Underneath Yankee Stadium, under the seats and actually under that hallowed ground, is a massive hallway that rings the stadium. A hallway large enough to smash atomic particles in, or to drive tractor-trailers through, which, I suppose, is actually the point. And I am standing in it, just outside the home locker room only minutes after watching NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union. I am waiting for Sam Cooke (no, not that one; NYCFC’s VP of Communications) and Nicole Chayet to give us the high sign so we can ask the players the inane questions we routinely ask them.
Mama Said Knock You Out: Reliving an NYCFC Comeback Win Over Philly
And while I’m waiting I’m thinking about what we saw on the pitch. A match that, frankly NYCFC not only had to win to maintain pace in the standings, but that they probably really really wanted to win – as a loss would probably have predicated a regimen of two-a-days from Patrick Vieira for the next two weeks.
But NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union. It was a match in which they came from behind. In which both goals were scored by members of the backline. In which the knock-out blow, as it were, didn’t come until the 85th minute. It was a match which ended with the Philadelphia Union throwing everything at NYCFC short of the kitchen sink, the Liberty Bell, Earnie Stewart, and all the crusty seed rolls at John’s Roast Pork.
Standing next to me in the hallway is Dudes in Blue’s Joe Amato and as we wait he asks me about David Villa. Or rather, he begins opining about what was, it must be admitted, a less than satisfactory outing for the captain. And as he talks it occurs to me how much David Villa has come to rely on Rodney Wallace. That Wallace’s speed and technique have made him such a threat to opposing team’s defenses that the blanket coverage Villa has experienced essentially since he signed up with City has lessened. And that gives him space in which to operate. And when Wallace is not there – as he was not today when NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union – teams are able to focus again on El Guaje, muscling him, crowding him and generally forcing him into the kinds of shots that one saw on Saturday.
As we talk, Alex Ring emerges to do some sort of television remote interview. And while it would be easy to point to him as the reason NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union today and drew the New England Revolution on Wednesday, there’s a more important point to be made, and it’s this: The communication between Ring and Maxi Moralez is really something special. If you’re a fan of soccer, you should watch it. And if you’re a fan of NYCFC, you should be very encouraged – especially since it echoes the relationship Moralez has developed at the top of the formation with David Villa.
As I’m thinking about all this, a grand posse of clearly important people rolls up, and the temperature perceptibly rises in the gaggle of journalists around us. I, as you would expect, am largely clueless. Joe turns to me, pale as a ghost, his eyes large as saucers. “Do you know who that is?” he asks me. I don’t. “That’s Danny Carey.” Nothing. “Tool?” Oh. “The greatest drummer in the world.” Right. That Danny Carey. Of course. My bad.
But not just Danny Carey. For also in that crowd passing ahead of us into the locker room is LL Cool J. The same LL Cool J whose beaming visage was flashed upon the screen in the 84th minute as NYCFC set up for a corner kick. Who, as @JLa_NYC reminded me later, beckoned the crowd to cheer and make some noise for the team.
And seconds later, Alexander Callens scored and NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union.
@JLa_NYC thinks he deserves an assist for that, and I think she may have something there.
For later, as I write this, I will get in to a discussion with YahooNews’ White House correspondent Hunter Walker about that very subject. “In honor of @llcoolj‘s emergence as an @NYCFC superfan and good luck charm,” he will tweet, “the team must start using ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ after goals.”
And like the good reporter he is, he pulls NYCFC president Jon Patricof into the discussion. And LLCoolJ himself. And then Chicken Bucket FC weighs in, calling this the beginning of a movement. And maybe it is. Or should be.
But that all happens days later. Back in the hallway, me and Joe and the others finally get the okay that the locker room is open. And as I walk in, I see the aforementioned Mr. Smith leaning against a wall. “Thanks for the good luck,” I say as I start to walk past.
He laughs, sees my media pass, and when I am about to turn the corner he places one enormous hand on my shoulder. I stop dead in my tracks. Then he says very quietly “Don’t call it a comeback.”
No Sir. I won’t. Wouldn’t think of it. Now if you’ll excuse, grandma told me to take out the garbage…