More Late Heartbreak for NYCFC

NYCFC vs Portland. Photo by NYCFC.comBy Michael Schwartz

Considering all of the things that NYCFC could afford, the only thing they can’t buy right now is a goal.

New York City suffered their third defeat of the season in a tough 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Like their previous game with the Union, New York City created more attempts on goal than their opponents but couldn’t make their chances count.

New York City had 21 attempts on goals compared to Portland’s 12, but they repeatedly lacked composure and the wherewithal to produce a final pass or shot needed to score. The team showed great potential and character but not enough execution as they are continuing to go through growing pains.

After the match Jason Kreis commented on the encouraging signs he’s seeing despite the desirable results not coming yet.

“I’m actually very encouraged with the performance in the last two matches, it shows me that we are moving in the right direction,” he told First Touch.

“I think we have the necessary qualities to be a very good team in this league, but for whatever reason I feel that we are getting quite unfortunate. I have to believe over a course of the season we’ll get some luck on our side and this will all level out.”

In what was an uneventful first half, New York City created a ton of pressure on Portland’s left side but lacked a final ball to break down the opposing defense. The crosses New York City produced often were too strong as they sailed over everyone or they were taken care of by Portland’s defenders.

New York City had their moments early like when Khiry Shelton in his second consecutive start won a turnover in the 16th minute which lead to a stinging shot by Patrick Mullins which forced a save. Disaster struck in the 35th minute when Tony Taylor, who was making his starting debut up top alongside Mullins, went down with a non-contact injury and had to be stretchered off. Kreis revealed after the game that Taylor had suffered potentially serious knee ligament damage.

Despite creating more attempts and having a ton of build-up play, New York City lacked any final product. They have now scored only one first half goal in their opening seven games this season.

In the second half, New York City didn’t really start to threaten Portland until the 58th minute when Mullins had another shot saved by Portland’s keeper Adam Kwarasey. It was an encouraging performance for the young striker from New England who looked dangerous but couldn’t convert his chances.

After the game, Mullins spoke about how the team is creating scoring chances but they are failing to capitalize on them right now.

“I know I can speak for every guy in here that we’re going to keep working hard until they do fall our way,” said Mullins.

“I thought it was one of our better performances of the year. There’s two stories to every game—who won the game and how it was won. Unfortunately, I thought we did enough to win the game, but that doesn’t mean you always win.”

The game slowly moved toward the latter stages of the second half with the only highlights being some fancy footwork by Sebastian Velasquez and Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Kwadwo Poku, who came on to a big ovation in the 74th minute as a sub, had an immediate effect as he nearly set up Shelton with a great through ball in the box. Mullins also had a free header from a Jeb Brovsky cross that he failed to take advantage of.

All of New York City’s momentum went for naught in the 79th minute when Darion Asprilla’s shot deflected off Watson-Siriboe into the back of the net. It was another late goal conceded by New York City which would prove costly.

After New York City conceded a crucial late goal in their fourth match already this season, questions were raised over the team’s mentality and fitness late in matches. While goalkeeper Josh Saunders finds that the late goals are “isolated incidents” with luck not going their way, Brovsky believes the team is physically and mentally strong enough to overcome these errors.

“Physically we are a very fit team,” said Brovsky.

“The goal today we’re going to have to go and look at it again. We’ll have mental lapses throughout the season but I think today it just shot down to one bounce here or there. I think every guy was mentally into it for 90 plus minutes today.”

Poku, Shelton, and Javier Calle all had their chances afterwards but it simply wasn’t New York City’s night as they fell to Portland. Credit has to be given to Portland’s defense especially in regards to the center back duo of Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell.

Before the last two games, New York City was struggling to create chances despite all of their possession. Now they are producing a ton of attempts on goal but they lack the refinement needed in the final third. Having 21 attempts on goal but only five shots needed to be saved by Portland’s keeper shows that New York City are not producing enough quality chances.

The team seems to lack understanding in the final third and will benefit from having playmakers like Frank Lampard once they come into the team. New York City played tonight without David Villa and Mix Diskerud who suffered an ankle injury in training before the match which isn’t considered too serious according to Kreis.

Despite missing three of their best players for most of the last two games, the team can take confidence from how well they have played. According to Shelton, the depth gives New York City a strong first and second team they can put out during matches. “We have two full teams,” said Shelton. “Coach can mix it up and still get that quality he wants. We all know that we are good players. Some people have been in the league longer than others but everybody is good here. We have two complete teams.”

After the match, Kreis felt that the performances have been strong and that the results will come. That sentiment is shared by New York City’s experienced players including Jeb Brovsky who believes in what the club is doing and that the players must keep their heads up.

“I think we still have a great philosophy here at this club,” said Brovsky. “I think every guy has bought into it, which is most important. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re going to keep plugging away because the results are going to come. We know that. Anyone who’s been in this league a long time has known that—that the results will come. But the worst thing that a team right now can do is get their head down.”

Saunders believes there are encouraging signs on both sides of the field and that the team must stay positive which is difficult during a rough stretch of results. “Obviously you take positives from every game,” said Saunders. “It’s too easy to be negative. There are a lot of negative people out there. For us, we’ve got to stay positive and stay together. That over the course of the year is going to help us. I thought this was our best performance possession wise. Maybe not final third shooting wise. You take that from there and we are not giving up many goals. We’re pretty stingy.”

Despite this only being his second season, Mullins talked about how he went through a similarly tough experience with the Revolution last year. Unlike New England though, Mullins regards his new team to be different and they will have to overcome issues through their own ways.

“This isn’t the first time these things have happened [to me],” said Mullins. ‘I would like to make a strong point that this team is very different and we need to figure out solutions the NYCFC way. I think the way we’ll do that is total belief in how we are doing things and that things will start going our way.”

 

NASL – Questions

keano1 – Which ex-Luton Town goalkeeper is currently managing in the NASL?

2 – Which Cosmopolitan Soccer League club did Cosmos manager Gio Savarese spend two spells with as a player?

3 – Who are the current NASL champions?

4 – Which NASL team did Rodney Marsh play for from 1976-79?

5 – Which Brazilian ex-player is an owner at Fort Lauderdale Strikers?

 

ANSWERS

NASL – Answers

keano1 – Which ex-Luton Town goalkeeper is currently managing in the NASL?

Jurgen Sommer (Indie 11)

2 – Which Cosmopolitan Soccer League club did Cosmos manager Gio Savarese spend two spells with as a player?

NY Greek Americans

3 – Who are the current NASL champions?

San Antonio Scorpions

4 – Which NASL team did Rodney Marsh play for from 1976-79?

Tampa Bay Rowdies

5 – Which Brazilian ex-player is an owner at Fort Lauderdale Strikers?

Ronaldo

NYCFC Let Potential Win Slip Away

Khiry Shelton. Photo by NYCFC.com

Khiry Shelton. Photo by NYCFC.com

By Michael Schwartz

After allowing a stoppage-time winner in Philadelphia, New York City put on an improved performance during their rematch with the Union in the Bronx. Yet, despite outplaying their opponents for large portions of the match, New York City once again conceded another late goal which resulted in a 1-1 draw.

It was a peculiar night for New York City as they were missing Mix Diskerud after he helped the US Men’s National Team beat Mexico on Wednesday, and Coach Jason Kreis who was ill. Yet, New York City played with increased tempo as they were able to get the ball up the field quickly and create more chances than in previous matches.

When asked if he missed having Coach Kreis on the sidelines, Kwadwo Poku, who came on as a second half substitute, admitted that it didn’t affect him too much. “Not really,” said Poku. “It’s here and there traveling back and forth. It’s really not an easy task working hard day in and day out. We just wish he’ll get back to us.”

Despite Kreis’ absence, the team looked more incisive passing the ball forward which led to a high number of shots which was surprising considering that they were missing Diskerud. Andrew Jacobson, who played well in midfield with the likes of Mehdi Ballouchy and Kwadwo Poku, revealed that the team had enough depth to cope with it.

“Yeah obviously you’re going to miss something when you miss Mix,” said Jacobson. “He’s a great player. You know he brings a lot to the team. But everyone brings something in their own way. When he’s out the next guy’s in and they add what they add and that’s kind of the dynamic that we have as every player adds their piece to the puzzle.”

Early on in the first half, New York City started off slowly and didn’t create many opportunities. It was an even match but the Union had better chances early on. New York City meanwhile were getting their attempts blocked in the final third as David Villa was constantly surrounded by defenders. While Villa was drifting back at times to get more involved, the ball was not getting to him quick enough in the final third.

Yet, New York City were able to able to keep Philadelphia from scoring partially due to the impressive performance by Javier Calle who was making his debut as a left back. While it was strange to see Jeb Brovsky on the bench considering he wasn’t injured, playing Calle at the back may have been done in order for the Colombian to get his confidence up by making positive defensive contributions.

Calle made a series of defensive stops and then was able to get forward in order to provide much needed width to New York City’s attack. After the game, Josh Saunders praised Calle’s performance after the South American had struggled to make a meaningful impact in earlier appearances.

“I thought he was excellent,” said Saunders. “I thought he gave us a very dynamic option going forward. He completed a lot of good passes and made some efficient passes that broke pressure. I thought he played very well.”

Later on in the first half, New York City came more alive on attack especially with Khiry Shelton who was making his starting debut on the wing. The speedy attacker caused havoc as he was able to outrun Philadelphia’s goalie John McCarthy and nearly set up Villa with an open goal.

New York City racked up seven shots in the second part of the first half and none were better than the shot Ballouchy wasted. After Adam Nemec won the ball over on the right, he passed it quickly forward to Villa who set up Ballouchy with a slick backheel pass. However, after Ballouchy hit the shot way over the bar, it made one wonder if that opportunity would have been taken care of if Diskerud was out there.

In all, New York City didn’t score but it was definitely a better first half performance as compared to previous games. Yet, while they deserved a goal, none of New York’s shots were on target which showed a lack of composure when trying to finish chances.

The second half started with two surprising substitutions as Villa was replaced by Poku and Jason Hernandez was taken off for Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Villa suffered a slight muscle pull in his hamstring which was likely related to the ongoing abductor strain he’s been dealing with. The Spaniard didn’t want to speak with media after the match.

Yet, even with Villa missing, New York City started the second half strongly with the Union on the ropes. The pressure paid off when Shelton held up the ball well outside the box and set up Ballouchy who was able to atone for his howler in the first half by producing a curler from the edge of the box that went past the keeper.

New York City kept up the momentum after the goal as they forced McCarthy into making a number of saves. The team looked much more direct getting forward which may have been due to a faster tempo and better decision-making passing the ball forward.

When asked whether it was matter of tempo or decision-making which lead to the improved overall performance, Ballouchy admitted that Kreis has been pressing the team to improve on both of those factors in training.

“He’s {Jason Kreis] been asking us to do that and I thought that if you looked at the first half we definitely did it,” said Ballouchy.

“We definitely played in their field and we pressed them. We had a bunch of chances and we played attacking soccer which is a style that we want to play.”

Ballouchy also credited Jacobson for having a large role in the team’s ability to break down the defense and create more chances than previous games.

“I thought A.J. was our best player today,” said Jacobson.
“Feet wise he’s amazing. A leader; he did everything tonight. I’m impressed that I play alongside him.”

Jacobson, who talked about the need for the team to take on a tougher mindset, felt New York City had to work hard in order to create goal-scoring opportunities.

“I think you can see in the locker room going into the game it was there,” he continued.

“And we were committed to rolling up our sleeves and there are a lot of players that want to play nice but you just roll up your sleeves and go to work. I think we did that to earn the right to play with the ball.”

Shelton was particularly important when it came to regularly troubling the opponents. It wasn’t a coincidence that the team had more chances compared to previous games especially due to  his agility on counters.

“Yeah I have pace and a lot of people know that,” said Shelton.

“I think I was able to get behind and over the time of the game they were dropping off so people were able to find me underneath and create chances form there. So I was able to stretch them a lot and I thought I did well with that.”

While he could still improve with his first touch, Shelton showed why he should become a regular starter with his strength and pace. After coming on for substitute appearances so far this season, he revealed that both the coaching staff and he himself expect that he has ability to play the full 90.

In regards to his starting debut, Shelton indicated,
“I thought I played well today. We created chances for the guys. I had chances myself that I should have put away but it will come.”

While New York City has a lot to be encouraged with after last night’s performance, there is still a feeling that two points were dropped after C.J. Sapong scored an equalizer in the 85th minute. Considering Philadelphia had 12 shots, it felt like the goal was coming especially as New York City looked like they were trying to hold out for the win.

Despite New York City’s 17 total shots, they couldn’t kill off the game. It seemed obvious as well that Kreis’ side petered out towards the end perhaps due to fatigue while trying to preserve their slim lead.

Jacobson felt that towards the end of the game, the team was exhausted and were ultimately at fault for allowing the Union to get the equalizer.

“It wasn’t like they created an unbelievable chance and scored it.” he said.

“It was kind of like a fluke of a goal that’s probably a mistake from us. It’s tough because by the 85th minute you’ve expended a lot of energy, guys have gone down injured. Sometimes you have to go and win the game but the in the last 5 minutes they punished us.”

While Josh Saunders didn’t feel the equalizer was coming as the team wasn’t under tremendous pressure, he credited Philadelphia for having the initiative to get a late goal. Poku regretted that they weren’t able to finish their earlier chances even though he felt the team was still trying to go for a second goal in the latter stages of the match.

Moving forward, New York City’s next game is at home against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. While Shelton felt that giving up a late goal at home was inexcusable, he believes the team must promptly move on.

“Yeah there is a disappointment of course,” said Shelton after the draw. “We were up one goal and we’re at home so I think letting in that goal was unacceptable and we needed to be better. But at the end of the day, we have to move on and go to the next game.”

Clarkstown Eagles Soar To Manning Cup Final

Clarkstown Eagles scorer:  ex-Toronto FC defender Emmanuel Gomez.

Clarkstown Eagles scorer: ex-Toronto FC defender Emmanuel Gomez.

By Jay Mwamba

Erstwhile Toronto FC defender Emmanuel Gomez returned to haunt another former club last Sunday after helping Clarkstown Eagles dump CSL champs Lansdowne Bhoys out of the Manning Cup 5-4 on penalties at Tibbetts Brook Park.

The result put Eagles in the final of the State competition June 7. They will meet the Pancyprian Freedoms-United FC winner.

Gomez scored in the 30th minute to cancel out Ovan Oakley’s 10th minute opener for the Bhoys that was set up by Glen Reid.

The 24 year-old Gomez, who has one cap for his native Gambia, was on Lansdowne’s books a season ago.

In the 70th minute, Stephen Roche put the Irishmen ahead again off Gareth McGlynn’s assist.  But with time winding down, skipper Bledi Bardic threw Clarkstown another lifeline with a late strike.

The upstate visitors held their nerve in the ensuing shoot-out, giving Bardic a happy sendoff as he prepares to join the Wilmington Hammerheads in the USL.

SEMI BOUND
Goals by Bohda Matsushenko and Anatoliy Taranenko fired the United FC reserves into the semi-finals of the D’Arpino Cup at the expense of Central Park Rangers ‘B.’

“We were very organized in the back [and] it was a strong performance,” Alex Zaretser said after the 2-0 win.

United face Pancyprian’s second unit in the last four to decide who battles Lansdowne ‘B’ in the final, June 7. The Yonkers Irish had a 3-0 forfeit win over OB Fenerbache in the other semi-final.

LEAGUE CUP
Holders CD Iberia from the CSL second tier secured a May 31 semi-final date with First Division Manhattan Celtic after beating New Amsterdam United 3-1 at Lincoln Park in New Jersey.

Alfonso Fernandez, Julian Escobar and Edward Sanchez Jaramillo connected for the Spaniards.  Zachary Kady got one back for the hosts.

Joe Cooper was the Celtic hero in a 1-0 decision over New York Supreme in their quarterfinal clash at Pier 40.

“Supremes gave us a great game and are very fast,” remarked Matt Kane, the Celts’ 24 year-old coach. “The difference was simply organization and discipline for 90 minutes. Great game though.”
 
NYAC PROWL
Unbeaten in the league, Reserve title holders NYAC ‘B’ moved to within two wins of the League Cup with a 4-3 penalty victory over NYC Rovers’ second unit on Travers Island.

Dav Blum and Phil Hartman — the latter after finishing off a Pete Lynch rebound – had NYAC up 2-1 when Junior Spinks won a penalty that could have sealed qualification in normal time.

Rovers’ highly impressive goalie, however, made the first of two penalty saves in regulation. The second came after the visitors had scrambled in an equalizer.

“We missed yet another ‘PK’ in the shootout, but keeper Adam Purdy bailed us out with two stops,” said NYAC boss Bill Saporito.

CPR NEXT
Standing between NYAC and a place in the League Cup final are CPR Whites’ first team who also needed penalties to squeak past Shamrock 5-4 at St. Michael’s playground.

The match was goalless after 90 minutes.

CHAMPS EXIT
Earlier at St. Michael’s Playground, Shamrock’s sizzling reserves had knocked out holders NYC Metro Stars 3-1 to advance to the Saunders Cup semis.

The Rocks stirred to life in the second half with Paul McDaid’s cheeky back heel and a long range effort by Braden Ruddy canceling out Othman Lantir’s half time lead for Metro Stars.

Metro Stars had an opportunity to draw level when John Riordan conceded a penalty, but the visitors ballooned the spot kick.

Colum McComish added an insurance goal with a low drive to the bottom corner.

Undefeated in the CSL second tier [9-0-3, 30] where they top the standings, Shamrock had blanked CPR Legends 3-0 in the Round of 16.

Metro Stars coach Edison Calle expressed disappointment at the result and claimed that his side was always going to be second best to a reinforced Shamrock team.

UKRAINIAN CHALLENGE
Shamrock’s opponents in the Saunders semis May 31 are New York Ukrainian reserves who survived a Manhattan Celtic Legends fight back at McCarren Park to prevail 4-2.

Ian Woodcock’s Legends went out fighting. They breached a two-goal deficit through Paddy Geraghty and Brad Andrews before conceding twice.

“We could not convert our chances and allowed them back into the game at the end,” rued Woodcock.

M&M
Barnstonworth Rovers Metro vs. Mola SC is the other semi-final match-up in the Saunders Cup, May 31.

Rovers blanked New Amsterdam United 3-0 on Randalls Island on goals by Jorge Español [two] and Tobechukwu Obi.

At the Verrazano Sports Complex, Stefano Ingravallo, Lucien Kanijah and Ahmed El-Ghareib connected in Mola’s 3-1 romp over Manhattan Celtic Bhoys.

“Souley Mane Diallo was our lone scorer in a close game with a late third goal that sealed our fate,” reported Bhoys’ David Seal.

STRUMPF CUP
Gwardia edged Brishna 4-3 on penalties in an all-Metro Div. Two clash at Flushing Meadow to reach the Strumpf Cup final, June 7.

The Poles’ Marcin Januszko and Gurash Paiman of Brishna exchanged goals in a 1-1 regulation time draw.

In the shoot-out, Wojciech Targonski, Mateusz Chlost, Patryk Jarosz and Przemyslaw Mazur slammed in the Gwardia penalties. Firoz Mehirdel, Mohammad Basir Mashriqi and Khalid Kamran converted for Brishna.

JOHNNY ‘MC’
Johnny McGeeney was the Lansdowne metro side’s hero with a brace in what turned out to be a 6-5 Strumpf Cup quarterfinal conquest of NYC Vllaznia.

Nihad Musovic and Albert Ruci replied for Vllaznia in the 2-2 regulation tie.

Lansdowne tackle FC Spring Valley Huerto United in the last four.

MARTH CUP
Penalties were evoked as well in the Marth Cup quarterfinal tie between Baisley United and Manhattan Kickers Premier won 3-2 by the latter on Randalls Island.

Kicker’s veteran English-born striker Joe Whiteman scored a minute from time to force spot kicks.

In a delayed Round of 16 tie, Edison Pazymino had BW Gottschee’s lone effort in a 4-1 loss to New York Dinamo.

“We dominated a good part of the game but Dinamo’s counter attack was very effective,” conceded Milton Ospina.

METRO ACTION
Shawn Dos Santos, Kenny Shirley and James Kuo tallied for Mr. Dennehy’s in their 3-2 defeat of Gotham Argo in Metro Div. One fixture on Staten Island.

Eric “Gonzo” Goncalves had a goal and an assist for Gotham. Erwin Seguia scored from a “Gonzo” cross.

SMASH & GRAB
On Randalls Island, SC Eintracht’s Artur Galstian [pen.] and Adam Morollo both struck in the last eight minutes to snatch a 2-1 decision over New York Galicia.

Mix & Co Down Mexico

501px-US_Soccer_logo.svgThe U.S. Men’s National Team defeated archrival Mexico by a score line of 2-0 behind goals from Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo in front of a sell-out crowd of 64,369. The win extended the USA’s unbeaten streak against Mexico to a record six games (3-0-3), pushed the U.S. MNT’s current unbeaten streak on home soil to 21 games (18-0-3) and marked the ninth USA victory over Mexico by that familiar score line since 2000.

Twenty-year-old Morris, a sophomore at Stanford University, put the U.S. ahead after running onto a deflected ball and finishing under a sliding goalkeeper in the 49th minute.

In the 65th minute, Juan Agudelo replaced Morris, and on a Michael Bradley assist doubled the American lead. It was Agudelo’s first appearance since he last came on as a sub in the U.S.’s game against Ukraine on March 5, 2014 and his first goal since he scored against Argentina on March 26, 2011.

The result pushed the USA’s all time record against Mexico to 18-32-14. The U.S. MNT will be in Europe next time it convenes, facing off with the world’s No. 6-ranked team, Netherlands, in Amsterdam on June 5. The match kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas and Univision Deportes Network.

The Caledonian Stadium – A House Of Horror For The Hoops

FTglobe_purpleThe Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy

Ronny Deila suffered his first domestic defeat as Celtic manager there earlier this season and, of course, the home side, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, quite famously knocked the Parkhead club out of the Scottish Cup twice (in 2000 and 2003) in its first 10 years of existence. On Saturday, Celtic came away from the Highlands with a disappointing 1-1 draw.

Though it’s unlikely the result will derail the Bhoys’ journey to the 2014-2015 Premiership title (even if you don’t buy Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes’ waving of the proverbial white flag in the Scottish press this past week), it may give ICT the confidence it will need to win Sunday’s Scottish Cup semifinal and upset Deila’s dreams of a domestic treble. The Highlands club face an uphill climb, one that will not be made any easier by the noontime kickoff for the match. ICT officials earlier this week expressed concern that the early start will make it difficult for supporters traveling down to Glasgow.

Still, stranger things have happened and Deila, who recently acknowledged he considered stepping down from the Celtic post during some dark days following poor results earlier this term, has placed a lot of emphasis on his team winning the treble.

“[The semifinal] is going to be even and we have to be really up for it,” the Norwegian told Sky Sports earlier this week. “It is going to be a tough game. [ICT] are number three in the league. Few have [won the treble] before and you see why, it is difficult.”

Winning games is indeed difficult, but holding on to the rights to your club’s identity shouldn’t be; unfortunately, the Hoops’ bitter rivals, Rangers, are proving otherwise.

The club was forced to release a statement earlier this week clarifying Newcastle United owner (and Ibrox investor) Mike Ashley’s claims that he owns the rights to ’Gers trademarks such as the “Ready” badge and mascot “Broxi Bear.” The BBC reported that Ashley’s company, Sports Direct, had been “given security over” the badge and mascot in exchange for the £5m loan he made to the club in January.

The statement, in part, read: “Rangers remain the rightful and legal owners of their trademarks… Rangers supporters can be reassured that Sports Direct fully accept that all of the rights registered in their name will be returned to the club when the loan facility is repaid.”

Said repayment may take a bit longer if a proposal made by Hibs, Hearts and Motherwell is approved by the entire SPFL membership. Earlier this week, the three clubs recommended that the share of playoff revenues distributed to SPFL member clubs be reduced by half, to 25% of gate receipts. Currently, 50% of the cash generated through gate receipts from the playoff matches goes to the league, with every club not involved in the games getting a share. Member clubs will vote on the proposal next week.

As the Prem and Championship tables stand now, Hibs and Rangers are virtually assured of being playoff participants, with Motherwell likely to join them.’Gers efforts to firmly establish themselves in second place in the Championship, and thus earn a bye in the playoffs, were hampered somewhat by their disappointing loss to fourth place Queen of the South last week.

Spanish Clubs In Hunt For Champions League Glory

 Barcelona’s Neymar celebrates with Lionel Messi (right) after scoring their first goal against PSG

Barcelona’s Neymar celebrates with Lionel Messi (right) after scoring their first goal against PSG

By Cesar Benoit

Seven matches remain in this season’s La Liga campaign. Seven matches for either Real Madrid or Barcelona to win what’s been an evenly contested, predictable battle for Spanish supremacy.

While league action is always important, the return of the UEFA Champions League imparts a chance for Spain’s best to shine bright across Europe.

Last season saw Real Madrid win their unprecedented 10th European crown (the astutely named Decima) against city rivals Atletico Madrid in an all-Spanish affair. Coupled with Sevilla’s Europa League win and Spain reigned as the preeminent European soccer power.

This season sees three Spanish clubs in the Champions League quarterfinals, with Real facing their ‘14 final foes Atletico in the marquee tie. Barcelona face a formidable task against France’s Paris St Germain.

The 0-0 stalemate between the Madrid neighbors was a tense, aggressive battle. Last time Real showed their faces at the Calderon, they were battered 4-0 and displayed a timidity not often seen in a Madrid side.

This time they came out hawkish, intent on quieting the drowning noise of the Vicente Calderon. Real drilled a long ball into the Atletico penalty area almost immediately. But while Gareth Bale managed to get behind the defense, an excellent save by goalkeeper Jan Oblak kept the game scoreless.

Oblak kept Atleti in the match, especially in the first 45 minutes, when Real pumped balls forward. Real totally dominated, but the Slovenian international, who came into the team only during the last-16 second leg at home to Bayer Leverkusen, shined bright.

Chances were in much shorter supply in the second half when Real seemed to be neutralized by a more competent, faster Atletico. Benzema had the clearest chance but passed up the opportunity to shoot, ending with Bale having a shot blocked.

There was some controversy early in the second half when Mario Mandzukic was left bloodied by a challenge from Real defender Sergio Ramos.
The former Bayern Munich striker was angered by the collision and needed to be calmed down on the sidelines while he received treatment.

Almost immediately after returning to the action, Mandzukic was shown a yellow card for swinging his arm at Raphael Varane in an aerial duel. Later, he was lucky not to be shown a second yellow for an arm challenge against Dani Carvajal.

Mario hasn’t clicked in his time at the Calderon and his temper almost cost Atletico Tuesday. Did he overreact? Maybe. Did his temper get the better of him? Yes. Coach Diego Simeone will have some things to think about before next week’s rematch.

0-0 and it’s all the play for at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday. An Atletico goal could seal the deal and send them to the semifinals.

On to the epic Barcelona-PSG quarterfinal matchup, a replay of their group stage encounters.

Laurent Blanc said he’d need a ‘minor miracle’ and he couldn’t be more correct. The Parisian powerhouse were without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti and Serge Aurier through suspension, as well as the hamstrung Thiago Motta. Lucas Moura, who is not fully recovered from a groin injury, was on the bench while David Luiz started on the bench but came on for Thiago Silva in the 21st minute.

PSG have depth but they confront a Barcelona team whose reputation on this stage is established. Barca have won 30 of their past 34 matches in all competitions and their players, as Blanc said, are capable of “playing PlayStation football against anyone.”

The Catalans, top of La Liga and in the quarter-finals for the eighth successive season, unleashed their celebrated front three (Neymar, Luis Suarez, some guy named Lionel Messi) on the Parc de Princes and it paid off in a 3-1 destruction of PSG.

Luis Enrique’s men didn’t have to wait long to take the lead, with Neymar slotting the ball underneath PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu 18 minutes in following a Messi through-ball.

PSG’s night worsened soon afterwards when Thiago Silva had to be taken off through injury. Luiz was brought on in his place, and the substitute nearly cost his team before the break when he was robbed by Suarez, but the Uruguayan couldn’t take advantage.

However, Suarez did punish PSG in the second half. The home side had made a brighter start to the second half, but they found themselves 2-0 down on 67 minutes when the former Liverpool star showed great skill and tenacity to score a superb solo goal.

On 79 minutes, he scored his second of the night, nutmegging Luiz with ease before curling a shot into the top corner.

PSG defender Gregory van der Wiel gave his side a glimmer of hope for the second leg shortly afterwards when his shot, which took a substantial deflection from Jeremy Mathieu, found its way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Nice goal but this tie is over.

There will be two Spanish clubs in the Champions League semifinals.

Spurs To Play MLS All-Stars in Colorado

FTglobe_blueMajor League Soccer today announced that Tottenham Hotspur will face the MLS All-Stars in the 2015 MLS All-Star Game. The annual showcase will be played July 29 at 9 p.m. ET at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids. The game will be televised live on FOX Sports 1, UniMás and Univision Deportes Network (UDN) in the United States, TSN and RDS in Canada, and in more than 100 countries worldwide, including Sky Sports in the U.K.

MLS and the Colorado Rapids will host a welcome event for Tottenham in conjunction with a USA-Mexico watch party later today at the Thirsty Lion in downtown Denver. Media and fans are encouraged to attend the event which will kick off at 5 p.m. MT and feature special guests, including MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, Tottenham Hotspur Executive Director Donna-Maria Cullen and Colorado Rapids Team President Tim Hinchey along with Rapids coaches and players. One-on-one interview opportunities will follow.

For the twelfth time in the event’s 20-year history, an international club will take on the MLS All-Stars, who have a 7-3-1 record in the highly competitive and entertaining format. In addition to honoring the best players in MLS, the game has featured an array of world-famous clubs such as Manchester United (2010 & 2011), Everton FC (2009), Chelsea FC (2006 & 2012), AS Roma (2012) and, most recently, FC Bayern Munich (2014).

“The AT&T MLS All-Star Game continues to be one of the most entertaining and widely anticipated traditions for our League and for our sport in North America,” said MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. “We are excited to welcome another world-class opponent in Tottenham and look forward to a competitive match and a tremendous week of events. We know that the Colorado Rapids, one of our inaugural clubs, will be great hosts and that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will impress both the fans in the stadium and television viewers throughout the World.”

“We’d like to thank Major League Soccer for the invitation to take part in the 2015 All-Star Game,” said Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino. “The fact that this will be our only fixture outside of Europe during pre-season says a lot about how we view this game. We enjoyed three tough matches last summer in North America and the quality of football in MLS continues to grow every year.  Pre-season is an important time for us and we are looking forward to being a part of one of the biggest events on the U.S. football calendar. We know the quality of the facilities will be top-class and we see this fixture against the best players from MLS as good preparation.”

Introducing..The Future Stars of The USWNT

Sydney Leroux, the next stand-out star of the USWNT?

Sydney Leroux, the next stand-out star of the USWNT?

The View From 101 with Tim Hall

 
On Tuesday, head coach Jill Ellis announced the 23 players who will represent the United States in the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer. So let’s take a moment and meet the team, shall we?

GOALKEEPERS: Ashlyn Harris , Alyssa Naeher, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS: Lori Chalupny, Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS: Shannon Boxx, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS: Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach

As always when one of these rosters is announced, there is endless second guessing and armchair punditry to be done about the particulars. Here are some of the big questions about this week’s announcement.

Why now? Disregarding the fact that anyone who has watched the US Women over the last year or two could have given an educated guess about this roster and been 90% right, it’s mid-April, the tournament doesn’t kick off for another six weeks or so. Lots can change, especially with the NWSL season just getting under way. Why not hold off, make sure your players make it to the deadline safely, and then announce so if a change does need to be made from the original plan, it doesn’t appear you’re scrambling to name a replacement? And if you do need to make a replacement, will the player brought in now harbor some resentment for missing out on the first go? Along those lines…

Who won’t be going to Canada? Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are just now getting back into playing shape; even a minor setback could upset the apple cart and would definitely be a big blow to the team’s chances at their third-ever World Cup. Ali Krieger was just stretchered off the field with a concussion over the weekend (and not her first), but is on the roster anyway. Hope Solo’s legal and personal difficulties have abated for the moment, but those have a way of sneaking up at inopportune moments. Injuries (and other things) happen all the time in this sport, and between the league schedule and the warmup friendlies, it’s perhaps not a question of if but when a change to the announced roster will be made.

Will Abby Wambach’s experiment work? In the official listing sent out, US Soccer helpfully included each player’s club attachment, save one. Right at the end, Abby Wambach is listed as “Unattached”, as she has decided to skip playing the NWSL schedule to focus on being fit for the summer. Wambach is the world record holder for international goals, so does naturally get carte blanche on a number of decisions. But can any player, even one of Wambach’s undeniable talent and skill, just flip the switch and go on the biggest stage?

Will there be enough balls to go around? When everyone is healthy and available, the usual first choice lineup has been Morgan and Wambach up top, with Sydney Leroux coming on as a super sub. All three are world class players, and Leroux’s time as a starter will come with Wambach getting on in years. But add in Amy Rodriguez and Christen Press as players who have played well in limited time and could make a case for action. Then tack on players like Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe who are extra capable from the edge of the area. Even Meghan Klingenberg, a defender, has proven she has an eye for goal. This team won’t be hurting for offensive firepower, but…

Can the defense do its part? All the goalscorers in the world won’t save the US if an opponent gets out to an early lead and goes into bunker mode. Only a memorable last gasp wonder goal from Wambach got the US past Brazil in the knockout rounds four years ago. The defense will be anchored by Christie Rampone, who will turn 40 during the tournament. Make no mistake, however. That is not an honorary selection, or one made due to lack of veteran leadership. It wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for Rampone to be considered for 2019, given her fitness and quality. The would-be five-time World Cup player may link up with Sky Blue teammate Kelley O’Hara in the back, while Krieger, Klingenberg and Becky Sauerbrunn all have legitimate claims to playing time as well. Whatever tandem does get the nod in the group stage games must know that the team’s advancement throughout the tournament rests solely on their shoulders. The US could win some 9-8 shootouts if need be, but they’d sure like not to need. Speaking of that veteran leadership…

What role will the turf play? All of the sites for the World Cup are using artificial surfaces for the games, because FIFA is French for SPECTRE. For all the claims that FieldTurf is just as good as grass, it simply isn’t, and it is hell on the knees especially. Aside from the aforementioned Rampone, Shannon Boxx will turn 38 just before the semifinals, Abby Wambach 35 before the tournament starts. Hope Solo, Heather O’Reilly, and Carli Lloyd have all seen the odometers tick past 30 as well. Will Jill Ellis have to rotate more than desired to make sure she has enough healthy bodies from game-to-game? Will injuries rack up for the US or other teams? Will a strange turf-aided bounce alter the fate of a game or six?

Who will be the breakout star? Four years ago was the world’s first real introduction to Alex Morgan, who has gone on to a number of advertising contracts, modeling appearances, and generally being the marketing arm of women’s soccer in this country. This time around,the stage is clearly set for the world to beat a path to Sydney Leroux’s door. A Canadian by birth, playing on her native soil, in the World Cup, for the neighbors to the south. A decision about which she’s taken some abuse. Recently married to English MLS player Dom Dwyer. Tattooed and clever and funny and the owner of a dog with close to 9000 Twitter followers. Prepare yourself for Peak Leroux this summer and beyond if she puts out a performance representative of her talents. (Or not. Nothing can escape the media narrative vortex.)

And that’s just the roster announcement! Imagine how unsure things will get once we’re actually getting ready for the games to be played!

UPCOMING EVENTS

Friday, April 17th: New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes – The undefeated Metros start a three-game homestand with a Friday night, 7pm kickoff, because MLS is also French for SPECTRE. San Jose comes into town having just opened their own soccer-specific stadium which features North America’s largest outdoor bar, a fact that will be drilled into your head constantly if you happen to catch any of their games ever. Join the Empire Supporters Club at Boi Na Brasa (1 Merchant Street, Newark) for your Friday happy hour before hand, and hopefully some after.

Rivals Lazio & Roma Battle For Second Place In Serie A

serieA_172x121By Michael Ottolenghi 

To all those who say Serie A is not competitive and doesn’t throw up surprise results, last weekend provided the perfect answer. 

The richest and most successful team in the league, soon to be crowned champions for the fourth year in a row and about to play a Champions League quarter-final, faced a team that is bottom of the league, bankrupt, and that has been losing players daily as wages remain unpaid and legal proceedings rumble on.  But when Juve travelled to Parma, against all odds it was the bottom club who beat the reigning champions 1-0 thanks to a goal from central midfielder Jose Mauri.

That was only the most surprising result in an otherwise exciting weekend throughout the league. The most significant result saw Lazio win 4-0 against Empoli, which allowed the biancocelesti to overtake Roma in second place. Stefano Pioli’s team are now one point ahead of their bitter city rivals.  They remain 12 points behind Juventus, but the point was never to win the league.  Champions League qualification is the main prize, and bragging rights over Roma are an obvious added benefit.

Lazio will face an immediate test of their second place credentials in one of the two headline games of the round as they travel to Turin to face Juventus. First against second with 8 games to go should attract excitement, but with the title race over, the main talking points going into the game are whether Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri will field a full strength team following the first leg of the Champions League quarter final against Monaco, and whether Lazio, hobbled by a couple of key injuries (to defender Stefan de Vrij and midfielder Marco Parolo), can remain above Roma for more than one week.  But as a showcase for Serie A, hopefully the two best attacking forces in the league can have the upper hand.

The other headline game of the weekend is Sunday’s Milan derby.  It has been a long time since this game was played for more than local pride and even Milanese fans seem less interested in the game than usual, with San Siro unlikely to be sold out.  But however sad the fates of both teams may be, a Milan derby remains a key game in Italian football, so let’s look at the current fortunes of each side of footballing Milan.

Milan sit in eighth place in the league, one point above Inter and seven points from the last Europa League qualifying place.  Their 1-1 home draw against Sampdoria last Sunday saw their hopes of European football next season all but disappear, amid turmoil on and off the pitch.  Off the pitch it seems likely that historic club owner Silvio Berlusconi may sell a large stake in the club to Chinese investors, and the uncertainty surrounding that transaction has led to a general lack of direction for the club.

Manager Filippo Inzaghi has not been a success in his first season as a manager, and he probably would have been out of a job already had a suitable replacement been available. Instead, he will likely survive until the summer, with names including Sinisa Mihaijlovic and Empoli’s Maurizio Sarri mooted as his replacements. On the field Milan have been plagued by injuries, inconsistencies and lack of personality.

The uncertainty about the club’s future has led many players to wonder about their own, with a clear out expected in the summer.

On the other side of town tings are hardly better, but somehow manager Roberto Mancini’s position couldn’t be stronger.

Maybe that is because the club has embraced a plan formulated by Indonesian owner Erik Thohir, consisting of a focus on youth, the arrival of a few “top players” financed by the probable sale of Mauro Icardi, and the redevelopment of San Siro.  But fans’ enthusiasm for the long term can only be sustained if results follow, and Mancini knows he will have to improve dramatically on the performances of the past two seasons if he is to attract players to his squad and see out the plan.  There would be no better way of ensuring more goodwill from the fans than a win in a derby.

Free For All

bowlerBy Bill Thomas 

Logic is a wonderful thing isn’t it, but it is a commodity that has a relatively tenuous attachment to the world of top flight football.

Those of you who know your history will recall just how it was that we began this drift towards the rich getting richer in top flight football in England. It came when the big clubs decided that no longer would they split the gate takings 50/50 after a game after expenses had been taken into account but that the home side would keep the lot. A perfect idea for those with huge stadia and massive crowds, not so heartening for those working their way up, from smaller towns or with grounds of lower capacity.

Thus was a wedge driven between the clubs, with the big six as they were then – and very nearly still are – threatening to take their ball home and form a Super League if they didn’t get their way. In hindsight, they should have been allowed to go, but that’s another story.

Since then, the game has rumbled on with clubs required to make space for opposition fans at their games. For the supporters of smaller clubs, this is a further insult to add to their injury for ticket prices at the Etihad, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates are often eye watering in comparison with those they are used to at home. Equally, for the United fans and their ilk, the fact that they are Category A games wherever they go means they’re really at a game where it’s kids for a quid.

Perhaps this week, we reached a tipping point when Newcastle United, among the biggest travelling support of any side, used around half their allocation for the game at Anfield on Monday night. Yes, the fact that it was on television had a bearing, as well as it being on a Monday night. Stir in a £55 ticket price and you have a perfect storm.

We could be reaching a point – especially when Friday night football comes in for the season after next – where away attendance is going to be on the decline and if that’s the case, then the Premier League’s USP, its atmosphere, is in dire trouble.

We spoke last week of the power that supporters wield over he clubs and that, if they want process to come down, all they need do is stay home for a few weeks. In the case of away fans, that’s especially so for it is they who create the atmosphere in most grounds these days. Even at Liverpool, after the stirring “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at kick-off time, the home fans are taunted by chants of “Where’s your famous atmosphere” by the visitors.

It’s the same around the land and for some obvious reasons. The away fans are, first and foremost, the hardcore support. They are also there on a day out, out to enjoy themselves come what may, generally expecting their side to struggle, treating themselves as underdogs. Drink will generally have been taken, in often legendary quantities, following an early arrival and so voices will be well lubricated.

On top of that, the away fans generally stand for 90 minutes, in contravention and utter disregard for the stadium rules while the natives have to sit – generally on their hands it seems – for fear of ejection or even losing their season ticket if they stand for too long.

The fact is that it is standing fans that create the atmosphere and with safe standing still well down the agenda, that merely underlines further the need for away fans at every game, and in good numbers. So why don’t we let them in for free?

There’s a lovely logic to it. After all, if their club doesn’t benefit from the gate money in any way at all, why should a Burnley fan be required to contribute to the Chelsea coffers?

The Premier League has already given clubs a subsidy to boost away support. Inevitably some clubs use it wisely – Stoke give free travel to all away games for example – while other seem to simply hide it away in the books somewhere. So why not go one step further? Make away tickets free of charge, guarantee those sections  are rammed and ensure that the atmosphere stays ramped up to 11. Otherwise the football grounds of old England might start to resemble libraries.

EPL Latest

swansea

Swansea City’s Jonjo Shelvey scores from the penalty spot against Everton at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea.

It’s been another brilliant week of Premier League action, as we get ever closer to this season’s conclusion. 

There were some more vital and eye-catching wins up and down the league. Some teams won’t be in league action this weekend as three EPL sides take part in the FA Cup semi-finals that take place this weekend.

We start this week’s review with the Manchester Derby, and it was one that lived up to every expectation as Manchester United came from behind to beat Manchester City 4-2 at Old Trafford.

Sergio Aguero gave City an early lead after just eight minutes but Ashley Young was on hand to equalise just six minutes later. From there on, the hosts dominated, and charged into a 4-1 lead with goals form Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Chris Smalling. Aguero picked up his and City’s second late on but the derby this time around, well an truly belonged to Louis van Gaal’s men. It’s a big win at the right time for United because they travel to Chelsea this weekend in another huge game as the league leaders will also go into the game off the back of the win as they left it late to see of Queens Park Rangers 1-0 at Loftus Road on Sunday. It was a fairly even encounter, but like true champions, Mourinho’s men found a way to pick up the all-important three points.

This time it was Cesc Fabregas who popped up in the 88th minute to steal the win from 18th placed QPR. Rangers won’t have a game this weekend as their scheduled fixture was against Aston Villa, but Tim Sherwood’s men are in the FA Cup semis. However, that game was played on the 7th of April, knowing that it couldn’t be this weekend, and it ended in a dramatic 3-3 draw.

Seemingly Chelsea’s only remaining challengers for the title, Arsenal, also won 1-0 this weekend as they beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor. Aaron Ramsey got the games only goal in the first-half to keep the Gunners in the race.

Arsenal too will be in FA Cup action this weekend so their scheduled home game with Sunderland will now be played next Wednesday. As for Sunderland, they’ll go into their weekend off in a pretty bad way as they were thumped 4-1 at home by a very impressive Crystal Palace team. It was Alan Pardew’s first visit back up to the Northeast since he left his post at Newcastle earlier this season, and his side didn’t disappoint. The first half was goalless but Glenn Murray gave the visitors the lead three minutes into the second period with his sixth goal in his last six Premier League games. That goal was soon put to the back of Sunderland fans’ minds however but for all the wrong reasons as Yannik Bolasie then went on to score an 11 minute hat-rick with goals in the 51st, 53rd, and 62nd minute. Conor Wickham grabbed a consolation goal for the Blackcats, if you can call it that, in the 90th minute, but by that time the Stadium of Light was virtually empty. Palace host West Brom this weekend and they’ll be looking for another three points, back in front of their home fans.

Liverpool comfortably saw off Newcastle at Anfield on Monday night, beating them 2-0 with a goal in each half from firstly Raheem Sterling, and then Joe Allen. Brendan Rodgers’ side have an FA Cup semi to contest this weekend so their EPL game away at Hull that was due to be played this weekend has been pushed back to the end of the month.

Hull City, like Sunderland, will go into their small break off the back of a defeat as they lost 2-0 away at Southampton on Saturday. James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring from the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half and then much to the relief of Ronald Koeman and the Saints fans, Graziano Pelle scored for the first time this calendar year to end his goal-scoring drought, having been so prolific at the start of the season. Koeman’s men travel to Stoke this weekend.

Tim Sherwood picked up a brilliant win on his return to White Hart Lane as his Aston Villa side beat Tottenham 1-0. It was once again Christian Benteke with the goal, his eighth in his last six. Just as Sherwood rejuvenated Emmanuel Adebayor when he was in charge of Spurs, he has done it again with Benteke, and the Belgian’s latest goal has seen them move well clear of any relegation trouble. Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend with a winnable game away at Newcastle.

One of the most impressive wins from this week’s action came from the Hawthorns where, for the second week running, Leicester City snatched three vital points late on, this time off West Brom. It was Jamie Vardy who scored the 90th minute winner with a brilliant solo effort, but that was only after four other goals as the game ended 3-2. Darren Fletcher scored his first goal for the Baggies to put the home side in the lead after just eight minutes but David Nugent did well to equalise for the visitors 12 minutes later, however he couldn’t prevent Craig Gardner restoring the home side’s lead six minutes later. We then had to wait until the 80th minute before Robert Huth equalised for Leicester, which set up the brilliant end to the game that has seen Leicester put themselves potentially just three points away from climbing out of the relegation zone. They’ll be desperate to make it three wins on the trot this weekend as they host Swansea City in another vital clash.

Swansea themselves had a relatively disappointing weekend as they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Everton. Aaron Lennon gave the visitors the lead four minutes before the interval but Jonjo Shelvey cancelled it out from the penalty spot with 20 minutes to play. Both sides pushed for the win but neither could find a winner as the game ended 1-1. Roberto Martinez will be hopeful that his side can get back to wining ways this weekend when his side host Burnley at Goodison Park. Lastly from this week’s EPL action,

West Ham United disappointingly drew 1-1 at home with Stoke City having lead for the large majority of the game. Aaron Cresswell gave the Hammers the lead after seven minutes but they couldn’t hold on as Marko Arnautovic nicked a point for Stoke in the 90th minute.

Raul Scores His First Goal For NY Cosmos

 

Photo: Indy11

Photo: Indy11

On Saturday night, the legendary striker scored his first goal for the New York Cosmos in a 1-1 road draw with the Indy Eleven in a North American Soccer League spring season match at Michael Carroll Stadium (attendance 10,524).

“We got one goal and had more opportunities, but obviously we didn’t get the second goal to get the three points,” Cosmos midfielder Danny Szetela said. “We’re very happy with the result that we got and the soccer we played.”

It is the fourth consecutive 1-1 draw between the two sides.

“Unfortunately tonight we were unable to score that second goal that would give us the three points, but overall it was a very good match from the players,” Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said.

Raul headed in a cross by Walter Restrepo from just inside the six-yard box in the 65thminute as the Cosmos rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to claim four points from back-to-back road games to open the spring season.

As was the case last week, Raul was subbed off with what appeared to be an injury as he was replaced by Lucky Mkosana in the 74thminute. Restrepo also came off injured in the 82nd minute.

“Both of them just got a bit of a knock during the match and we’ll re-evaluate them tomorrow,” Savarese said. “We’ll see how they’re going to do during the week. We hope they’re going to be available. I think for sure Restrepo, but we’ll just have to assess a little more Raul.”

Indy Eleven, which played the Atlanta Silverbacks to a 1-1 draw in its opener last week, capitalized on a defensive miscue to take a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer came well off his line to challenge a ball from Honduran Osman Melgares played to Indy forward Charlie Rugg, on loan from the LA Galaxy.

Maurer raced out of his 18-yard box and tried to head the ball clear, but it fell right to Jamaican international Brian Brown, who easily chipped in from distance for his first Indy Eleven goal.

“It involves the entire team when something like that happens,” Savarese said. “The important thing is that we understand we have to continue going forward and that make sure we’re very steady. The more solid we could be, the better it’s going to be.”

Maurer made up for the snafu later in the first half when he dove to his right to parry away a shot by midfielder Dylan Mares from 19 yards out that resulted in a corner kick.

The Cosmos, which beat the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 1-0 last week, dominated possession after halftime and had a series of scoring chances on set pieces. In the 54thminute, Marcos Senna played a diagonal ball off a free kick to Raul, who quickly chipped into the box. Restrepo ran onto the ball, but put his attempt off the outside netting.

In the 64th minute, Senna served a teasing ball into the box that Mads Stokkelien latched onto and put a first-time volley on target from the penalty spot, but German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht made the save and the ball caromed out for a Cosmos corner.

One minute later, though, Raul scored his all-important first goal in a Cosmos uniform in only his second appearance.

“The first goal in a new jersey is always an important goal,” Savarese said. “It was huge for us and also gave us the possibility to be able to get the tie in the game. It was very positive. He’s used to scoring plenty of goals. This one I’m sure is going to be a special for him and the rest of the organization.”

The Cosmos will take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in their home opener next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Szetela said. “We think we have some of the best fans not only in the league, but in the U.S. They definitely bring the noise and give us that extra boost of energy. Tampa is definitely a better team this year and it’s going to be a tough one.”

NYCFC Beaten In Stoppage Time By Philadelphia

David Villa in action against Philadelphia Union. Photo by NYCFC.com

David Villa in action against Philadelphia Union. Photo by NYCFC.com

By Michael Schwartz

New York City’s struggles continued as they lost their second consecutive match through conceding a heart-breaking winner in stoppage time against the Philadelphia Union.

For Jim Curtin and his players, finding a winner at the death must have been quite rewarding after they threw away a potential win against the Sporting Kansas City by giving up two goals after the 90th minute.

There was plenty of optimism before the game as New York City fielded their opening day lineup with the return of David Villa, Sebastian Velasquez, and Josh Williams from injury. Yet, the Union was desperate for a win after a rough start this season and came out stronger in the first half.

Entering the match, Coach Jason Kreis’ side had created the 4th fewest shots and second fewest corner kicks in MLS. Despite having an extended amount of time in training coming off the bye week to rectify their issues, New York City continued to do far too little with all of their possession.

In what was another poor first half, Kreis’ side didn’t look confident passing the ball and getting forward. They gave away the ball too often and were often saved by recovery tackles from Mix Diskerud, Jason Hernandez, and Chris Wingert. While the Union expectedly looked comfortable on their home grounds, they didn’t create any clear chances over the first 20 minutes as New York City struggled to get into the match.

Yet, that all changed when Sebastian Le Toux skipped past Hernandez who was too quick to go to ground. The MLS veteran centered the ball for Zach Pfeffer who was able to bundle the ball over the line. There was no doubt that the goal was coming as New York City’s poor passing and lack of positive runs forward allowed Philadelphia to have too much sustained pressure. New York City’s backline just can’t keep bailing out the rest of the team for the lack of chances created.

New York City did respond quickly by having an Adam Nemec goal disallowed due to the ball going out of play for a goal kick before it was crossed. However, the ball looked like it may have been saved by Villa who centered the ball for Nemec to finish inside the box. While the commentators did note that the ball may have been kept in, the lack of replays and coverage of that moment in the game afterwards was quite bizarre.

New York City had over 62% possession the first half. Yet, their passing accuracy was at 78% which showed how often they turned the ball over. They also had only one shot (unlike Philadelphia’s 6 first half shots) as they failed to threaten an inexperienced goalie in John McCarthy.

In the second half, New York City started off slowly but capitalized with an equalizer in the 55th minute. Khiry Shelton, who came on for Velasquez at the start of the second half, combined well with Nemec and Villa who was on hand for an easy tap in. The goal, which was their first in over 241 minutes, was the result, of fluid one touch passing which showed a sense of incisiveness that was missing in the first half.

History repeated itself as New York City came out stronger in the second half largely due to Shelton’s pace and his ability to hold up the ball. They created some chances including Diskerud having a shot saved but needed to go for the win as match opened up.

A crucial moment occurred around the 75th minute when Ned Grabavoy crossed a ball that should have been caught by McCarthy. However, McCarthy pushed back out into the middle of the box which is one of the most pressing errors a goalie can do. However, he was fortunate that Javier Calle, who came on for the largely anonymous Nemec, skied a bouncing ball in the middle of the box way over the bar. That was New York City’s best chance for a winner and it would come to haunt them later on.

Towards the latter stages of the second half, the Union began to push harder for a winner as New York City were caught too much on their heels. While New York City was petering out and holding on for a draw, Philadelphia was looking more dangerous.

Ultimately, the Union won the match in stoppage time on a defensive lapse from multiple players. The Union’s Andrew Wenger was able to get past Calle on the wing to produce a cross. Saunders leaped and palmed the ball back into the center of the box where Vincent Nogueira was able to bury it into the back of the net. While Saunders was at fault for not dealing with the cross, Calle should not have been left out wide to stop Wenger. Also, once Saunders pushed the ball back into the box, there was too much space in the box for Nogueira to slot in the rebound into the back of the net. New York City tried to hold on for a draw and the defense was finally caught out again after a late push from Philadelphia.

While New York City increased their tempo and created more chances in the second half, they didn’t test McCarthy enough as the keeper only had to make three saves.  Considering Shelton’s impact, the rookie has made a compelling case to get the start in the rematch against Philadelphia.

Overall, the team has only scored one goal in the last 276 minutes. That’s not good enough and Kreis will be looking to make the necessary adjustments for the next game.

Right now, New York City’s lack of consistent drive on offense is similar to the struggles Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United endured earlier this season. Both these teams pride themselves on controlling games and holding onto the ball. Like Manchester United at the start of this season, New York City has not done enough going forward considering all of their possession.

However, unlike Manchester United which consists of footballers that had chemistry through years of playing with each other and just needed time to find the right formation and balance, New York City is a different case. They are an expansion side just coming into existence with players that lack understanding with each other.  It may take longer for Kreis to find the most effective formation and for the players to gain the composure needed to regularly trouble their opponents for an entire game.