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Homeward Bound: Why it’s Good NYCFC is not in the CCL

From Last Word on Soccer, by Martin Bihl

Seconds after Roman Torres’ penalty kick hit the back of the net in Ontario, my twitter feed exploded with regret. Not for Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and the rest of the reds. But for NYCFC, who, many were trying to tell me, were the real losers on that night.

Homeward Bound: Why it’s Good NYCFC is not in the CCL

Wait, what?

Yes. Because had Toronto FC won, had Stefan Frei NOT made that insane save in the second half, had Justin Morrow’s pk dipped just fractions of an inch lower, then NYCFC would have won themselves a birth into the CONCACAF Champions League. Six glorious months of footie against teams from Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador and more. All to be played during the regular season starting in August of next year.

NYCFC fans were upset but I think it’s good NYCFC is not in the CCL. And here’s why:

  1. For crying out loud, let the team gel.

2017 is the team’s first real opportunity to play a regular core starting XI week in and week out. And we have never been able to do for a full season. 2015 was marked by the turnover and volatility that tend to be the watchwords for any expansion franchise. 2016 was a little better, but still, Maxime Chanot and Steven Mendoza didn’t show up until midway through the season. And Patrick Vieira continued to tinker with roles for Jefferson Mena, Ethan White and Khiry Shelton. Having to incorporate resting players because of the additional burden of Champions League when they’re still trying to learn each other’s games feels like a needless additional challenge. And anyway, if you like that kind of thing, Vieira will still need to juggle players for World Cup qualifiers.

2) For crying out loud, let the team gel, part 2

In case you haven’t noticed, NYCFC won’t have Frank Lampard in 2017. So not only will someone have to fill his spot in the starting XI, they’ll also have to make up his 12 goals on the scoresheet. No doubt we’ll spend the off-season arguing about how that’s gonna happen. But however it does, it’s gonna mean guys learning new roles and new strategies. Oh and the side also lost Andoni Iraola who’s defensive complement to Andrea Pirlo and his alternative passing option will also need to be replaced by someone. Maybe someone great – but certainly someone different. And I’d rather they take advantage of the fact that NYCFC is not in the CCL to learn the team and for the team to learn them without the added burden of 6,000 mile joyrides.

3) We don’t need the attention

Without sounding like the kind of condescending, self-important jerk that everyone assumes is the default personality of anyone supporting NYCFC (or indeed, born within the five boroughs of the City of New York), NYCFC doesn’t need the international attention as desperately as other teams in the league do. Neither from a marketing perspective nor from a player development one. NYCFC’s friendly in Necaxa this past season – in which Mexican fans lined up around the block for a meet and greet with El Capitan and Il Maestro – demonstrated the pull of the team abroad. Or at least it’s stars. And similarly, with players like Josh Saunders, Chanot, Frederic Brillant, Ronald Matarrita and Shannon Gomez. They all have experience with their national teams, while Eirik Johannsen and Shelton have played with their nations’ junior sides. The fact that NYCFC is not in the CCL won’t rob these players of international experience. So let someone else get that shot.

4) NYCFC’s loss is Colorado’s win.

Because Dallas won the Open Cup AND finished top of the West, the Colorado Rapids get to play in the CCL (alongside Seattle, the Red Bulls and Toronto). Good for them. Let them do all that crazy traveling. I’m sure that’s exactly what Tim Howard had in mind when he transferred back from Everton. Hell, it may even be one of the reasons why Jermaine Jones is taking his talents to LA – in order to avoid it. But Rapids fans will enjoy it. And let them, they’ll have shorter flights anyway.

5) RBNY’s win is actually NYCFC’s win

Tell me that as a fan of NYCFC you don’t enjoy any scenario that makes things more difficult for our Red Brothers across the Hudson? Especially when you recall that they are also still in the 2016-2017 edition of the League. So they still have those matches to deal with as well. So let them make those long flights, Let them play those extra matches. Let Jesse Marsch be the one to figure out when he’s gonna rest Sascha Klestjan who will invariably see more National Team duty in 2017. Because NYCFC is not in the CCL we can rest our players – or better yet, let them spend more time on points one and two above.

6) 2017 is really not a good time for me to do all that traveling.

I mean, I’d love to, and I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, the um, canal of Panama, and everything else those wonderful qualifying nations of CONCACAF have to offer. But honestly, 2016 was a tough year. And laying out major coin for a bunch of flights to these exotic locales – no matter how enticing – is just not in the cards. So the fact that NYCFC is not in the CCL, from a personal standpoint, just fine.

Of course, if someone wants to subsidize my travel next year, hey, I’ve got a passport that’s just itching to be filled up.


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