Each week the Real Soccer Expert gives his hottest takes on the MLS and soccer world at large. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of HotFooty or anyone who remotely understands soccer or how to behave like a human.
This weekend brought us one of the most understandably hyped and tastefully promoted MLS games in the history of the great state of New York. The team of the moment, NYCFC, just wrapped up a five game Win Panini™. It’s a term I cleverly crafted which describes anything where the outsides aren’t wins and the insides are hot, steamy, meaty wins. (A draw in Montreal followed by wins versus Vancouver, DC, and Portland, followed by the draw at Toronto. Classic Win Panini.) Unfortunately for fans of the men in Blue, the sandwich was about to get cold. Questionably tangy mayo was poised to be squirted all over Patrick Vieira’s silkiest blouse. Needless to say the Real Soccer Expert was flown in on my jet to check it out. If you ever do see my plane, I apologize in advance, because the second bath needs some re-tiling.
I landed at an airport which reminded me of someplace Liam Neeson would rescue me from and was immediately transported to the stadium via stretch-VW Bug limo and dropped outside into a thrilling scene. A crowd of displeased red and blue fans were hurling rats and city-sludge at eachother. I dared not join in the fray, but I must say it was disconcerting and invigorating at the same time. It was not quite clear why these groups were so mad at eachother, but I presume it had much to do with decades of bad blood and gritty matches between the clubs?
First impression of NYCFC Stadium: the Yankees have a strong presence there. I presume the owners are huge fans. There’s a pizza place near my parents house with Paul O’Neill picture frames above every table. This stadium has the same feel but if the pizza place was a giant prison. Either way, confusing for the fans and I suggest they change the decor.
I was chauffeured up to my box seats, which oddly did not face the field, and quickly realized that I despised everything having to do with this viewing experience. The grass on the field was splotchy, the players on the field had acne, the ambivalently grinning masses in the ‘fan’ section below me were singing incorrect lyrics from dirty dancing songs as if they were part of some demented flash mob. I couldn’t even find the rosemary dusted lamb chop stand. I could buy a sickeningly pale hot dog at a moments notice, but a man can’t even get a proper watercress and golden beet salad? It was a nightmare come true, except this nightmare doesn’t end when you wake up. You wake up shirtless in a pile of nacho cheese and TimeOut magazines on the corner of 161st and a former banker is trying to steal your belt to sell for food. It’s not a pretty picture.
Enough about the stadium, let’s talk about the real wonder of the day, the game. Oh what a game. The strategy for NYCFC was clear: Build possession from the backfield, maintain it with the midfield, and hope to strike on clever passing and creations of space in the final third of the delightfully petite pitch. One problem: The team looked about as enthused as a Gap employee at any point in their entire lives. This team reeked of mediocrity. Dax McArtscene is woefully short yet bombarded the Blue’s net with headers upon headers of which there was seemingly unlimited supply. Frederico Brilliance dazzled the owners of the Red Bullz, from their perch in the hillz of Austria, with his maniacal attempts to push the ball from NYCFC’s back line into midfield, only to see his efforts thwarted with the most minimal of effort from the Red Bull attack. Oh what a game indeed. Patrick Vieira, I could have sworn, attempted to board a helicopter at halftime headed directly for whatever creepily damp apartment building he presumably lives in.
Much to my excitement Patrique Vieira allowed many fan’s favorite player, Franky Lampard, to run out as a sub late in the second half. What a treat! One surprise though was how classy he looked compared to many of the other “athletes.” The other players let in two goals while he was out there, but his shorts looked very very nice the whole time.
Overall I have a few key takeaways for the NYCFC and Red Bull teams.
- When playing on a prison field, hit the ball long to your speedy forwards (but not Mr. Shelton when he runs around the pitch like Eeyore on opiates) and avoid allowing defensive players with inverted feet attempt to build the attack.
- When playing against an inferior opponent on the day, practice humility by only scoring bicycle kick goals
- When participating in fan events, ignore the temptation to throw edible objects at someone who may or may not understand the goal kick rule. Or is wearing a different color shirt than yourself.
- Always tip your pilot when attempting to flee a hostile NYCFC Stadium environment.
I do wish good luck to both teams, but I can’t respectfully say that I want either of them to win anything further after witnessing the classless behavior on all sides of the game. I believe next week I will review something a bit more tasteful.