Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Uptown: NYCFC’s second playoff game

From Last Word on Soccer, by Martin Bihl

Silviu Petrescu had hardly blown his whistle ending New York City FC’s first playoff game before fans, pundits and other punters began worrying about NYCFC’s second playoff game. “What was Vieira thinking with that line up?” they cried. “We’re down two goals! We’ll never overcome that!” they moaned. “Players are angry at Patrick Vieira!” they fretted. “If David Villa isn’t suspended everyone will hate us!” they whined.

Oh for crying out loud.

You didn’t like the lineup for last game? You know what, neither did I. So wait here while I build a time machine and we can both go back and tell Patrick Vieira that it was a mistake. And while we’re at it, we can also tell him not to play a defensive game, since that’s not who NYCFC are. OH WAIT, WE CAN’T BUILD A TIME MACHINE SO I GUESS WE’LL JUST HAVE TO GET OVER IT AND MOVE ON.

“Move on?” you say. “Into NYCFC’s second playoff game where we have to over come an insurmountable two goal deficit?” A deficit that the American soccer community is almost unanimously convinced we cannot get out of? I’m sorry. I thought we were talking about NYCFC. The team who scored more goals this season THAN ANY OTHER TEAM IN THE LEAGUE. A team who put five goals on the best defense in the league – almost 1/6 of the goals they would give up all season.

“Oh, don’t say ‘defense’!” you cry. “Our back line is terrible! Why just look what happened in Toronto! I dread to think what might happen in NYCFC’s second playoff game!” Fair enough. But how about we also look at the fact that we had eight clean sheets this season. And if you take out the disaster against the New York Red Bulls in May, NYCFC’s goals conceded stat falls right in line with the league average.

“Fall in line? How can you say that when there are reports of dissension at NYCFC! That players are unhappy! Who knows if they’ll even play together in NYCFC’s second playoff game!” Really? Let me tell you about a little team you may have heard called the New York Yankees. A team in which at one point the manager and the star outfielder got into a fist fight in the dugout during a game (fun fact: that team won the World Series that year). In which the owner and the manager’s regular appearance on the front page of the New York Post and New York Daily News probably saved those newspapers from bankruptcy. THIS IS NEW YORK, PEOPLE. WE SWIM IN DISSENT AND ARGUMENT LIKE SHARKS SWIM IN THE GULF STREAM.

“But now everybody hates us now because the league didn’t suspend Villa for his, shall we say, ‘restless leg syndrome in the direction of Armando Cooper’ and they’ll take it out on us in NYCFC’s second playoff game”. Really? Guess what? THEY ALREADY HATED NYCFC. EVERYBODY IN THE LEAGUE HATES NYCFC. They hate the money. They hate the owners. They hate the stadium. They hate the Designated Players. They hate the city. They hate the fans.

But guess what?

You don’t come here to be loved. You come here to do the amazing. You come here to work with people better than you to become better than them. You come here because maybe the people back where you were didn’t understand a single word you were saying but you still knew you were right, because guess what, you were. You come here to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to achieve what all those other people said you couldn’t.

Listen. Frank Lampard, one of the best players England has ever produced, is playing with two guys who’ve done something he’s never done and is managed by a third. Listen. Jack Harrison, one of the best players ever to step onto a college soccer pitch, is working daily with players he dreamed about. Listen. We have players on our bench who are on the national teams of other countries.

Are we perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Of course. Does our anger – at ourselves, each other, our opponents – sometimes get the better of us? Certainly. Because we’re human beings.

But do we let that stop us? No.

If there is dissent in the locker room we turn it into genius on the pitch. If there is resentment from our opponents and every stadium we walk into, we use it as a blade with which to sharpen our attack. If there are mistakes that have been made, we study them until our eyes bleed and we never make them again.

We do it all and we triumph. Why?

Because where I come from, we don’t let society tell us how it’s supposed to be.

See you uptown on Sunday.


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