On September 27th, New York City FC announced they would be spending part of the international bye week playing a friendly against Liga MX side Necaxa.
And while I am sure that a lot of NYCFC fans (and therefore readers of these essays) are aficionados of the Liga MX, I personally needed to dig into the background of this team a bit, because I am as ignorant as a bag of hammers about them, the Liga MX and most things south of the Rio Grande.
Who are You? NYCFC face Necaxa
A Bit of History
The “Electricians” – or if you prefer, “Los Electricistas” – were founded in 1923 by William H Frasser, an Englishman who, for reasons I have not been able to fathom, actually owned the Light and Power Company in the state of Puebla. Their heyday seems to have been the 1930s (and whose wasn’t?) but they disappeared during the 1940s, and then had occasional success in the 1950s and 60s. In the 1970s they were actually sued by a player for poor treatment, and continued to wrestle with insolvency until they were bought by a bunch of Spanish businessmen. In 1975 they won a CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Anything else? Oh yes, they are currently sitting in eighth place in Liga MX, just above their “red line” and their natural rivals are Atlante FC.
Now, the crazy thing is, or rather, among the crazy things is, that during much of this time, Necaxa was a Mexico City team. Even though they were started in the city of Puebla, which is about 100 miles southeast. And now? Well, now they play in beautiful Aguascalientes where they relocated in the early 2000s and which is about 400 miles northwest of Mexico City.
A Bit of Insight
But you know, that’s all just data. And data is fine, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For that, you gotta talk to someone who knows the team. Someone who lives and dies by it. Or at least, you have to talk to their son.
“My dad is a Necaxa fan since the 1950s” Fox Sports broadcaster Francisco X. Rivera told me, “so I feel pretty qualified on them.” Okay, so who should we watch out for when NYCFC face Necaxa? “Right now, their best player is a Chilean forward, Edson Puch, who, you may recall, scored twice against El Tri in the recent 7-0 Copa America thrashing.”
Plus, I pointed out, they also recently picked up Fabian Espindola who was instrumental in dashing NYCFC’s playoff hopes last year when he played for D. C. United.
Interestingly, that’s not who Francisco tells us to be concerned about when NYCFC face Necaxa. Nor should they be particularly worried about Claudio Riano who played with NYCFC’s Federico Bravo at Boca Juniors in 2013. “Keep an eye out for Jesus Isijara.” the well-dressed Rivera warns, “He’s a 27-year old attacking midfielder. Very intelligent, quick, has good long range shot, and a knack for being at the right place inside the box.”
Great. Just what we were hoping to hear was in store for the squad when NYCFC face Necaxa.
A Bit of a Quandary
All kidding aside, one has to wonder why NYCFC are embarking on a 5,000 mile roundtrip in the final weeks of the season. A 5,000 mile round trip as they’re about to enter the playoffs. A 5,000 mile round trip when their midfield, as Jon Sauerschell likes to remind us, is 109 years old.
Patrick Vieira has said it was because the team had momentum and didn’t want to lose that. “There are some players who are doing really well and I don’t want to break that momentum where we play one game each week and we’re going to prepare the game as we did from the beginning of the season. Those players need games, they need to keep going.”
Which would seem to indicate that fans would see something like the regular starting XI when NYCFC face Necaxa, right? Except Vieira also said “And then we have players who didn’t play a lot who need games as well. I’m looking to satisfy the physical side of all the players. Some players who have not had a lot of opportunity to play a lot this year will have the opportunity to play”
That has led to speculation by writers like Roddy Russell that players like Mikey Lopez, Eirik Johansen, and Diego Martinez might make the starting XI when NYCFC face Necaxa. And that we might even see Mix Diskerud and Andre Rawls on the Mexican pine. Or whatever the non-starters sit on down there.
And I get that. But a five thousand mile round trip?
I mean, there were absolutely no teams available closer? No USL or NASL teams looking to add a little revenue – and star power! – to their side? Can you imagine the phone calls? “St. Louis F.C.? Hey, it’s Claudio Reyna… no? Okay. Hey, San Antonio F.C. ? Claudio Reyna here… oh.” And if Aguascalientes, Mexico wasn’t too far, where was? The Maracana? The Etihad? The mind boggles.
A Bit of an Opportunity
All that said, when NYCFC face Necaxa, it’s an opportunity for the team to show itself against a different kind of an opponent. And honestly, after a run of games against the bottom half of MLS’s table (D. C. United notwithstanding) it might be a good idea for the team to play against some quality. It might be an opportunity for them to remind themselves where the bar is set as they head into the playoffs against teams with more experience than they have.
It might just be a good idea for them to remind themselves just exactly who they are. Because we really wanna know.