prevailing 3-2 in the reserve encounter as well.

Simon Czaplinski [two] and Anthony Garcia tallied in the curtain raiser, with Jonathan Caro and Rene Lopez replying for NYPD.


Damian Paz had Sporting Astoria within 2-1 of Manhattan Kickers at one point before the latter run off 5-1 winners on Randalls Island. He scored off a Wilver Arturo cross.

“Defense errors [cost] us early,” lamented Astoria’s Ed Romero, while giving props to Kickers’ goalie for thwarting striker Terrol Ishmael.



Lansdowne Bhoys twice came from behind to edge NYC Vllaznia 3-2 at Tibbetts Brook Park and close to within four points of Metro Div. One East pace-setters CPR Reds with two games in hand.

Johnny McGeeney [30th pen.] scored from the spot to peg back Albert Ruci’s early effort [10th],  only for Salvatore Finazio to restore Vllaznia’s lead on the hour.

The tussle came to a dramatic conclusion in the dying minutes.

First CJ Doherty nodded in the equalizer from Damian Mescall’s 90th minute corner and then Keith Power rose powerfully to head in an injury time winner from Mark Finn’s cross.

The Bhoys improved to 8-1-1 [25].


CPR Reds’ title ambitions suffered a blow following a 2-1 loss to Brishna on Randalls Island.

Mohammad Basir Mashriqi and Salim Mashriqi scored.


Hours after Ittihad FC had demolished Gotham Argo 9-0, Ridgewood fired warning shots ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Metro Div. One West leaders by thrashing short-handed Missile FC 8-3.

Becknel Pierre Louis and Fritz Bouquet [two] were the Missile marksmen.

Catalin Ionita [2nd, 20th], Richard Anton [4th], Ayhan Bekdemir [11th, 12th], Paul Duca [16th] and Dorin Dican [6th, 42th] led the Ridgewood charge.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the spring season!” exclaimed Ridgewood assistant coach Ovi Ordean. “Missile played a man short throughout but it was a good rehearsal before next Sunday’s clash with Ittihad.”


In other Metro Div. One action, FC Gwardia dispatched Mr. Dennehy’s 3-1 at the Greenbelt Recreational Center to remain on Ittihad’s heels in the West.

Mateusz Chlost, Robert Dec and Marcin Januszko [pen.] were on target for the 7-1-3 [22] Poles who trail Ittihad by two points.


Barnstonworth Rovers blanked New York Galicia 2-0 to join FC Spring Valley Huerto in second position in Metro Div. Two on the 22-point mark.

Brandon Rowley [15th] and Aldo Morales [80th] starred for Rovers.



At the Verrazano Sports Complex, NY Bravehearts mauled bottom Metro City Fury Athletic 12-0.

Jaime Rodriguez and Mora Reyes each struck four times; Jonathan Sandoval added a brace, while Ken Zelaya and Diego Soto had a one apiece.


AO Brooklyn were the other winners in Metro Div. One, 1-0 over Williamsburg International at McCarren Park, courtesy of Jordan Breslauer’s seventh goal of the campaign.


Danny Parkin’s 25-yard first minute scorcher was the difference in the Shamrock Over-30s’ 1-0 defeat of Megas Alexandros at Van Buren High School.

Sean Riley hit the post in the second half for Paddy McCarry’s men but in the end the Rocks finished confidently despite suiting up only 13 players.

“On another day we could have won four or 5-0. We just didn’t take our chances,” said coach McCarry.

He singled out center half Adrian Morrissey for Man of the Match honors.

Once beaten Shamrock [9-1-1, 28] lead the Over-30 Div. One East standings by four points.


In the West, top side Barnstonworth Premier had a Duane Pena goal in a 1-0 decision over Manhattan Kickers.


Paul Roberts’  back post header from a Matt Little corner salvaged a 1-1 tie for Manhattan Celtic Bhoys against NYPD in their Over-30 Div. Two tussle at Flushing Meadow.


Elsewhere in Over-30 Div. Two, Jordon Klopf scored in Nieuw Amsterdam’s 1-1 tie with Brooklyn Gunners on Randalls Island.

Also on Randalls Island, Steve “Butch” Curran was on target for Argo Silver in a 3-1 loss to Guyana Veterans.


bowlerBy Bill Thomas

Didn’t take long did it? Within days of the Premier League’s catastrophic participation in this season’s European competitions coming to a close, up pops Greg Dyke to fling a second hob nailed boot into the gentleman’s area of that competition, telling them that, in very nearly the words of Stephen Patrick Morrissey, “the football that they constantly play says nothing to me about my life”.

In his position as the Football Association’s head honcho, Dyke has to be careful about how he frames his arguments and, oddly for a man with a media background, that’s a skill he has yet to master. Warning that Premier League football is in danger of “having nothing to do with English people” is dangerously UKIP-lite, carrying a faint whiff of little Englander xenophobia.

That would be a shame because I don’t for a moment believe that’s his intention. It would also be an argument that’s attacking the wrong target because the real reason the Premier League has increasingly little relevance to English people – or, described more appropriately, the population of England – is clubs charging £40, £50, £60 for a ticket. Now THAT tends to make you irrelevant to normal people.

Dyke’s real target is, of course, doing something about the paucity of English talent coming through to play at the top level and the numbers of foreign footballers that currently cavort around the playing fields of Ye Olde England. Concluding that here we have cause and effect, Dyke and the Football Association have issued a plan to fight back by curtailing the numbers of those who immigrate into the English game – though, as in the real world, this can only apply to non EU footballers because of the freedom of movement agreements within the EU.

And so, with the aid of the Home Office, work permit regulations have been tightened in order to ensure that “only the best non-EU players will be granted permission to play in England”. That should clamp down on the numbers coming from the African nations in particular although, as ever, the proof of that particular pudding will be in the eating.

Beyond that, he wants to take further action to make English teams have more England-qualified players and more who come through that club’s academy, which is going to be great numbers for young, third choice goalkeepers who are going to help them fulfil that requirement.

It’s good, well meaning stuff and Dyke is promising to head off and have conversations with the clubs to get them to buy into his vision. Do you think they will dear reader? No, neither do I. If he wants action, he is going to have to beat them into submission because at the top end of the Premier League in particular, there is no interest in the English game, in their relevance to the public and, above all, in the fortunes of the England team.

The Premier League is evolution in its purest form, a game of the survival of the fittest. For those who exist purely to win, like a shark, they have to keep swimming forward or they die. They don’t care what they eat, what fuel they use, they just keep eating. Look at Manchester City’s team on the Saturday before the international break – three Englishmen – Hart, Milner, Lampard.

The rest were from the four corners of the earth, players of unquestioned quality who would trump any work permit rules.

In addition, to get round the change in the homegrown rules, we can easily envisage a situation where Arsenal send scouts across Europe’s youth football, handing out largesse to attract young Spanish and French boys to London at the age of 12. Just as the rise of Cesc Fabregas didn’t help the English team much, it’s not hard to imagine a situation a couple of years hence when here’s a squadron of Fabregases – Fabregi? – coming through the ranks at the Emirates. Great.

Dyke rightly points out that, never mind the failure of the English clubs in Europe, look at their failure to play Englishmen. Nor will they when they can have their pick of the world. Dyke points to Harry Kane, saying we need more like him. Yes, we do. But he plays for Spurs. I think we can all accept that if he had been a part of the Chelsea academy, he would be nowhere near their first team. Daniel Sturridge didn’t. He had to go to – forgive me Liverpool fans – a lesser club, in financial terms at least, to get regular football. It will ever be thus.

Without absolute compulsion, those at the peak will not change their modus operandi and so they will escape the real strictures of any change, leaving those mid-ranking sides to handle the brunt of the sanctions. No longer will they be able to take a punt on a Senegalese striker, Argentine midfielder or a Nigerian central defender if he isn’t a regular international. Perhaps, instead though, they will stock up on Poles, Slovenians and Romanians?

Because in the end, all that matters is staying in the Premier League, keeping the snout in the trough, sucking up all that gravy from that lovely, rich train. English football has been a ticking time bomb for years, only nobody has heard it over the din of tinkling champagne flutes, handled with such abandon by those who run the league and the clubs, unable to believe their luck that they are in the right place at the right time to be able to print money – normally these days, you’d have to be an MP to have such good fortune…

NYCFC Remain Unbeaten After 0-0 Tie In Colorado

photo by nycfc.com

photo by nycfc.com

By Michael Schwartz

New York City and Colorado ended up sharing the spoils in a goalless draw which saw the home side with more goal-scoring opportunities they failed to capitalize on. As in the first two games, New York City played much better in the 2nd half and was unfortunate to not break the deadlock before Shay Facey got sent off late in the match. 

Here are 7 takeaways from New York City’s latest result:

Lackadaisical 1st Half 

In the first half, New York City lacked energy and movement off the ball when in possession. Too many times Andrew Jacobsen stood around in midfield without anyone to pass to as Jason Kreis’ side were too slow and restricted when getting forward.

New York City’s narrow approach on a wide field in Colorado played a role as the Rapids were often able to intercept and break up possession through the middle. Unlike the Yankee Stadium field which is quite slender, New York City struggled to impose themselves on wide fields at Orlando or against Colorado at times. Mix Diskerud had a quiet game because he was often too deep to pick up the ball and seemed limited passing forward.

A signature moment of the first half was when Ned Grabavoy tried to pass ahead to David Villa on a counter up the middle. Grabavoy’s pass was easily dealt with as there were too many defenders focusing on Villa. New York City was too predictable getting forward as Colorado’s defense could easily read their opponents.

Once again, the defense rode their luck as they were pinned back and absorbed a ton of pressure. The backline and the midfield showed strong defensive resolve but the defensive line needed to get more forward as Colorado’s attackers had too much time and space. As Jason Hernandez has previously talked about, the defense can’t get too passive by staying back too often. The former San Jose Earthquakes center back made a vital impact as he broke up a number of potential goal-scoring opportunities for Colorado.

Colorado often broke down New York City’s possession going forward and countered quickly throughout the first half. They benefitted from sloppy play as New York City gave away the ball too often. Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side was able to trouble New York City on the wing which has been a recurring feature so far this season. In terms of crosses, Colorado had 22 compared to New York City who only mustered 5.

Revitalized 2nd Half

After voicing his displeasure with his side’s lethargic display, Kreis once again got his team to play better in the second half. The former Real Salt Lake coach has shown that he knows how to get more out of his players after halftime.

New York City increased their tempo and provided more movement when in possession of the ball. They created more chances as they were able to get David Villa more involved in the match.

However, just as New York City was finding their stride, they got stalled by Facey’s red card and looked to settle for a draw afterwards. Colorado meanwhile failed to take advantage of their chances as they put on a poor shooting display. They nearly doubled the number of chances New York City had with 15 compared to 8 respectively. Colorado out-shot their expansion opponents 21 to 9 respectively.

While Kreis believed the overall performance wasn’t good enough, he praised the team’s resilience as his side was able to hold out for what could be a valuable point. After 3 matches, New York City is undefeated and has played well at times on the road.

Kreis begrudgingly admitted that the altitude likely was a major factor as New York City took awhile to play well. While Saunders felt players got winded from the elevation, Chris Wingert seemed annoyed by blaming the altitude as he believed it becomes more of a mental factor than anything else.

Where would this team be without Josh Saunders?

In a man of the match type performance, Josh Saunders was vital in preserving the clean sheet. Saunders was called upon often as he made three saves, three punches, and four catches.

Saunders saved a number of shots form Sam Cronin, Gabriel Torres, and Marc Burch throughout the match as he bailed out any defensive mistakes. His best save was off Torres in the second half after he got in on goal off Jeb Brovsky.

Saunders once again showed his toughness after shaking off another injury during a match. The former Real Salt Lake goalie was able to continue after banging his right shoulder on the ground during the second half.

As YES Network commentator Ian Joy stated, Saunders has been the most important player so far this season as he has made 11 saves in the first 3 matches. Saunders has been superb after coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in 2013.

A Rough First Game for Shay Facey

Shay Facey, the young defender New York City got on loan from Manchester City, was given his starting debut ahead of Josh Williams. While Facey played with assurance in preseason, he looked nervous against Colorado.

He gave away the ball at times and got caught out wide as Colorado utilized the wings when attacking. His appearance got caught short after recklessly fouling Juan Ramirez in the 82nd minute which led to his second yellow.

While he didn’t play very well, Facey’s pace, defensive skills, and ability to carry the ball forward should warrant more opportunities for him to get settled in MLS as the season progresses.

Sebastian Velasquez’s Effectiveness  

Sebastian Velasquez, who earned his second consecutive start, was one of New York City’s few bright stars in the first half as he linked up well with others. The Colombian-American often got involved with the possession going forward as he provided incisive through balls to Villa and Adam Nemec. Outside of not properly dealing with Torres in the box who was able to get a shot off, Velasquez played very well in the first half.

However, Velasquez’ influence disappeared in the second half as he wasn’t nearly as involved. Like against New England, he got subbed off which shows that he’s an explosive starter but hasn’t been to play well throughout matches. Along with others, Velasquez is still likely gaining his full fitness.

To New York City’s benefit, Kreis has amassed a deep roster with players that have made a difference off the bench including Khiry Shelton who held up the ball well again and made charging runs forward.

A Mixed Performance for David Villa

David Villa had a forgettable first half as he barely had any touches in the opening 20 minutes. Like against Orlando, Villa wasn’t getting involved enough and when he did receive the ball, the Spaniard didn’t hold up possession well.

Yet after halftime, Villa made much more of an impact from out wide as he held onto the ball more and provided key passes. He almost scored on a counter that was set up by strike partner Adam Nemec which forced a tremendous finger-tip save by Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Villa was getting more involved in the build-up play and looked increasingly likely to score before Facey’s red card.

Fantastic Television Coverage

New York City’s encounter with Colorado was the first match to be broadcasted on the YES network. While there may have been some uncertainty about how a channel that focuses primarily on baseball would present live soccer, the YES network coverage was superb.

The graphics, analysis and interviews were well-developed. The commentary featuring Joe Tolleson and Ian Joy was engaging and informative as they had great chemistry together. They were insightful in a manner that catered well to an educated audience when it comes to soccer. The YES network showed that NYCFC will be in good hands throughout the season.

Red Bulls Fans to Protest the Firing of Mike Petke

esclogoFans of New York Red Bulls will protest the sacking of popular head coach Mike Petke at tomorrow’s home opener vs DC United.

The Empire Supporters Group, the largest of the Red Bulls supporters groups, released the following statement:

On Sunday, March 22nd, the Empire Supporters Club will lead a fan-based protest aimed at showing opposition to the firing of head coach Mike Petke. The protest will take place at Red Bull Arena during the nationally televised home opener against D.C. United.

To express our discontent with Petke’s unfair dismissal, the Empire Supporters Club will abstain from its usual show of support for the first 12 minutes of the match and instead display banners with messages supportive of Petke. These banners will be supplemented by pro-Petke chants that will help signal to the entire stadium and the television viewers at home our disaffection with those responsible for his release. The first 12 minutes of the match have been chosen for this protest to symbolically connect Petke to our display. Petke wore number 12 as a player.

Petke was officially fired by newly appointed sporting director Ali Curtis on January 7th after serving as head coach for two seasons. During his tenure as head coach, Petke led the Red Bulls to their first major trophy in franchise history in the form of the 2013 Supporters Shield, which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. Petke followed up the success of that year with a 2014 campaign that was highlighted by a deep run into the playoffs that ended a goal short of earning the team passage to the MLS Cup Final. Prior to taking the reigns as head coach, Petke spent two stints as a player for the franchise (1998-2002 and 2009-2010), where his hard-nosed style of play and steadfast dedication to winning quickly elevated him to the level of fan favorite.

Red Bull executives were never able to fully articulate a clear justification for Petke’s firing, Empire Supporters Club Executive Board member Alan Kennedy stated. “What made Mike so unique as a player and coach was that he exhibited the same level of passion for the team as the supporters,” Kennedy noted. “ In essence, this protest is about standing up for one of our own. Mike deserved a far better fate after leading this franchise to some of the proudest moments in its 20-year history.”

Eric Rios, who also serves on the Empire Supporters Club Executive Board, added that Petke’s firing highlights the team’s inability to establish continuity and a consistent identity. “The decision to part ways with Mr. Petke goes against everything that this organization has preached for the last three or four years,” Rios stated. “It basically hits the reset button once again and we find ourselves with yet another new coaching staff.”

Jesse Marsch, who was hired in January to succeed Petke, is the 14th head coach since the team began play in 1996.


About the Empire Supporters Club

The Empire Supporters Club (“ESC”) is the oldest supporters club in Major League Soccer, founded before the league itself in early 1995 in anticipation of a new professional franchise in New York/New Jersey. Reflecting the community they come from, the ESC is one of the most diverse supporters clubs in America, boasting members from every corner of the globe and of varied backgrounds. This unique make-up has influenced their style in the stands: Part South American Barra, part European Ultra and part British Supporter, with some local flavor thrown in.


Join Us Sunday For El Clasico – WIN Tickets for Argentina v Ecuador!

carlsberg_firsttouchlogoJoin First Touch & Carlsberg on Sunday and you could go home with a pair of tickets for the upcoming Friendly international at Met Life Stadium on March 31st. 

Come to Twist & Smash’d in Queens or Quinns in Manhattan and enjoy discount pints and other great give-aways.

Sun March 22nd: EL CLASICO Barcelona v Real Madrid 4pm

Quinns 356 W44th St. NYC
Twist & Smash’d  34-02 Steinway St. Queens

If there’s a goal scored in your ‘lucky minute’ – you WIN!



NYCFC Back On The Road At Colorado Tomorrow

photo. nycfc.com

photo. nycfc.com

By Michael Schwartz

After a triumphant win in their home opener, Jason Kreis is trying keep everything in perspective as the season is a marathon, not a sprint. With his side set to go on the road to take on the Colorado Rapids, Kreis reflected that while their win over New England could not have gone much better, there is still plenty of work to do.

“There’s no doubt, when you realize that I said how can you not walk away from that game and say that everything was perfect,” Kreis told First Touch Magazine.

“It was a great story, a dream come true and all that stuff. It was what it was. It was fantastic and very pleasing to walk away with a win and that we had a great crowd. But we need to focus on the fact that we need to be better. We still need to improve so I think we are very much aligned in that.”

Kreis believes his defense is allowing too many goal-scoring opportunities. The disciplined backline has been regularly tested against Orlando and New England, often through chances created on the wings. Jay Heaps’ side amassed 23 crosses against New York City on Sunday.

They will look to improve against the Rapids who are coming off goalless draw in their opening match of the season against the Philadelphia Union. Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side was fortunate to get a point after only mustering 2 shots while Philadelphia had 16.

Playing in Colorado is always a challenge due to the increased elevation, but New York City will try to overcome the altitude effects.

“Unfortunately we don’t have a chamber we can put our players in to train so we’ll just do the best that we can,” said Kreis. “We’ll go over a day early. We can train tomorrow just to give us the best view of what it’s like and we’ll just do the best that we can.”

For Jason Hernandez, it’s all about making a formidable impression on opponents when playing on the road. The former San Jose Earthquakes defender has played against Colorado in the past and therefore knows what to expect.

“Anytime you’re on the road you want to make sure first and foremost that you’re tough to play against and you’re establishing yourself in a difficult environment,” said Hernandez. “I think Colorado is a little bit of a difficult place to go to with the altitude and the large field they have. We’re looking forward to going over there and putting together a strong, professional, well-managed performance.”

In terms of injuries, Kreis revealed that goalkeeper Ryan Meara has almost fully recovered from his torn meniscus. Meara, who took part in the training session on Thursday, should be considered ready to play “in another week or so” according to Kreis.

The NYCFC head coach also indicated that players who perform well off the bench will be considered for more appearances. For players like Khiry Shelton and Patrick Mullins, potential starting appearances seem more likely if they continue to succeed when called upon.

“From my point of view, players that come off the bench and perform well should be considered for more and more opportunities,” Kreis said to SBI Soccer. “We have a lot of players actually that are considered every single week and will continue to be summoned.”

Unlike other teams on the road that tend to stay back, New York City will likely attempt to gain control of the match and create numerous chances against Colorado.

Predicted Starting XI:

Josh Saunders
Josh Williams – Jason Hernandez – Chris Wingert – Jeb Brovsky
Sebastian Velasquez – Andrew Jacobsen – Mix Diskerud – Ned Grabavoy
Patrick Mullins – David Villa

The Naked Emperor

hart_messiBy Bill Thomas

Well now it’s getting interesting…

As far as the Premier League goes, are we seeing the first chink in its armour, the first signs that all is not well in the kingdom? For we approach the end of the Round of 16 in the two European competitions and, with only Everton still to play, defending a slender 2-1 lead as they go to Dynamo Kiev, they are England’s only representatives after a catastrophic campaign.

Of course, it may all be just coincidence. A combination of ill fortune, bad draws and the rest might have conspired to see off Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City. Perhaps. Or it might just be that the Emperor, if not completely without clothes, is at best down to his undergarments.

The evidence of one season is not conclusive of course, but on the back of a string of relatively poor seasons on continental turf, it is beginning to look like a trend. Over the last seven seasons, since that high watermark when Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow in 2008, only one English club has won the trophy, Chelsea beating Bayern in Munich in 2012 after a campaign in which they must have used up all of England’s luck for years to come. Manchester United made the final twice in those years – 2009 and 2011 – only to be battered by Barcelona on both occasions.

In the UEFA Cup / Europa League, arguably an even tougher competition to win, the tale of woe is worse still. Since Liverpool carried off the cup in 2001, only Chelsea have won it – in 2013 after dropping out of the Champions League first – with just Fulham and Middlesbrough reaching the final in those 14 years. It’s a grisly story.

It may be about to get a whole lot worse for some of the clubs too for England’s misadventures in the Champions League might just produce something unthinkable – three qualifying places instead of four. Just let that sink in for a second and then think about what it means for Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. Two of them won’t qualify for the Champions League and will end up in the Europa League, which they might have to start taking seriously.

And what does it mean for Tottenham, Everton, Southampton or any other club with ambitions to get the passports out occasionally? Basically, forget it lads. You’re going nowhere unless you win the League Cup.

The supporters will spend their time worrying over the absence of chances of a bit of glory. The bean counters will have other concerns, especially in these days of Financial Fair Play. That Champions League money was what really reinforced the gap between us and them, whichever side of the fence you fall. If there’s less of it swilling around the English game, something terrible might happen – the playing field might just level up a bit.

A reduction in European places for English club might turn out to be just the shot in the arm that the domestic game needs. Italian football suffered similarly and, while Juventus have reigned supreme at the top for three years, with a fourth title in the offing, Serie A in general is offering up some of the most exciting, competitive football in Europe at present.

The fact that the likes of the two Milan giants have no longer had a guaranteed pot of money to squander has actually enhanced the competition and from a league that used to be characterised as sterile and frightened of its own shadow, games in Serie A have blossomed into genuine contests, even when Juventus are involved.

It is possible that, without the vast riches on offer in the Champions League, the Premier League might become a slightly more open competition too, enjoying something of a rebirth, at least on a game by game basis.

Rather than a threat, a reduction to three Champions League places might just be an idea to be embraced. It might even focus teams on actually trying to do well in the competition once they got into it rather than treating mere qualification as prize enough…

Treble Play


Celtic’s Kris Commons celebrates his goal with Leigh Griffiths during the QTS Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

By Brian P. Dunleavy

Celtic manager Ronny Deila started setting his sights on the domestic treble in the fall after his side won rounds in the early stages of both of Scotland’s Cup competitions.

His team captain, it seems, had other ambitions.

Hoops skipper Scott Brown made the back pages of the tabloids last week after he was photographed slumped down on an Edinburgh sidewalk, reportedly drunk following a strip club crawl through the capitol. It was the last kind of publicity Deila wanted just days after a sloppy performance against Dundee United in a Scottish Cup quarterfinal and three days before they were slated to face the same side in the League Cup final at Hampden.

Now, that the Bhoys have won the League Cup (2-0 in the final), and defeated United 4-0 again in the Scottish Cup quarterfinal replay on Wednesday, though, all eyes in Paradise are smiling. Celtic Assistant Manager Jon Collins told the press earlier this week, with a grin mind you, that Deila had spoken to Brown about his, er, leisure-time activities, and that the tabloid incident was “in the past.” Several of Brown’s teammates (including injured right back Adam Matthews), meanwhile, were seen imitating Brown’s back-page pose during the post-League Cup final celebrations.

With the Hoops now winners of one domestic trophy, in the semifinals of the Scottish Cup and firmly entrenched atop the Premiership, Deila and others can laugh off Brown’s antics. But you have to wonder how all of this would have played out with the manager—and the supporters—had Celtic lost either one of the cup matches, or both, and Brown had played poorly. Deila may be relatively young for the Celtic hot seat, but he put his stamp on the team early in his tenure by benching reigning Scotland Player of the Year Kris Commons in key Champions’ League qualifiers.

Would he have benched Brown or stripped him of the captaincy in the wake of cup defeats? We’ll never know…

Speaking of unknowns, Stuart McCall faces a number of them as he takes the helm at Rangers. McCall last called Ibrox home, as a player, in the 1990s, during decidedly headier times at the club. Rangers are still a big club, with a passionate support, but questions remain about the immediate and long-term future. Will they win promotion to the Prem after this season? If so, what will McCall’s remit be? Is a top-two finish expected? Is it realistic? With that in mind, what exactly will the transfer budget be during the summer window?

There will be answers to these questions, at least, later this spring.

How the SPFL plans to handle fixture scheduling this spring, though, poses a problem. Either Falkirk or Hibernian will advance to the Scottish Cup Final, but both clubs could also be involved in the Championship promotion playoff final—perhaps against Rangers—with the Scottish Cup final set to be played between the two-legged playoff. The Scottish Herald reports that several players at both clubs could effectively be out of contract for their last match as the second tie of the playoff likely to be scheduled after June 1.

How league chiefs will handle this potential conundrum is unknown. But, then again, that’s a theme in Scottish football these days.