The NYCFC Diaries, Vol. 2: Ariel, Unionman, and Baseball Banter

nycfc-philadelphia-union

Tonight’s Forecast? Nothing But Majestic!

It sucks that I still had to don a jacket of some sort. I see the majority of people in my section wearing shorts and here I am thinking “aren’t these people going to complain sooner or later?” Funny enough, they did. But who am I to say?

The weather was fantastic for football: low 50s with a touch of chilly wind is always cracking weather. (That’s my favorite kind of football weather. If I was running around on the pitch, chances are I would feel the heat from running rather than producing friction on my hands for warmth.)

Unfortunately for the people in shorts and short sleeves, they must have felt the bantam stings on their hands whenever they clapped in appreciation for NYCFC. Now if only the sun was out, then it would have been 110% cracking weather.

Ariel, The Little Football Fan:

Just so everyone reading knows, there will never be a part of this series where Danny isn’t mentioned. He’s essentially the mascot of this series, because he’s a cool guy. He has his own qualms, like leaving after the first half (for those of you that read Part 1, you’ll understand), but he is a ball to talk to when you engage in conversation with him.

15 minutes in, with no major chances taking place, I was wondering where Danny was when he rolled in with his lady friend, Ariel. Danny looked like a member of Duran Duran, squeaky clean (before being ridden by cocaine), borderline New Romantic, minus the coiffed, rising hair and the Adam Ant-esque pirate clothing.

Next time, I should track down the stadium PA, so he could play “New Moon On Monday” or “The Reflex”  before the games and during halftime. Dude really looked like Simon LeBon. duran duran

Match days usually on the weekends, but that night’s fixture was on Thursday. Heaps of people were either working or hardly working. No matter what, suits in the stands were imminent. You think going to Madison Square Garden was suit city, well, they might have their sister combative competitor in the suit department.

Danny and I shake hands. “Ariel, this is James.” “HI!” Ariel shrieked, in a voice so shrill that it could qualify as Rosie O’Donnell on helium. “Nice to meet you. I always loved watching soccer, but I never really got around to going to games.” “Same with me” I said. “Now that I’m an NYCFC season ticket holder, it’ll be a lot easier to attend games now, that’s for sure.”

Ariel is one of those gals that is very outgoing when sober. She was on a beer or so, but that’s barely even considered being drunk. For all I knew, she might have been acting stupid drunk while being sober or vice versa. I’ll never know now— unless she tags along with Danny for another game— but it was fun trying to anatomize her way of acting.

During one possession, Adam Nemec held up the ball (like he’s supposed to, because that’s his role) and eventually turned over possession to the Union. Fans started to boo the crap out of him (like they do every time he touches the ball). Danny turns to me and, like the consensus of people around the stadium, says “Nemec has gotta go!” “He’s the prototypical target man,” I shouted, trying to scream as loud as I can over the crowd. Ariel turns. “What’s a target man?”

This is where I got flustered. I was too focused on the game, but at the same time, I’m a nice guy so I decided to answer Ariel. So I started explaining what a target man’s purpose was.

“A target man is someone who us relied on their physicality. They’re typically strong guys that can head the ball really well and are better at passing on the frontline than taking a shot on net,” I explained.

Now, usually, I get carried away, because that’s the kind of guy I am. Once you start a conversation with me, I’ll go and on and on, especially with sports and music. I’ve only learned recently how to contain myself from getting carried away. It’s not a personality problem; being a good conversator is a fantastic thing. But at the same time, limits have to be placed. Thankfully, Ariel cut me off.

“So, they’re kind of like a point guard in basketball?” Ariel answered. “Yeeeeeeee….YEAH! Exactly!” I said.

I was going to counter with something else, but I didn’t want to. From there on out, nothing else was said from her, except, when she screamed random expletives.

 The Game:

SLP_9315

The repeated sentiment from the crowd, including myself, was “how the hell did Mehdi Ballouchy not score in the 28th minute?” Indeed, how didn’t he score?

Ballouchy had been set up by a majestic David Villa backheel flick that bamboozled the Union defense. He had a nice two or three seconds to decide what section of the net the ball will go into. Instead, his cheekiness level went overboard; Ballouchy attempts to go top right upper 90, skies the ball over the crossbar in a 1v1 against Union goalkeeper John McCarthy and the loudest groans echoed throughout the crappy Yankee Stadium acoustics. Womp womp.

Sure, Ballouchy had made amends for missing the best opportunity of the game in the 58th minute with an awesome curler on far post, but man, the final score line really should have been 2-1. I’m not just saying that because I’m an NYCFC fan, it REALLY should have ended 2-1.

(Fun fact: Rais M’Bolhi, Algerian National Team hero at this past year’s World Cup, is the second choice goalkeeper on the Union. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the field once. Never. This game is rigged.)

David Villa’s adductor strain, which limited him from playing against Sporting KC a couple weeks ago, seemed to have flared up again. As the PA announced “Substitution for NYCFC…Kwadwo Poku for David Villa,” fans were not happy, although Villa wasn’t visible on the field when the whole team was running onto the field at the beginning of the second half.

Mix Diskerud was unavailable, because he was busy on international duty. Yet again, the U.S beat Mexico 2-0 (sorry, I don’t like “Dos A Cero”), but he would have made a huge difference for the midfield, because, ultimately, he’s Mix, and he is the anchoring midfielder for an expansion franchise.

Maurice Edu — talk about a blast from the past — did all he could to stop NYCFC play passages. If it wasn’t for him, then the Union would have gone down swinging. NYCFC probably would have stampeded on Philadelphia for the remainder of the game. He was definitely man of the match material.

It was yet another game where NYCFC had been playing for a 1-0 lead. Instead of alleviating pressure for the backline, the pressure piled up like a mound of leaves falling from a tree on an autumn afternoon. C.J Saipong was left unmarked, while Andrew Jacobson and Kwame Watson-Siriboe were caught ball watching. Josh Saunders was unable to combat Saipong’s point blank strike by guessing the wrong way from inside the six yard box and NYCFC had less than 10 minutes plus stoppage time to salvage something.

Somehow, NYCFC almost managed to administer some 90th minute magic, but were denied by McCarthy on an astonishing reaction save at the far post.

Back-to-back disappointing results for NYCFC against the Union, both at the hands of an ill-fated late game winner and equalizer, meant that they had to pick it up against the Timbers. They had lost that game 1-0, because goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey made several crucial saves, one of them on a 1v1 against Khiry Shelton.

NYCFC are 0-4-2 in their last six matches. Yes, being winless in their last six matches is disenchanting. But that won’t stop me from going to games.

People are already calling for Jason Kreis’ head and the New York Post is already deeming NYCFC as a #CRISIS club. Archetypal New York Post ballyhoo. I’m telling you, guys, if this was elsewhere, I would not be reading this fiery garbage.

(Just a little side note: People that actually buy into any New York sports knee jerk reaction pieces are most likely uninformed. Just defer yourself from reading the Post or the Daily News.)

Unionman:

One of the more subtle things about losing and drawing is the laid-back atmosphere located underground at the 4 train subway stations. I know, you would think it’s more volatile, especially after an NYCFC loss, but it isn’t that way at all. Post game, the Third Rail is still banging one of the many huge ass bass drums while chanting “Seven Nation Army” in repetitions.

I was standing on the platform to board one of the three trains back home. Meanwhile, I feel a tap on my shoulder. Usually, a casual shoulder tap at the subways means that you’re either going to get:

  1. Mugged
  2. Solicited by a homeless dude for “CHANGE! YA GOT ANY CHANGE?!?”
  3. Pried into a conversation with a stranger until the train comes.
  4. All of the above

Tonight, it was option number three with a Union supporter that was asking for help to arrive back to Penn Station. He seemed very ecstatic.

“Hey buddy!” he shouted. My right eardrum rang for a good 25 seconds. “What’s up?” I asked. “Heyaaa, do you know how to get back to Manhattan from here?” “Yeah, just take this train to the 42nd street Grand Central stop and you’ll be good. If you wanna follow my lead, I’ll assist ya” “That’s it? I guess I’ll follow ya” “Yup! That’s all!” “Thanks man! I’m from Philly, so I’m really unfamiliar with the NYC subway system.” “Trust me, you’re definitely not the only one that’s been asking questions about the subways. I’ve had to ask questions about what train to take, and I’ve been a New Yorker all my life.”

grand central

The guy – I’ll refer to him as Unionman – had a bulky appearance, one that resembled Lou Ferrigno. He was wearing a couple of thick Union scarves and a Union track jacket, which you could see from one subway platform end to the other.

Unionman and I immediately boarded the train. He saw he had a ways to go until he got to Grand Central. I was actually thinking about getting off that stop, but I’ve had loads of bad luck with the 42nd street stop before.

At that time, I had discovered you could transfer directly to the 7 line, taking me back to Main Street in Flushing (and, ultimately, driving back to Long Island, because going to Penn Station and then taking the subways is massively expensive). But both times I’ve gotten off at that stop in the past, construction was being done on the track, resulting in agonizing time wasting that wasn’t an actual train delay. Instead, 59th street is the ideal stop to get off at in order to transfer to the 7.

flushing main street

Unionman and I had some time to kill. When he decided to follow me onto the train, I thought he was going to wander off to the other Union supporters in the same car to discuss C.J Saipong’s poach or John McCarthy’s brilliance. That wasn’t the case. Instead, he struck up a gratifying conversation with me for the length of the train ride before he had to get off at Grand Central.

“I take it that you’re a Yankee fan?” Unionman asked. “I know you’ll probably scold at me, but I’ve been a Met fan all my life.” “Ah, I see. But you seem like a nice guy, so I have nothing against you.” I did one of those fake laughs, because it was tough to tell whether this guy was serious or not. The way he said it sounded like I was on the verge of receiving an ass kicking.

“How about Ryan Howard and Chase Utley? Those guys are holding the team together.” My antics were flying through the roof. “C’mon man, you know better than that.” “I’m a Met fan, what else were you expecting?” We went back and forth. “Remember 2007 and 2008? Yeah, that’s what I thought.” “That’s pretty lame” I exclaimed. “Lenny Dykstra took steroids with the Mets in 1986.”

At that point, he just got more idiotic. Dykstra had taken steroids with the Phillies when he almost won MVP in 1993, (only to be beaten by… Barry Bonds), not with the Mets in 1986.

By the time Unionman had hurled the Dykstra falsity, he had to leave. I forgot that he had to depart, because I was so engaged in playful (but dumb) Phillies banter and Mets nationalism. The train had stopped at the infamous Grand Central station and, after about 20 minutes of pleasurable conversation, I gave a sarcastic “Tell Ruben Amaro I said hi!” Unionman did one of those “get outta here” hand waves.

So we beat on, trains against the third rail, borne back ceaselessly into the past decade of Phillies-Mets trash talk.

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