The Man in Seat 9: Waking Up In Los Angeles — New York City FC Earn Road Point

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May 13, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York City FC defender Sebastien Ibeagha (33) clears the ball against Los Angeles FC during the first half at Banc of California Stadium. Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

EDITORIAL (May 14, 2018) New York City FC chased the sun to fight out a 2-2 draw with Los Angeles FC, the newest team in MLS. It was a match between two teams capitalizing on mistakes, pressing hard, and closing down space.

In a sold-out Banc of California Stadium, filled with the energy and buzz that you would expect in a town where the latest movie premiere is the greatest thing ever, the Boys in Blue again found their mojo and combined with the Black and Gold to provide one of the most entertaining matches of the weekend.

“Sometimes I have to wake up in LA to remind myself that I am truly a New Yorker.” — The Man in Seat 9

The Man in Seat 9: Waking Up In Los Angeles — New York City FC Earn Road Point

All Cityzens can breathe again and go back to fighting on social media about how bad this team is — except that it’s not — or how so-and-so is the worse thing seen since <insert name here> — except that they’re not. The side is solid. The side is really, really, good. Except for last week when they were really, really, bad. If you take account the gauntlet that we just ran — Atlanta, Portland, Dallas, Red Bulls, and LAFC — and look at the team realistically, New York City FC is the best side we’ve put forward since our inception. And one of the best in the league.

We, the Man in Seat 9 included, started to fool ourselves with the dream. We took their fast start, their flashes of beautiful football sequences, and their intensity of play, and transformed that into a heroic juggernaut that was destined for silverware. That every match would be like the one against Real Salt Lake or Atlanta United. And I still believe that they are heading for glory. But this is MLS. There is inconsistency in the level of intensity, in making the pass perfect every time, in officiating. This is the emotional roller coaster of the beautiful game.

Finding the Rythm

The Boys in Blue fought to a 2-2 draw, but take out that own goal and it would have been a 2-1 road win against a team that played a strategy that exposes this team’s biggest weakness, has not lost a match in their new stadium, and is currently sitting second in the Western Conference. NYCFC came out with energy, even if still wobbly from their shellacking by the Red Bulls, and then found their rhythm and style in the second half.  Something clicked and the sequences started flowing again. Like a phase-shift, colors were brought back in focus.

Jo Inge Berget is Getting My Attention

I think Jo Inge Berget is getting a bad wrap. No, he’s not the most graceful attacker. And yes, he’s looked out of step and out of place for most of the season. But I’ve started to notice how he’s impacting defenses. I’m starting to notice flashes of skill that I didn’t before. And I’m starting to notice his work ethic. When he first started he was coming off a pre-season injury that didn’t allow him to train fully. He wasn’t match fit. And I still have that image of him, slow and unmoving, in my mind. But that’s not fair.

Last night he covered a lot of ground. He constantly returned from forays up front to support the back four. He made runs that pulled defenders out of the middle. He started to have some speed and show some skill. In the second half, his first touch from Villa’s pass — which was a bit behind — to bring it in position for a shot was an excellent technical move.

A lot of supporters will come at me for this, but the Man in Seat 9 gives credit where credit is due. Give the Viking some time. Vieira sees something in him. Villa sees something in him. And I think I’m starting to see something in him. I think he’s been far from his full potential to date and at the end of the season will have more fans than detractors.

Tinnerholm is a Workhorse

Anton Tinnerholm gives everything he has to give on the pitch. As a former keeper, I always have an image of a defender when they take the ball on attack. You’ve seen the meme. Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit, running with parchment in hand, screaming “I’m going on an adventure!” Tinnerholm is NOT that.

A defender with the heart, speed, endurance, and ball skills to push up into the final third and be a threat to shoot from distance or feed to Villa, Moralez, Berget, or Medina/Tajouri-Shradi and defend all the way back to his original position. Sometimes I wish he would stay back as I feel the back four are porous at times, but man, is he fun to watch.

Call Me Ismael, Again

The team changed last night when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi subbed on for Ben Sweat. Patrick Vieira decided to swap a defender to increase the attack and brought Shradi on in the 69th minute. Six minutes later he scored to rescue the point from the match. Shradi seems to be one of the catalysts that make the attack engine of NYCFC run at full throttle.

Stadium Envy

The Man in Seat 9 can’t let this article pass without mentioning the elephant in the room. It is LAFC’s first season. It is our fourth. They play in a gorgeous, soccer-specific stadium and enjoy the sport in it’s finest rendition. We play in a borrowed baseball stadium putting up with everything that the situation entails.  I understand that land in LA is plentiful and the city is a willing partner in entertainment ventures, but it doesn’t alleviate the pang of envy when we play LAFC, Orlando, or Atlanta United.

The GB&U

The Good:

  • Much better energy from the side this match. Although, that’s not saying much given that it was in the negative numbers last match.
  • David Villa scoring #402 by doing what it is that he does best, never giving up. Penalty stopped by the keeper? No problem, how about a diving header to finish the job.
  • Finding the mojo again around the 54th minute. Something in the team clicked like setting a broken bone.
  • Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Again. Smart. Aggressive. And Talented. The team plays better when he’s on the pitch.

The Bad:

  • Set pieces. Again.
  • Own goal by Ibeagha.
  • Sloppy passing. Balls constantly passed behind players instead of in stride. Too many passes that break the flow of play because they are not where they need to be.
  • Defense within the eighteen. Crosses cut through without impediment. Intercepts missed. Not closing down on the ball.

The Ugly:

  • Once again this season, I can’t say I saw any ugly.

Scoring Summary:

13’ – NYC – David Villa
23’ – LAFC – Sebastien Ibeagha (OG)
66’ – LAFC – Carlos Vela (Assisted by: Mark Anthony-Kaye)
75’ – NYC – Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

“But you got that special kind of sadness
You got that tragic set of charms
That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles
Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms.”
— Time Spent in Los Angeles, Dawes

What time is it? Is that the alarm?

See you at home next week,

The Man in Seat 9

May 13, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York City FC defender Sebastien Ibeagha (33) clears the ball against Los Angeles FC during the first half at Banc of California Stadium. Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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