(Editorial, December 29, 2017) – Last year we launched the Besties (which you will recall, are named in honor of George Best for no other reason than I really like him and I had to call these things something), with 17 categories ranging from “Higher Math” Bestie to “Combat Pay” Bestie to “Should Have Cut Your Hair Sooner” Bestie, and honored players, coaches, broadcasters, celebrities, members of the front office, and other people connected in some way to NYCFC.
And this year? Well this year was better than last year, right? So the Besties will be better too, right? Well…
The Second Annual (but Just Barely) NYCFC Bestie Awards
The “Man of Steel” Bestie – Alexander Ring
Here’s the thing about Alexander Ring. When he goes down with an injury, everyone in the Bronx holds their breath. Because that guy is so damn tough. If he’s been hit hard enough to need a minute to organize his thoughts, then probably a criminal action has taken place on the pitch. Actually “steel” may be selling him short. The guy is made out of concrete. Out of titanium. Out of whatever plastic they wrap little kids Christmas presents in. He’s THAT tough.
The “Uptown Ruler” Bestie – Jon Patricof
There’s a term they have in New Orleans for a certain type of rare individual who has the style, charm and savoir faire to be as welcomed among the lowest elements as he his among the highest. Jon Patricof is Gotham’s version of that. On the one hand, he floats effortlessly amongst the City’s most powerful movers and shakers. On the other hand, he always has time to talk to morons like me. That’s a rare and incredibly important quality to have. And New York City Football Club is lucky to have him.
The “Rumour Mill” Bestie – Jack Harrison
Oh for crying out loud. He’s going to Everton. He’s going to United. He’s starting next week for Pep at the Etihad. My heavens. The kid spends a few minutes representing the Three Lions and suddenly he’s on the back page of every tabloid in the sceptered isle. He can’t buy a ticket to a movie without half of New York speculating about what it means when his contract is up. I know, I know, you all do it out of love, but really, if you don’t drive him bonkers it won’t be for lack of trying. Especially when the real story is that he’s…
The “Almost like Being There” Bestie – Joe Tolleson
While it is true that there is no substitute for watching the matches in person, YES Network’s Joe Tolleson is honestly the next best thing. Whether he’s paired up with Ian Joy or Janusz Michalik, he’s entertaining, insightful, articulate and enjoyable. Plus, fun fact, he’s not a dick. I mean when you meet him after the match and want to talk strategy or even just shoot the breeze, he’s a really good guy. Which is rarer than it should be in this industry.
The “Answer the Call” Bestie – Frederic Brilliant
First, please note that I did not condescend to make a pun on our dearly departed defender’s last name. So I get points for that. But more importantly, hats off to the French international who stepped into the breach when Maxime Chanot got injured and contributed mightily to what was NYCFC’s best defensive effort yet. His teamwork with Alexander Callens, his leadership on the backline and even his timely goal scoring were all vital to the success of NYCFC this year and I look forward to shaking his hand next season in D.C. United’s new stadium.
The “Home Away from Home” Bestie – Citi Field
Oh, the outrage. Oh the weeping and wailing and the tearing of flesh. Oh the, … hey you know, this isn’t so bad. Yes, it’s way out in Queens. Yes, you can’t walk to about a thousand bars like you can at 1 East 161st street. But Citi Field had a curious intimacy that I wasn’t expecting from a stadium that large. And honestly, if the other options are Hofstra, MCU Park, or Hartford, CT, I’ll gladly take the home of the Amazins. Now, does that mean I want NYCFC’s permanent residence to be in Flushing? No. Let’s not get carried away.
The Charles Foster Kane Memorial Bestie – Mike Anderer
Over the course of the past three years, Blue City Radio’s Mike Anderer, along with sidekick Jon Sauerschell, have interviewed everyone from Alexi Lalas to Jason Davis to Glenn Crooks and beyond. But more than that, Mike’s been instrumental in bringing together members of the NYCFC podcast and media community through Blue City Radio, through Post-Game Live and through his annual live podcast at Ryan’s Daughter. He doesn’t get enough credit for that. And he should.
The “And Then There Were Two” Bestie – David Villa and Tommy McNamara
As of this writing, only two players remain from the opening day 2015 roster. No one should be surprised that David Villa is one. And in retrospect, no one should be surprised the Tommy is the other. But the fact that only two remain does give one pause to think about our hopes and dreams for that team a scant three years ago. What we thought Mix Diskerud would do. What we thought Khiry Shelton would do. Heck, even what we thought Frank Lampard would do. Kind of mind-boggling how much a side can change in that short a time. Makes you wonder who’ll still be around three years hence.
The “I’m Taking My Talents to DisneyWorld” Bestie – RJ Allen
I’ve always liked RJ. He worked hard, he had a lovely cross, he was a stand up guy, and he had a great story. I freely admit I will miss him now that he’s a member of the dreaded purple Simbas and I look forward to seeing him when NYCFC face them. Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, why wouldn’t you expect a guy from Jersey to head to Disney in the Winter – isn’t that what they all do?
The “Fearless” Bestie – Jonathan Lewis
When NYCFC picked the Akron winger in the 2017 draft, I immediately contacted head coach Jared Embick for the skinny on the Plantation, FL native. And Coach Embick was effusive. “Best winger in the draft” he said. “Incredible speed.” “You won’t be sorry.” And indeed he was all those things. But he was also something I was not expecting: fearless. He would run right at defenders, daring them to try to take the ball from him. That was a revelation, and one only hopes we see more of it in years to come.
The “First NYCFC Player To Win MLS Cup” Bestie – Jason Hernandez
Yes, of course I would have preferred he raise the Cup as a member of NYCFC. That would have meant he’d stuck around and it would have meant NYCFC were champions. But neither of those things happened. So am I happy that a member of the “blue brotherhood,” someone who endured that difficult first season, has reached the pinnacle of American soccer? Of course I am. Do I hope he gets to do it again next season? Only if his checks are being signed by City Football Group.
The “Surprise of the Season” Bestie – Ben Sweat
Who among us thought this kid would be this valuable to NYCFC when his signing was announced after the Arizona pre-season tournament? Who among us thought he would make the kinds of contributions – on both sides of the ball – that he made all season long? Not me, I admit. For this alone he should be singled out. But here’s the thing that knocked me out this season about Ben Sweat: when he made a mistake in one game, he worked on it during the week and didn’t make the same mistake the next game. That’s the sign of someone you hold on to.
The “Organization Man” Bestie – Carter Daly
Whether it’s monitoring the answers players make in the Yankee Stadium locker room or talking intelligently about the boys in blue as 20,000 screaming Red Bulls fans make their presence felt in Harrison, or banging out copy in a suit and tie curbside, Carter is always where he should be with the right answer for the right person. Plus he’s genuinely helpful when idiots like me still can’t figure out where the locker room is at an away venue. And that’s no mean feat. I don’t know if NYCFC values him in their front office, but after dealing with my fair share of empty suits across MLS these past three years, I know I do.
The Ansel Adams Memorial Bestie – Ethan White
When I’m not annoying professional soccer players (or the journalists who cover them), I make advertising. So I know a thing or two about photography. And this guy has talent. Not just “good for a soccer player” talent. Real talent. So keep your eyes on him, wherever he winds up. To that point, it should be noted that Ethan started his career with DC United, and then moved to the Philadelphia Union before spending two years with NYCFC. Following that trajectory now that he’s a free agent, I can only assume he’ll wind up with the New England Revolution next. Icaro Doria, you have been warned.
The “Hey, Look Who Didn’t Get Ejected This Year” Bestie – Patrick Vieira
Remember last year, when NYCFC’s venerable leader was suspended not once but twice? Remember how much fun that was? But not this year. Not a single ejection. Now some may say that’s a sign he’s going soft in his old age (I’m looking at you, Roy Keane) but I beg to differ. I watched him and Manager of Video Assistant Referee Operations Howard Webb go toe-to-toe in a hallway under Red Bull Arena this season after a Hudson River Derby and felt like I was back at Highbury circa 2003. So don’t be surprised if Christian Lattanzio ends up stepping in again in 2018.