Featured post

Gareth McAuley interview – Northern Ireland & WBA

mcauleyBy Bill Thomas

Another international break is almost upon us and for Northern Ireland, history beckons as they stand on the brink of a first ever qualification for the European Championships.

With 17 points from eight games, they head their group but they remain well aware that if they don’t take three points from their last two, they might yet end up in third and a play-off spot instead. That would be a travesty of justice after a brilliant campaign that recalls the halcyon qualification days of the 1980s with Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl, Martin O’Neill, Gerry Armstrong and Sammy McIlroy.

Central defender Gareth McAuley has been a key figure for the Northern Irish side at both ends of the pitch and he is well aware of just how important the next two weeks are for the country.

“The Euro campaign that we’ve had so far has been beyond expectations but in saying that, in the World Cup qualifiers for 2014, we weren’t getting results but the performances were still pretty decent. We lacked goals but this time around, big Kyle Lafferty has come up with seven in eight so far and that is a massive change for us, a big boost for the team.

“If we can get over the line now and get this done in these next couple of games, then that will make all the lows over the years worthwhile. And there’s been a few of those! Saying that, there have been some great highs too and it’s always special to be able to go and represent your country.

“But to actually achieve something with Northern Ireland, to qualify for a major championships, that would really be worth all the effort over the last 12 years or whatever it is I’ve been involved in playing for the country”.

Gareth has helped out in the goalscoring stakes too, his three goals making him the group’s second top scorer behind Lafferty. It’s brought his Northern Irish total to seven – George Best is only a couple ahead of that…

“It was nice to get on the scoresheet in the last round of games, and with Northern Ireland, I often get on the end of the ball from Chris Brunt. It’s been five goals in the last 11 games at international level which is great, but I wish somebody could tell me why so that we could start doing it at club level too!

“It’s important to chip in because although big Laff is doing so well, you can’t rely on him all the time, we need to share the goals out, especially at set pieces. I’ve been lucky enough that a few things have fallen for me at the right times and I’ve managed to put them away. It’s nice scoring goals but they only matter if it counts towards getting a point or three points, because that means I’ll have done my job at the other end as well”.

There’s been a lot of debate about the wisdom or otherwise of extending the European Championships to 24 teams this summer, but the granting of additional places has led to a qualification round more absorbing, and more surprising, than for many a year with more teams setting off on the process with genuine hope in their hearts.

“Having a chance to qualify from finishing third gave teams who generally get seeded lower a bit of hope I think. We were in Pot 5 in the draw but for the first time in a while, we also got a bit of luck with the draw and that’s no disrespect to anybody in our group at all.

“Looking at the teams we had to play though, they are very good teams but there wasn’t a Germany or a Spain, Italy, France, England which we’ve tended to get in the past, nobody where you thought, “They’re going to give us a doing!” So when we very first looked at the draw, especially with third place getting in the play-offs, we thought from the start that we had half a chance there.

“We went to Hungary and won the first game out there and that gave us a lot of confidence right from the start and so the next group of games against the Faroes and away to Greece, that was massive for us.  To win those two and have maximum points from the first three games, that set us on our way and from there, we’ve just managed to keep it going.

“Those games gave us a massive buzz and you can tell the difference because there had been a little bit of a lull when people weren’t bombarding me for tickets, but everybody has come out in force again now! It’s just a pity that Windsor Park isn’t at capacity just now but hopefully they will be able to get a few more seats in for next month because the atmosphere there really does make a big, big difference to us. The crowd is great for those big games and it creates a real sense of togetherness, which is important to us”.

In such small groups with so few games, there’s very little chance to recover from any mistakes and in the last game, against Hungary in Belfast, it looked as if things might be going against them as they found themselves a goal down going into injury time. But you must always play to the final whistle…

“It was slipping away a little but big Laff turned up to score again in injury time and got us a draw and that has made such a difference to everything going into the last two games. Psychologically, it’s great to still be top of the group with Romania drawing with Greece as well in the last games.

“It was such a lift for us to come off the pitch having rescued a point. The reaction of the Hungarian players, a lot of them were on the ground at the end of the game, they were devastated. Hopefully that has taken the wind out of their sails and take a bit of belief away from them, and that is always good to see in the opposition.

“Laff has done brilliantly for us, especially when you think he hasn’t played at all this season and the gaffer said that he was going to take him off towards the end, but with Chris Baird getting sent off, he stayed on and he did the job for us in the end. We had a right go at it in the last 10 or 15 minutes and we got our rewards for it”.

One win to go. The pressure – and the rewards – are immense.

“Getting to the Euros would be the crowning achievement, there’s no doubt about that. The desire to do that is very strong. It’s within touching distance now and if for any reason we didn’t make it, I think I’d be in a pretty dark place for a while!

“The positive thing is that it’s in our hands, we know what we need to do, one win at home to Greece or away to Finland secures qualification. But when you’ve been at the top of the group from day one, it would be nice to finish up there as well. That would be a massive achievement in itself and that would give us a lot of confidence going to the tournament.

“Getting there is the key, it would mean so much to so many people, we would probably take half the country to France! It would be something to experience, it would be amazing”.

Jason Kreis Committed To Staying With NYCFC After Inaugural Season

new_york_city_md01246827By Michael Schwartz

It’s fair to say that it has probably been a trying year for Coach Jason Kreis as he’s undertaken a tremendous challenge in taking an expansion team forward from the very beginning. Yet despite all the struggles, Kreis is determined to progress forward managing New York City Football Club.

When asked about Red Bulls commentator and Cosmos legend Shep Messing’s claim that he was interested in traveling west to manage the Seattle Sounders, Kreis scoffed at the speculation and reaffirmed his commitment to the NYCFC cause.

“I was watching the game last night and it caught me completely me by surprise,” said Kreis in response to Messing’s information on his future. “I thought that was absolutely a ludicrous statement and unfounded. I have no knowledge of that information at all and I kind of scratch my head because at the end of the day, I’m very happy here and I think that this is a tremendous challenge we’ve embarked on and I’m not ready to leave it. So if it’s up to me and maybe it won’t be but if it’s up to me I’m going to stay here and fight.”

The NYCFC coach talked about the massive undertaking it has been to put together a team from scratch in a short amount of time. While he’s extremely disappointed with the latest defeat which has all but ended their playoff hopes, he is excited about what has been created over the past year especially with the fan culture.

Kreis was particularly impressed with the supporters’ devotion with NYCFC which he is desperate for his team to reward in the last 2 matches. “In particular we owe it to our fans,” said Kreis when talking aobut the importance of ending the season strongly. “If I’m honest I would say that our fans have been better than our team this year and we owe them some matchups to their performance. I would really like to finish with two strong performances and two wins.”

With over 20,000 season tickets sold, NYCFC has done an unbelievable job of energizing interest in soccer within the Tri-State area. When asked about what NYCFC has had on generating interest in soccer throughout the state of New York, Kreis indicated that while he’s an outsider, he can see how hugely popular the team is.

“I think that’s a question I can’t really answer because I’m new here,” Kreis said. “I don’t know what the soccer culture was like but from what I have heard and read the soccer culture here has been huge for a hundred years or more. It’s just this area has lacked a top flight professional team as far as since MLS has been here in the five boroughs. So I think that’s a part of the mystique and the allure of coming to a place like this because you know that the soccer history is so deep and to be able to provide an outlet for all those people to come and see a game is something special and good to be a part of.”

On NYCFC’s immediate future, Kreis feels the team is more than capable of ending the season strongly for the sake of pride as he feels the pieces have come together. He is impressed by the effort shown of late which could have a positive impact for the long offseason ahead.

“We’re holding onto hope right now,” Kreis said on NYCFC’s faint playoff chances. “After the result last night there is still a chance and as long as there is still a chance we’ll act accordingly. We’ll do everything we can but I honestly think that either way, I’ll coach the last two games in the same manner. We feel really good over what’s happened with this group over the last month winning three of our last four and we do everything we can to finish this season on a very positive note.”

In terms of the health report, Kreis indicated that center back Shay Facey is progressing and is looking more likely to play the next match against Orlando than Andoni Iraola who suffered a setback in training.

One player that has developed well under Kreis along with Facey is Angelino who is happy with NYCFC but hasn’t spoken with anyone yet about staying next season. While the young Spaniard is just focused on the present where he talked about how he appreciates playing with European legends, he knows he needs to continue improving especially on defense.

“I think defending is one of my specialties that I need to improve at if I want to make it,” Angelino said. “I want to make it here but I still need to improve a lot with my defending.”

Angelino believes MLS is a very competitive league with strong standards that the feels more people will come to realize. “I think the standards are very high,” Angelino said. “People I think don’t really realize how good the league is but I’m sure they will see in a few years that the level is as high.”

Angelino also believes that on a mentally strong team like NYCFC, the playing style is similar to what he’s used to at Manchester City’s youth academy. “I think we are almost trying to play the same way,” Angelino said when comparing NYCFC with MCFC youth squads. “I think over the last few months we’ve started to do some different trainings to help us play better in games.”

With no match this weekend, the focus is on the crucial playoff match between the US and Mexican national teams. Kreis feels the attention surrounding the match and the pressure on Klinsmann’s team to deliver is “incredible.”

Kreis, who respects Klinsmann for his experience and knowledge, feels that the notion that he should be fired if they the US loses is “reactionary.” That being said, Kreis is ecstatic just to see the high level of care and interest in the status of US soccer.

NY Cosmos Win Big In Atlanta

cosmos_atlantaThe New York Cosmos turned in a complete performance in their 3-0 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverbacks Park Wednesday Night. Sebastian Guenzatti, Gastón Cellerino and Leo Fernandes struck for the visitors, and goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer recorded his 10th clean sheet of the season.

“It was one hundred and fifty percent effort,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “The guys worked very hard today. They played with heart. They wanted to win. They played together and the result was a reflection of the hard work of everyone. We have to maintain this mentality, this effort.”

The Cosmos moved into sole possession of third place in the league’s Fall Season Standings, leapfrogging idle Minnesota United FC, while moving within one point of Ottawa Fury FC in the Combined Standings. Only three games remain in the regular season.

This was the second match of a home-and-home between New York and Atlanta. The sides played to a 1-1 draw at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium Sunday. The Cosmos (7-6-4) grinded out Wednesday’s critical win without Spanish superstars Raúl and Marcos Senna.

First Guenzatti made the Silverbacks (6-6-5) pay for their high pressure with a penetrating run toward the goal, cutting inside of an Atlanta defender 16 yards from goal before putting a low shot back inside the near post in the 29th minute.

“We said before the game we couldn’t lose,” Guenzatti said. “We want to finish on top and I think the attitude from the team, from the first minute, we gave everything. That’s why we came up with a big win.”

Cellerino scored his first goal in a Cosmos uniform in the 54th minute to give the Cosmos a 2-0 lead. The powerful Argentine forward made a strong run into space before putting a low shot on frame that Silverbacks goalkeeper Stewart Ceus dove to his left to push away at the six-yard box.

Cellerino, though, would not be denied and pulled around an Atlanta defender before putting his own rebound inside the far post.

“When a striker scores goals, it gives him more confidence. It’s a very positive thing for a striker because it motivates him to keep on working,” Savarese said. “We’re very pleased with the work he does day after day. He was rewarded tonight with a goal.”

With the game still very much in the balance, Maurer came up with a spectacular double save in the 68th minute to keep the hosts off the scoreboard.

“That was amazing,” Guenzatti said. “I haven’t seen one of those in a long time. We celebrated like it was a goal. Jimmy is like a cat.”

Fernandes put the finishing touches on the victory, settling the ball before blasting a shot from 16 yards out into the net two minutes from full time to give the Cosmos a 3-0 lead. It was his eighth goal of the season.

“We were more aggressive in the final third, we were more decisive, as you could see we tried to shoot a lot more from further out, we made better runs,” Savarese said. “It was very positive.”

In their third game in eight days, the Cosmos host FC Edmonton this Sunday. It’ll be a 5 p.m. ET kickoff at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Here We Go, Managers

mattyl_webbannerBy Matty Lawrence

Managers have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past few days. Brendan Rodgers has finally been relieved of his duties at Liverpool Football Club. Jose Mourinho has seemingly been relieved of the ability to win football matches; and Dick Advocaat has been relieved of the ever-tightening noose around his neck at Sunderland AFC.

Brendan Rodgers jetted off in search of sun just a couple of days after being sacked by Liverpool FC…and who can blame him? However much Rodgers wheeled out the tired line of not feeling under pressure, the rest of the watching crowd, cried; “methinks this man doth protest too much.” I believe that not only had his position become untenable, but, also that the plug was pulled on Rodgers reign by the Fenway Sports Group far too late. As the sixth Stoke goal went in on the final day of last season, the terms of his dismissal should have been laid out and his P45 produced.

FSG dropped the ball massively in the summer of 2014 when they rewarded Rodgers with a bumper new contract, but inserted no clauses related to any future pay off. Rodgers can now enjoy a multitude of sins in the sun safe in the knowledge that he doesn’t need to throw himself into a new job until he is 100% satisfied with his multi-million pound pay off. The rumours appear to be that he shall trouser upwards of £7m (conservative estimate): the price of failure recognised favourably on the economic scale.

Whatever happens to Rodgers in his much publicised divorce proceedings with his wife and split from LFC, you can be sure that money is no object in his future managerial project. For now, he can lay back on his sun-bed with a Pina Colada and let his team of advisers take care of business.

Jurgen Klopp appears to be named as Rodgers’ successor. No official confirmation of this has come to light at the time of writing, but bookies, pundits and journalists, alike, appear to be pointing the finger at the German.

Klopp is a perfect fit: a loyal man with a successful track record at the highest level and a man totally familiar with life at the second tier of European teams. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund are incredibly similar in that respect: neither team can compete with the upper echelons of the European hierarchy; either financially, or competitively.

Both Dortmund and Liverpool, however, dream of the “old days” and have a fanatical following that borders on religious fervour. Jurgen Klopp is used to the pressure and will handle those expectations with aplomb.

Ex-Liverpool and Germany international Didi Hamann had this to say about the German,

“For a lot of fans, Klopp would be the first choice and it looks like he is coming. And I think he can create that spark, that emotion, and give people hope again, which I think has been lost in the last 12 months.

“He has a lot of love and passion for the game and this is why I think he fits the bill perfectly and why I think he will be a success.”

Jose Mourinho is currently shrouded under a cloud of failure for the first time in his astonishingly successful managerial career. Chelsea are currently languishing in 16th place in the English Premier League with only two wins all season and a traumatising 50% loss ratio. Add this to the fact that only Sunderland have conceded more league goals than Chelsea’s 17 in eight games and you have a major storm brewing at Stamford Bridge.

For the first time ever, under their guidance, Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea board have come out and publicly backed the manager. Normally, the afore-mentioned hierarchy stay quiet and allow journalists and onlookers alike to construct their own theories.

Is Mourinho’s midas touch waning?

One thing we should not overlook is the situation off the pitch. Mourinho exacerbated his problems with his discourteous and downright rude treatment of Doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Hearn. (I’m sure you all know the story, but Carneiro and Hearn clashed with Jose Mourinho after they ran on the pitch to treat Eden Hazard and subsequently left Chelsea with nine men on the pitch. Mourinho deemed this “naive.”)

I think we would be lacking in hindsight to not address the bigger picture regarding this incident. Those outside the walls of a football club may not fully appreciate the relationship between the medical staff and the playing staff.

This relationship is normally much closer, more relaxed and of a more human nature than that of player to manager. As a player you can be in the treatment room for an hour before training and an hour after training. A player will be receiving strapping’s, massages and various other requirements seen to that can aid, or prevent injuries. Heaven forbid a player is the recipient of a major injury, but they can then come under the care of the medical staff 12 hours a day, seven days a week. A player may see the manager for two hours a day, or less.

The conflict between Mourinho, the Chelsea players and the medical staff is easy to imagine. Players’ loyalties at best divided, at worst falling in favour of the medical staff. And this is even before we talk about the extra years age of the squad, the loss of form, the loss of Cech and now the loss of Courtois. Problems abound for the “special one.” Just how “special” can he prove himself to be?

And, lastly, the name Dick Advocaat falls upon our laps…a few days after he fell upon his sword. Advocaat’s success came in miraculously saving Sunderland from relegation last year. This season has proven one too many and a parting of the ways was the correct decision all round. Anybody who has glimpsed Advocaat on the touchlines in the last couple of weeks will have witnessed a broken man aging before our very eyes. Advocaat looked like Wallander in the depths of despair on his final case before having to walk away and let his disease take inevitable hold.

RIP Henning Mankell

Who can help Sunderland arise from the depths of despair? Sam Allardyce is the fans’ favourite with 75% of the vote in the recent Sunderland Echo newspaper. Money talks and big Sam would require a great wad of it. I don’t believe he will take it…too many bad memories of the North East.

Harry Redknapp would be an interesting choice, but the commute from Bournemouth (his base) to the North East of the country is geographically impossible: unless Kevin Bond picked him up in the Range at about 2am every morning. The bookies feel the job may fall into the, ever receptive, lap of Bob Bradley.

You guys will have more knowledge than me on the subject of Bradley: let us know what you think  @mattyjlawrence Twitter site.

Opportunity Knocks

esclogoTim Hall’s View From 101

When people from overseas, disparagers of American soccer, gatekeepers of football played “the right way” want to try and knock MLS fans down a rung, their go-to move is to turn up their noses and mock the organizational structure of Major League Soccer as if this was somehow the fault of the fans. They like to point out that, as things are presently constructed, we will never know the joy of an underdog toppling a giant like West Ham 2-1 Man City or Celta Vigo 4-1 Barcelona. We will never know the ecstasy and euphoria of staving off relegation or winning promotion on the last kick of the season. How horribly repressed and downtrodden we must feel.

This is the typical parochial continentalist garbage that gets spewed out, and it’s such a shame that even some Americans buy into it in an effort to seem more cosmopolitan, but, it’s all fair enough. What those same people fail to mention is that we here in the States, with all our parity and single entity system, don’t get to know the drudgery of our teams constantly getting our heads bashed in by the select few at the very top of the table. We will never know the despair and heartbreak of actually being relegated. And we all have a greater hope of actually winning the league. More teams have won MLS Cup since it was first awarded in 1996 than have won the Premier League. Lest you think that’s some sort of fluke of our wacky playoff format, the same can be said for our Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season. In fact, using that like-to-like metric, double the amount of teams have won MLS since 1996 than have won England since 1994.

How is parity amongst the teams bad in this case? Isn’t it a downer to wake up on the first morning of the season, roll out of bed, throw back the curtains and think “Maybe this is the year we finish ninth?” It’s unfair to call the, say, top six of the EPL a revolving door because that would suggest that someone leaves eventually; it’s more of a merry-go-round, or, at least, a money-go-round. Even during that one howler of a year with David Moyes in charge, Manchester United still managed to finish in seventh. Heaven forbid.

But for all the tongue clucking and head shaking our European cousins do in the direction of American shores waiting for the backwards Yanks to catch up to them, it seems that it’s the continentals who are coming around to the American way of doing things.

In the words of the great American sage and poet George Carlin: “You see, I’m an entropy fan. When I first heard of entropy in high school science, I was attracted to it immediately. When they told me that, in nature, all systems are breaking down, I thought ‘what a good thing!’”

It is a good thing. We, as a just and humane society, should not be supporting a system that makes a club like Manchester United out to be plucky underdogs overcoming great obstacles. They’re not. They’re a billion dollar club with million dollar talent who had a bad run of form for a year. Boo-hoo. Give any club in the world those kinds of troubles. Anyone who props up this myth that United are having some great resurgence should be ashamed of themselves.

But there are cracks along the seams and the edges, aren’t there? That Celta Vigo result against Barcelona perhaps being the most obvious. That’s not the Barca team the world has come to know and adore over the last decade or so. No, that Barcelona team would have blown Celta Vigo out of the water 4-0 in the first half and played keepaway the rest of the game, and the Vigo fans would have appreciated the Blaugrana’s restraint.

What of that West Ham win over the great and mighty Manchester City, the most expensive club in the world? Just a one-off fluke? A sign of the rise back to the top for the once mighty Hammers? Or perhaps a chink in the armor of the usually infallible “more money = better than” strategy of building a team? Maybe the Citizens are realizing what we in the States have known for some time: that you can’t just throw money at an issue and end up in first by divine right. Case in point, the New York Red Bulls are at or near the bottom of league payroll (the amorphous pay structure of MLS and how you count who accounting for the uncertainty) but currently sit atop the league with just weeks left in the season.

The story for the other perennial top flighters isn’t much better. Liverpool have just dismissed Brendan Rodgers for having the temerity to be tenth not eighteen months from being one Steven Gerrard slip away from the title. Chelsea, the champagne barely dry from their championship in May, now find themselves in a relegation battle at sixteenth, and now there are calls to dump only the most successful manager in club history for the second time. Arsenal have got out of the gates well, but will surely Wenger their way to fourth as ever before.

It’s not just in England either. Juventus are in twelfth two months into the campaign in Italy. Barcelona are staring up at Celta Vigo. In France, Lyon and Monaco are standing around wondering who invited all these other teams to the party.

Of course, there is so much football left to go. Months and months for the City’s and United’s of the world to make big money signings to shore up their spots and kick the Leicesters of the world back down where they belong, proletariat trash. As we settle into autumn, we know that by spring, the cream will rise to the top. Only, don’t forget that two things float to the top, and cream is only one of them.

There is solace to be had. There is joy and ecstasy and euphoria in knowing that the reign of the oligarchs on the top cannot and will not last forever, and the times of teams like Blackpool and Leeds and Nottingham Forest will come again. One day, maybe soon, but certainly coming, the television airwaves that have been dominated by coverage of a select few no longer will be, and the fans that have glommed onto the big brands names of the Big Two or Four or Six will be left to wonder when or if their day will come again. We don’t wish this on them in the name of any spite or cruelty, just for balance, for entropy, and for a bit of fair play.

In the meantime, we’ll be very happy over here in the States with a dozen teams in with a shot of being champions. As much as some would want to mock our sense of parity, at least we acknowledge it, and ours doesn’t take decades to work.

Lansdowne Bhoys Trounce Greeks

Second Division side Doxa line up ahead of their 3-1 win over FC Japan at Van Buren High School last Sunday.

Second Division side Doxa line up ahead of their 3-1 win over FC Japan at Van Buren High School last Sunday.

Twenty years of CSL coverage – with Jay Mwamba

New York Greek Americans’ early season woes continued in the CSL last Saturday. USASA Men’s Amateur champions until a few months ago, the depleted Greeks succumbed 3-0 to reigning CSL titlists Lansdowne Bhoys at Tibbetts Brook Park.

Kele Sylvester, Daryl Kavanagh and Jimmy Nealis sent the visitors reeling to a third loss in four matches.

“We’ve lost every single player who was in our starting line up in the 2014 national championship [side],” pointed out Greek coach Stavros Zomopoulos.

He mentioned 18 players including stars such as Stephen Barea, free kick specialist Adriano Gabriele, goalie Ryzard Gorski, Shaun Foster and the lethal attacking duo of Keith Detelj and Chris Megaloudis, both of whom have crossed over to Pancyprian Freedoms.

“These 18 would win any league in the USA and would be very competitive in the USL Pro division. These are not players you can replace by any means in any amateur team set up,” lamented Zomopoulos. “That group was built over three [to] four years.”

The eight-time CSL champions, however, vowed to rise again.

“We are building the next [team].  It may take longer as we do not have any money but we will get there because we are New York Greek Americans!” pledged Zomopoulos.


The Lansdowne romp lifted the Irishmen into a three-way tie for second place on the standings [2-0-1, 7] with Shamrock and Everton FC Westchester Eagles. They all trail Pancyprian by three points with a game in hand.

In the opener at Tibbetts Brook, Bhoys’ first team coach Austin Friel had two assists as his second unit held off the Greek reserves 4-3. Ryan Kerley, Declan Reilly, Mark Finn and Leondro Grant scored.


Yannick Reyering, Pancyprian’s German scoring machine, struck twice in a 3-0 trouncing of NYAC at St. John’s University to bring his four-match tally to five goals. Stefan Dimitrov was the other marksman for the league leaders.

Andrea Andreou, Christoforos Koumas and Nickolaos Mastoras connected for Pancyprian ‘B’ in a 3-1 stunner over short-handed NYAC reserves.


Promotion side Shamrock and Polonia tied 0-0 on Randalls Island, a result that snapped the former’s winning streak in the CSL top flight.

The Shamrock reserves prevailed 1-0, courtesy of Paul McDaid.


Matt Giannetti and Martin Dadaj scored for NYC Rovers and Everton FC Westchester, respectively, in a 1-1 tie at Bush Terminal Piers Park.  Bledi Bardic was Dadaj’s provider.

Rovers reserves triumphed 3-1 with goals by Yuri Krym, Micheal Mourtides and Brett Walsdorf.


Pavlo Kolonifa bagged both goals in United FC’s 2-1 decision over Manhattan Celtic at the Aviator Sports Complex. Andrew Birstingl got the Celts’ face-saver. Celtic, however, run riot in the curtain raiser, drubbing their hosts 5-1 on Jon Juchno’s hat trick and connects by Austin McCann and Sam Friedman.

Oleg Yakovlev had the United reserves’ lone response.


Doug McKim banged in four goals in two games at Van Buren High School, where Doxa FC swept FC Japan in their Division Two showdown.

He warmed up for the main event with a brace in the Doxa reserves’ 7-0 romp. Andrea Michael [two], Paul Grafas, Mateus Braga and Jose Lacayo were also on target in the curtain raiser.

In the senior fixture, McKim’s double after James Zaidan [2nd] had opened the scoring, powered the Doxa firsts to a 3-1 victory that kept them on Zum Schneider’s heels.

The Greeks [3-0-1, 10] are two points behind Zum who edged Hoboken 1-0 at Laurel Park Hill in Secaucus, New Jersey.


In the opener at Laurel Park, Sam Omosuyi [24th] and Gleb Mironecko [73rd] shot the Hoboken reserves to a 2-1 victory.  It was Mironecko’s first goal for the club.


A point behind Doxa on the table, CPR Reds [3-1, 9] pipped Beyond FC on Randalls Island, thanks to Mark Haroussea and Mack Woodruff.

Reds’ second team fell 2-0.


NYPD-Brishna also remain early contenders in the second tier after knocking off NY Ittihad 3-1 at Flushing Meadow.

Jorge Bedoya, Mujibullah Mashriqi and Pat O’Callaghan were on target for the Cops [3-1, 9]. Edris Younis hit back for Ittihad.

Idris Mashriqi and Mojibyllah Mashriqi handed the NYPD-Brishna reserves a 2-0 win.


Bronx Supreme came away from the East River Park with a point from a 2-2 tie with hosts Manhattan Kickers.

Prince Yeboah and Stephen Oduro were credited with the Ghanaians’ goals. Kyle Grato and Bryan Baracaldo tallied for Kickers.

“We pretty much dominated,” said Kickers’ Mike Fitzgerald. “They scored a goal when [goalie] Bernie [Sheary] hit an attacker in the back with a clearance and caused an own goal, basically.”

An own goal and Seamus Kelly handed the Kicker reserves a 2-1 win.


Jacek Lawniczak [two] and Pawel Marczenia starred for Stal Mielec in the Poles’ first win of the season in the second tier, a 3-0 thrashing of CD Iberia. It was 5-1 for the Iberia reserves with Karol Florczyk netting Stal’s consolation.


While the outcome might have been agony for the respective coaches, both New York Ukrainian-Sporting Westchester matches at Red Hook were undoubtedly thrillers for neutrals.

The drama started in the reserve fixture that Sporting led 3-1 on goals by Edarlin “Tamaridno” Reyes, Gabriel Munoz, and Sebastian Espinoza. To Ed Romero’s dismay, Ukrainians stormed back to tie the match 3-3. Uriah Cunha, Eduard Shidlovsky and Dimitri Jacob scored for the home side.

It was the opposite in the senior match. Ukrainians led 3-1 after 80 minutes through David AlKasimi [two] and John Andreton. But to Steve Kovalenko’s horror, Sporting came back late to salvage a point. Damone Manning [two] and Maurico Chaparro were the marksmen.

“We just didn’t play with the same urgency,” said Romero, ruing several missed chances in the second game. “We never matched [Ukrainians’] intensity.”


Add Gotham Argo to the list of FC Spring Valley’s victim’s this fall after a 5-2 mauling by the Metro Div. One leaders at Pomona Middle School. Goals by Gotham’s Donald Mitchell and Eric “Gonzo” Goncalves could not prevent Spring Valley from improving to 4-0 [12].

NanaYaw Panford and Eric “Gonzo” Goncalves had the Gotham assists.

Second place FC Gwardia [3-1] stayed three points behind Spring Valley with a 5-0 rout of their own over NYFC Iliria. Marcin Januszko [two], Mateusz Chlost, Piotr Silski and Kamil Kosmider scored.


Filip Loncar and Edgar Merlos Castaneda each scored twice as New York Croatia came from behind to beat Ridgewood Romac 4-2 on Randalls Island. First Loncar [11th] pegged back Ayhan Bekdemir’s eighth minute opener for Ridgewood. Then when Emre Tetik [21st] restored the Romac’s lead, Castenada [40th] leveled again.

Croatia were down to ten men when Loncar shot them ahead from a free kick. Castenada sealed it in the 75th minute.

Elsewhere in Metro One, Jonathan Williamson was on target in Mr. Dennehy’s 3-1 loss to Korabi at Greenbelt Recreational Center.


SC Eintracht cut rookie side Shamrock 1960’s lead atop the East to a single point after blanking Metro City Fury Athletic 4-0 at the Leif Ericson Dust Bowl Field.

Guido Moreira, Cristian Velasquez, Jason and Karma Lama scored to lift Eintracht [3-1, 9] into second place. The undefeated Rocks [3-0-1, 10] had Ciaran Moloney’s first half brace pegged back by AO Brooklyn in a 2-2 draw at St. Michael’s Playground. Justin MacPherson and Albert Karapetyan, with Bryan Vega providing an assist, were the Brooklyn scorers.


Also in Metro Two [East] Ahmed Jallow’s spectacular scissor kick nearly completed a hat trick in Gotham City’s 3-2 defeat of New York United. He scored twice leaving Greg Ducasse to head in the winner. Ghaith Humaimidi and Brandon Robinson had assists.


Brandon Silva’s “Olympic Goal” [direct from a corner] on the half hour proved a gem for Metro Two West frontrunners BW Gottschee against NYC Metrostars on Randalls Island. They won 1-0. Coach Ed Silva, Brandon’s uncle, had props for his defense saying: “They played strong on a windy day.”


Gottschee maintained their perfect record [4-0, 12] and a three-point edge over second place FC Missile, whose Jo Valentin netted both goals in a 2-1 decision over New York Galicia.


Encounters involving Williamsburg International are usually high scoring affairs and last Sunday’s Metro Two tussle with Auburndale-Flushing was no exception. Williamsburg ran off 8-3 winners at Bushwick Inlet.

Nicolas Mikolenko had the requisite hat trick, while Gerald van den Berg, Oscar Navarro-Perez, Bennett Grubbs, Mark Gallagher and Andreas Moudatsos chipped in with one apiece.

Jay O’Campo [2nd], Leo Coppola [47th] and Pablo Restrepo [65th pen.] replied for Flushing.

“All out-attack in Brooklyn between these two clubs!” summed up Charles von Rosenberg. “Credit to Flushing’s spirit…even as the scoreline started to bend in our favor, they continued to play their hearts out.”

“Tough loss,” conceded Ryan Wiedman


Elsewhere in Metro Two, Homenetmen hammered Brooklyn Bound FC 5-1 for their first win since returning to the league this season.

Walid Grayni, Arman Mkhitaryan, Alaeddine Mostefa, Tigran Nikoghosyan and Eldin, Nikovic starred for the Armenians.


Shamrock’s Over-30s celebrated the return of title-winning coach Paddy McCarry from paternity leave with a 6-2 drubbing of Nieuw Amsterdam on Randalls Island.

Another returning Paddy — veteran Paddy Geraghty who spent the last couple of seasons with Manhattan Celtic Legends – drew first blood [20th]. Tayfun Gokmen then hit an incredible hat trick in a ten-minute span to give the Rocks a 4-0 half time lead. Tomas Maher and Andy Horan completed the scoring.

“Great to be back and a fantastic win,” said Mc Carry.

The rout moved his defending CSL champions [3-0-1, 10] into first place.


Once beaten CPR Grays were rampant in a 5-1 outburst against Greek Americans that elevated them into second place behind Shamrock on the Over-30 log. Charlie Linehan, Bahha Ahmed [two] and Adil El-Mouji [two] produced the win.

In other Over-30 action, Celtic Bhoys draw 0-0 with BW Gotschee, while sister club Celtic Legends had goals from Emin Avsar and Rob Olin in a 2-all tie with Brooklyn Gunners.

Ben Elman and Neiv Amodai  brought Gunners from one down before Olin leveled.

Manhattan Kickers Over-30, meanwhile, edged Barnstonworth Rovers Old Boys 3-2 on goals by Dylan Dodd and Paul Cowler [two].


Joint leaders Cozmoz went on another rampage in the new Over-36 division, slaying Manhattan Celtic Legends 5-2 at St. Michael’s Playground to extend their hundred percent record.

There were goals and assists for three players:  Errol McFarlane [9th], Nedgy Nazon [31st pen.] and Julian “Jr. Gong” Jordan [48th]; with Sherwin Vialva [14th] and Duane Pena [40th] rounding off the scoring. Alex Rebeiz and Boris Kapelnik hit back in vain for the Celtic Legends.


Keeping pace with Cozmoz, CPR Legends demolished Doxa FC Legends 5-1 at Van Buren High School to preserve their own perfect record [4-0, 12].

Hakan Nizam set up player-coach Manohar Venkataraman for the opener that Doxa canceled out with a speculative 40-yard effort. However, strikes by Simon McKeown [two], Ugo Solinas and Rich Enticott saw off the hosts. Pete Hahn, Willlan D’Andrea and Tom Pattinson had assists.


Shamrock Legends, the newest Shamrock team, posted their first win in the Over-36, 3-2 at the expense of SC Eintracht at St. Michael’s.

Ger Shivnan [two] and Eddie Gilmartin scripted the victory. Ruairi O’Neill earned kudos for a penalty save [80th] that secured the points. Bundy Doczy and Dani Ceabuca scored for Eintracht.

Revolving Doors

rodgersBy Bill Thomas

The changing of the seasons is usually heralded by a shift in the temperature but this year, Fall has already been ushered in by the resounding thud of managerial leaves falling from the trees.

Last weekend, at different ends of the table – and of the expectation scale – both Sunderland and Liverpool dispensed with their managers in what were moves premeditated, decisions taken before their respective games and impervious to their outcomes.

For Liverpool, it is the lure and the lucre of the Champions League that matters most and, in spite of a season that has yielded just two defeats thus far, too many draws have ultimately done for Brendan Rodgers. It’s a personal tragedy for the man and a cultural tragedy for the rest of us now that “Being Liverpool 2” looks to be off the agenda.

It’s not hard to picture Brendan going back home and having a chat to the painting of himself above the mantelpiece, revealing the contents of those three envelopes before checking himself into a dental surgery for a month. A period of reflection is required for him now but I think he’ll be back and better for this reverse when he returns.

Will Liverpool prosper in his wake? Good question because they are a team that seem to be suffering from the same malady as Sunderland, a team that has been flirting with relegation for years now but which looks increasingly ready to take the plunge and get married to it this year.

For the Black Cats, such a scenario is unthinkable given that next season is the one where, just for turning up, you get presented with a large box with £100million in it. It’s for that reason that they blinked so early, but don’t think they will be the last.

With the stakes so high, there’s every prospect that this season could break all records for the number of managerial casualties because any team which looks as if it could be on the slippery slope is liable to react with blind panic and a desperate lurch towards a new manager – Tim Sherwood must be feeling especially uncomfortable right about now.

But a change of manager is no simple cure-all and Sunderland and Liverpool are two cases in particular that might just prove it because they have what are looking increasingly like systemic weaknesses at their heart. At Liverpool they call it the transfer committee, at Sunderland it’s the sporting director scenario.

Either way, it amounts to much the same. The manager is not in control of the buying and selling of players and, while in an increasingly global market, it’s understandable that more and more help needs to be given to sort the barely affordable wheat from the ruinous chaff, if the gaffer isn’t in control of the comings and goings, a club is in trouble. After all, why would a manager pick a player unwillingly foisted upon him? Admittedly Rodgers has been part of the committee at Anfield, but was he the main party? The Balotelli saga of last year suggests not.

At Sunderland, they’ve made a fetish out of buying wagonloads of poor players, poor attitudes or both. There’s been the occasional hit but far, far too many misses among it all. For years, their long suffering supporters have had some dreadful football foisted on them before a late burst gets them to safety and the dawn of fresh hope, hope normally extinguished by October.

Manager after manager has bemoaned the quality of players there, yet nothing changes. Surely, this time around, change must come from within first. And here’s how we tell. If Sam Allardyce takes the job, control has passed to the gaffer. If he doesn’t, there’s ever chance Sunderland are still going to be stuck in the revolving door…

Bayern Send A Message With Victory Over Dortmund


Pierre-Emerick Aubameayng has now scored in all of Dortmund’s first eight matches, setting a new record.

By Matthias Schmitt

Last weekend’s Bundesliga clash between Bayern Munich and Dortmund was watched in 209 countries across the world and global audiences saw an entertaining match between Germany’s top two teams and their respective chess master coaches Guardiola and Tuchel. 

On Bayern’s side, Alonso and Thiago in midfield tried to stoke the Bayern passing machine while Martinez (back after a long injury period), helped stabilize the defence. Atypical for Bayern and Guardiola’s preference for passing, Boateng played 13 long balls in the first half, one of which found Thomas Müller on a breakthrough. He superbly controlled the ball, swung around Roman Bürki and coolly finished for the Munich lead.

Guardiola’s knack for in-game coaching saw him switch Martinez and Boateng in the back, prompting questions as to why he didn’t let Boateng start in centre right to begin with. In the 36th minute a clumsy Mkhitaryan challenge in the box on Thiago resulted in a somewhat soft penalty call, and Müller converted for the 2-0 lead. But Dortmund wasn’t easily taken out and a minute later it was the quick counterattack that Aubameyang tapped in for the 2-1 to halve the lead.

The 75,000 at the Allianz Arena the witnessed another Boateng long ball, collected by Lewandowski to make it 3-1 in almost copycat version of Müller‘s opener. Tuchel explained in the post-match presser that both of those passes were excellently struck by Boateng but also poorly defended by his men.

Lewandowski struck again on the hour to make it 4-1, and Götze made it 5-1 ten minutes later. Dortmund did not play as poorly as the score might lead you to believe, but a few simple mistakes broke the bees’ back.

Bayern have equaled their best Bundesliga start with eight victories from the 2012/13 season, but despite this runaway show by Bayern, the Bundesliga does provide for plenty of entertainment value and tension, with rivalries and teams battling it our for Champions League and Europa League spots.

In Friday’s action, newcomer Darmstadt hosted Mainz and the back and forth scoring gave the fans at the Böllenfalltor plenty to cheer, albeit, in the end it was Mainz with the 3-2 victory, advancing to10th place.

Borussia Mönchengladbach seem to have found positive momentum by eking out the third victory in a row, beating domestic cup champion Wolfsburg 2-0 after Andre Schubert took over as coach from Lucien Favre. Better conversion of scoring opportunities, a  slight increase in pressing, some minor adjustments on positions, some motivational quips and all of a sudden they are up to 13th.

The Foals did lose to Man City in the Champions League thanks to a dubious penalty call against USMNT Fabian Johnson, but Gladbach are on a good path. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, have not won in three matches with the emission cheating scandal of their biggest sponsor Volkswagen polluting the air somewhat.

Newcomer Ingolstadt collected their first victory at home against Frankfurt with a 2-0 victory. Ingolstadt are, surprisingly to all, on a Europa League spot in sixth place.

Hertha Berlin beat Hamburg convincingly at home 3-0 and Swabian neighbors Hoffenheim and Stuttgart shared the points in a just 2-2 draw.

Schalke failed to win for a club record seventh match in a row, losing 3-0 to neighbors Cologne.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno had one of his annual goalkeeper gaffes – completely missing the ball on an easy back pass against Augsburg – but Karim Bellarabi helped out and leveled the score just before halftime against the visitors. Final score 1-1.

Quote of the Week: “The champagne will remain firmly packed away – Our motto is: Keep calm and carry on!”

Karl Heinz Rummenigge, FC Bayern Munich CEO

Player of the week: Robert Lewandowski has scored 12 goals over 8 matches and is on track to break Gerd Müller’s 40 goal record for the ages from 1972.

Stat of the week: 946 Kilometers. Mainz’ team effort in distance covered during the first eight matches.  Mainz is currently in 8th place.

Aussie Rules


Tom Rogic (left) celebrates scoring against Dundee

By Brian P. Dunleavy

What’s in a name?

Apparently a fair bit for Celtic’s Tom Rogic.

The Australian midfielder has finally begun to show some of the form promised upon his arrival in Glasgow three years ago after missing most of the past 18 months or so due to injury. His improved play has also apparently given him the courage to correct club officials and media pundits alike on the pronunciation of his last name.

After going with “\Rojik\” (as in “row-jick”) his first two-plus seasons in Glasgow, the young attacking midfielder has declared his preference for “\Rogich\” (think: “rogue-itch”).

Confusing, yes, but no matter how you pronounce it, Rogic’s resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time for club or country. After leg injuries limited him to only 15 appearances for Celtic during his first two seasons at the club (and only eight appearances while on loan to Melbourne Victory in 2013-14), Rogic has already made 11 appearances for the Hoops this season in all competitions, scoring his first three goals for the club as well.

In short, he has been arguably one of the few bright spots for the Bhoys this season under manager Ronny Deila. While other young midfielders within the side—Stefan Johansen, Gary Mackay-Steven, Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong—seem to have regressed under the Norwegian’s tutelage, Rogic has earned playing time and, relatively speaking at least, blossomed.

He has played well in advanced role, behind the striker in Deila’s 4-2-3-1 formation, as well as in a holding role alongside Celtic captain Scott Brown. When viewed within the prism of the club’s “buy low, sell high” philosophy, Rogic has become one of the Hoops’ most important assets. The Australian national team has taken notice, calling the midfielder into the side for its match this week in Jordan.

It may be a while yet before Peter Lawwell et al can package Rogic up for a English Premier League bidding war—after all, three goals in 11 games in Scotland doesn’t make him the next coming of Ki Sung-yueng—but his development has been a positive sign in a season with, so far, precious few of them.

Deila’s frustration was made plain in his post-match comments on Sunday, following Celtic’s lackluster 2-1 win at Hamilton, when he criticized a television reporter for focusing on his side’s defensive errors on the Accies’ goal, rather than on the two goals scored. But if Deila is frustrated, imagine how the supporters feel. A 2-1 win at New Douglas Park is fine and all, but the Hoops are supposed to win these games and not waste energy blaming their poor performance on a poor “plastic” pitch. As the season nears its one-third mark, the Bhoys remain one point behind a fading Aberdeen, well within striking distance yes, but not good enough by any means.

Indeed, Liverpool’s firing of Brendan Rodgers has to give the Norwegian pause, not just because the Irishman immediately moves to the head of the shortlist to assume the Parkhead hot seat, but because it shows that most clubs concerned about maintaining an engaged supporter base can’t accept mediocrity for too long.

In other words, Rogic’s rebound must prove to be the rule—rather than the exception—and soon.


Follow Brian on Twitter: @bpdunleavy.

Cosmos Held To Draw By Atlanta

Cosmos-vs-Atlanta0525The New York Cosmos fell behind but rallied to equalize on an own goal, finishing with a 1-1 draw against the Atlanta Silverbacks in a North American Soccer League Fall Season match at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium Sunday afternoon.

The Cosmos (6-6-4) moved into sole possession of third place in the Fall Season Standings and remain third in the Overall Standings, four behind first-place Ottawa.

“I think today we found space, moved the ball well and we were able to create chances,” said Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese. “We just need to be a little more aggressive. We need to get in at the near post and do a little more. We need to be able to predict things in the box to get those chances. But I thought overall, it was a very good performance.”

The Silverbacks (6-5-5), who were outshot 15-3, went in front on their first shot of the game in the 38th minute. Junior Burgos played a free kick deep into the box where Michal Mravec leapt up and headed in off Jimmy Maurer’s hand from nine yards out.

“We know now teams are going to come and look for a set piece, while defending the entire match,” Savarese said. “But I thought today we were much better than we’ve been. We created chances. It was very positive today.”

“I think now they are realizing that’s the way to play against us because that’s how they’re getting results,” Cosmos midfielder Andrés Flores added. “But we have to keep improving what we have done during the year. We’ve played good games. They’ve just found the goals we haven’t.”

The Cosmos rallied to level in the 70th minute on an Atlanta own goal, as Ayoze’s deep and low corner deflected in off defender Simon Mensing. It came five minutes after another Ayoze corner went through a maze of players before Atlanta goalkeeper Steward Ceus got a piece.

Ayoze troubled Ceus with a stoppage time free kick that the goalkeeper was able to punch away. Second-half substitute Gastón Cellerino pounced on the rebound and put a back heel over the crossbar.

The Cosmos attacked from the opening kickoff and nearly scored the game’s first goal in the second minute, but Ceus dove to his left to get a hand on a low Raúl shot from 14 yards out.

In the 15th minute, Leo Fernandes latched onto a Flores cross and stared at an open net after Ceus was out of position. But Fernandes put his header off the crossbar.

Five minutes later, Flores nearly caught Ceus leaning the wrong way, but the Haitian goalkeeper recovered in time to make a diving stop for one of his four first-half saves.

“Right now it’s tough, but there’s a lot of positives,” Cosmos forward Lucky Mkosana said. “Sometimes that’s just the game of football. We have to continue being positive and working hard. The goals are going to come.”

Raúl, who was replaced by Ruben Bover in the 53rd minute, left the match after rolling his right ankle.

“He’s hurting. When he steps and makes a movement, he feels pain there,” Savarese said of the Spanish legend. “That’s why he couldn’t continue in the game. We’ll have to analyze tomorrow exactly what he has, but it doesn’t seem to be something very serious.”

New York and Atlanta will meet again this Wednesday night at Silverbacks Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Arsenal FC – Answers

1 – Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal from which side?


2 – Where is Arsenal’s training ground?

London Colney, Hertfordshire

3 – Which legendary manager won two League titles and the FA Cup between 1925 and 1934?

Herbert Champman

4 – Who was voted player of the year in 2007, 2008 and 2010?

Cesc Fabregas

5 – How many FA Cups did Patrick Viera win with Arsenal?


Late DC United Winner Sticks A Fork In NYCFC’s Playoff Hopes


Photo by NYCFC.com

By Michael Schwartz

New York City’s playoff hopes are all but dead after Alvaro Saborio scored a stoppage-time winner to give DC United a 2-1 victory. It was a disappointing end to match that started off brightly after Frank Lampard scored in the very first minute.  

Adverse weather conditions hampered the match as the rain-soaked pitch affected the action at times.  Chris Wingert returned from suspension, Jefferson Mena replaced the injured Shay Facey, and Tommy McNamara made the bench after being absent for a number of matches.

New York City immediately took advantage of a slack start by DC United with a cross from the right side that found David Villa open in the box. The Spaniard’s shot was parried away by Bill Hamid but Lampard picked up the rebound right behind Villa and lifted the ball over the DCU keeper for a swift goal. It was an incredibly fast start for NYCFC as they scored their fastest ever goal.

NYCFC has struggled to score early goals all season so Lampard’s opportunistic strike was quite a start as DCU was completely caught out napping. Following the goal, DC United was the aggressor as they had more possession and pressure on the opposing backline.

Neither side though created many opportunities as they looked to gain a foothold on the action. Josh Saunders was first called on in the 11th minute to parry away a low cross away from the left side.

DCU was trying to create something from using the wings but were unsuccessful at really testing Saunders. NYCFC played with a high backline and looked to play off the counter as DCU held onto the ball more. Jason Kreis’ side looked especially dangerous off the counter along the left side throughout the first half.

In the 25th minute, Andrea Pirlo produced a perfect curling ball off a free kick to an open Andrew Jacobson on the left side of the box. The midfielder’s acrobatic header knocked off the right post but he was called offside.

NYCFC continued to play well off the ball by restricting the number of opportunities for DCU despite their increased possession. For most of the first half, their most noteworthy opportunity was a Chris Pontius free kick from the left side in the 33rd minute that sailed over the bar.

NYCFC defended well, as they were often able to anticipate what DCU was trying to orchestrate on offense. They stayed compact at the back during the half.

In the 41st minute, NYCFC pulled off one of their best counters of the half on the right side. The ball was centered to Mix Diskerud who laid the ball off to Villa whose curler from the left side just went over the bar.

Immediately following NYCFC’s close opportunity, Pontius nearly got a toe on a cross from the left side in front of goal but just couldn’t connect on the ball. Kreis’ side nearly doubled their lead at the end of the half when Lampard connected with Villa from inside the box. The Spaniard’s effort on the left side of the box was just pulled wide.

DCU immediately came out aggressively in the 2nd half as they applied pressure on the NYCFC backline from the right side. Their increased tempo resulted in multiple crosses that failed to find their target early on.

In the 51st minute, Fabian Espindola was offsides as he found Pontius on the other side of the box for a goal that was disallowed. DCU showed more movement and pace in their attack compared to the previous half. Defenders such as Wingert were required to head off crosses from DCU throughout the opening minutes of the 2nd half.

NYCFC seemed passive as they looked ready to expect a ton of pressure from DCU. On an Andrea Pirlo free kick in the 58th minute, the Italian’s ball was curled into the middle of the box but there were few willing to run onto it. The match slowed down after the first quarter of the 2nd half with NYCFC content to soak up pressure and pounce off the counter.

In the 64th minute, Nick De Leon had a header off a cross from the right side that just went wide left. De Leon out-jumped the flat-footed R.J. Allen as his header failed to find the back of the net. DCU looked dangerous throughout most of the half with NYCFC trying to hold onto their slim lead.

NYCFC’s playoff hopes began to fade in the 73rd minute when Pontius did well to carry the ball from the right side and produce a strong shot from outside the box. Saunders parried the ball away into the middle of the box for Espindola who was the first man on the spot to pick up the rebound and score an open goal.

DC United had been the better side in the 2nd half and their opening goal was deserved. Despite the wet conditions, Saunders may wish he didn’t push the ball away into a dangerous spot in the middle of the box. The NYCFC yelled at the referee about Espindola being offside but the goal stood.

Pontius then nearly got the go-ahead goal off a header that just went over the bar. The midfielder continued to trouble NYCFC with a powerful long distance strike that forced a Saunders save on the right side.

NYCFC seemed unable to do well in the final third off counters to test Hamid when they desperately needed the win. Both Kwadwo Poku and Khiry Shelton were brought on to find a late winner but to no avail.

NYCFC continued to look for a winner late on as a Pirlo corner in the 85th minute found Villa in front of goal but the Spaniard slipped on the wet pitch as his shot went off target.

New York City’s best opportunity to win the match came in the 87th minute when Perry Kitchen fouled Shelton just outside the center of the box setting up Pirlo with a great opportunity on a set piece. The Italian’s effort caught Hamid going the wrong way but it disappointingly sailed far over the goal.

Saunders kept NYCFC’s faint hopes alive in the 90th minute when Espindola found Saborio in the middle of the box but the Costa Rican failed to get his shot past the NYCFC goalie. NYCFC couldn’t get anything going at the other end with DC United looking more likely to get the winner.

Deep into stoppage time, Jason Hernandez gave away a costly free kick that was taken advantage of by DCU. From the right side, the ball was lofted into the box and wasn’t cleared away by NYCFC. Saunders could do little as Saborio was quick to pounce on the opportunity to give his team a desperately-needed victory.

DC United deserved the three points as they maintained the pressure throughout the 2nd half while NYCFC just couldn’t get anything going in the final third. NYCFC battled hard but any chances of making the playoffs now seem dead with Montreal and Toronto needing 2 and 1 points respectively to knock out NYCFC.

NYCFC can be proud of going out fighting but their struggles throughout the season proved to be too much to overcome. With 2 matches left, the focus now will be on ending strongly before the offseason comes.

Not in the Zone

FTglobe_greenBy Brian P. Dunleavy

As the old saying goes, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Or, the in the case of Celtic manager Ronny Deila, they’re likely to get sacked.

Deila’s side blew a two-goal lead to Turkish giants Fenerbahce Thursday in round two of Europa League action and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Celtic Park. The Norwegian manager, in his second season at Parkhead, had only just received a vote of confidence of sorts from the club’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond two days prior to the match.

“I’m confident that in the future the best of Ronny Deila and the best of Celtic is to come,” the Irish television magnate was quoted as saying.

He may be less confident now.

It isn’t only that Desmond and Deila’s Hoops dropped two points at home in what is a difficult Europa League Group A featuring Fenerbahce, Ajax and the surprising Molde as well. It’s how they did so: The Istanbul side scored its second goal on a set piece, and defending such plays has been a bugaboo for Deila’s team all season.

The Norwegian’s zonal marking approach on free kicks may have worked with Virgil van Dijk in the center of defense, but the big Dutchman plies his trade in England now. The likes of Efe Ambrose and Dedryck Boyata continue to appear lost at sea when an opponent takes a free kick. In fairness, the extremely likable Ambrose often appears that way…

With Charlie Mulgrew once again out with injury and new signing Jozo Simunovic seemingly unable to crack the squad as either a starter or substitute, significant changes to personnel don’t seem to be in the offing.

Given that personnel is fixed then, it’s time for Deila to make tactics variable. Zonal marking on set pieces cost the Hoops against Malmo in August, knocking them out of the Champions’ League. It cost them important points at Aberdeen in domestic action earlier this season, and it cost them again in the Europa League against Ajax in round one two weeks ago.

It’s time for Deila to change, or Desmond may change his mind about Deila.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @bpdunleavy.

NYCFC Coming Together As Season Winds Down

nycfctrainingBy Michael Schwartz

It’s a cliché but sometimes the best things in life come with time and dedication. For NYCFC, that is proving to be the case though they likely wish the positive results would have come a little earlier in the season.  

“Yeah no doubt about it,” said Coach Jason Kreis when asked whether the pieces were coming together and they were playing some of their best football of the season. “As I said I think a lot of this is just down to time. I felt like right before we added all the new players we were coming to a really good point. I think everybody had a good continuity and a good idea of what were after. Then I think we added a bunch of new players and took a step backwards. But now I feel we have taken two steps forward so I feel like we are in a good spot right now at the exact right time. Let’s just hope it’s not a little bit too late.”

Like all NYCFC supporters, Kreis was hopeful that midseason additions like Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, and so on could acclimate quickly to the demands of MLS. However, the NYCFC coach admitted that patience has been needed in order to see the team start playing well consistently now. While the team may ultimately just fall short of making the playoffs, the turnaround in form at the end of the season will go a long way in showing that Kreis is capable of leading NYCFC to success.

David Villa also knows that time is ticking away despite the fact that they are playing well now. The Spanish striker feels they can only do what’s needed on their part to make the playoffs after struggling throughout the season.

“We have won the last three games,” Villa said. “But because we’ve had an irregular season, we don’t have much time, therefore, we have to win the last 3 game. We’ll focus on the first one which is DC, and hopefully we can have a good game and get the three points. We’re hoping the results from the other teams are favorable for us. This is all we can do right now.”

After an emotionally stirring victory in Vancouver, there is no doubt that the level of character and spirit is only raised when the team shows the desire to overcome adversity (in the form of a contentious penalty call) to win. While Kreis feels the level of commitment has increased since the Columbus defeat, winning on the road against a top team will also have a massive impact.

“I think the character and spirit within the group has been really good for several games now,” Kreis said. “I don’t think the Vancouver match was any sort of tipping point but I do think it was an important win for us. To recognize that this is the top team in the West when we played them and to win in their stadium is a really mentally important thing for us.”

The increased levels of work rate and confidence shown with NYCFC of late may also be due to the players developing a better idea of what’s expected on a tactical basis according to Kries. This would be another aspect needed to win that comes with time which makes sense but will still draw criticism. The reality for NYCFC is that due to the high level of expectations from having star players, their lack of immediate results and consistent struggles will be regarded as a failure to meet those lofty expectations.

Moving forward, NYCFC now has another crucial match against a DC United side that has lost five of their last six matches. They may be the most likely team NYCFC could catch for the final playoff spot due to the positive form of the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC.

A major factor that is on the minds of everyone involved in tomorrow night’s match is the adverse weather conditions as Hurricane Joaquin may hit the East Coast over the weekend. The match, which could be postponed due to rainy conditions, may be rescheduled over the international break when players such as Mix Diskerud and Andrea Pirlo could be away on national team duties.

Yet, the expectation right now is that the match will be played though hampered by rainy conditions that Kreis admits could force adjustments to the approach they make. Yet, despite partaking in the second of a three game road trip near the end of the season, Villa feels the challenge of making the playoffs is difficult no matter where they are playing.

“It’s not about mathematics, we just have to win all 3 games, and hope the other teams lose since they have more points than we do,” Villa said. “There’s not much else to think about; it doesn’t matter if the game is away or at home, we just have to win.”

Often referring to how it’s been an “irregular season” for NYCFC, Villa feels fit because he played more matches in short periods of time in Europe compared to now in America. Villa does regard MLS to be more physically demanding than the European leagues after playing on a team that he feels struggles more with defending than attacking.

Villa and the rest of the team know that they can’t control their own destiny but will do what’s needed in order to put themselves in the best possible position to make the playoffs. It’s been a frustrating inaugural season but NYCFC will be looking to end it on a high note with or without the playoffs.