The NYCFC Diaries, Vol. 5: New York Derby, Part Deux

The Twitter account campaigned to light up the Empire State Building in vibrant blue colors; it did. #WINNYCFC was the slogan every NYCFC fan went by on Twitter and even in real life. The fans’ derby build-up wishes came to fruition. #NYWasBlue. But the fixture? Well…that flung the other way. Here are some of the scenes (SCENES) that went down from the second-ever New York Derby.

James, This Is Mark. Mark, This Is James:

So Danny returned after being reported missing for three games. He actually wasn’t at the games. But you know how I am about him.

About 10 minutes before the game started, Danny walks over to me.

“What’s up bro!”

We do that handshake-shoulder bump hybrid that I do all the time. Some other guy follows behind him.

“Where have you been?!?” I asked.

“Ahhh,” sighed Danny, “Well, I’ve been getting beat up at my job.”

Danny reveals that he works on Wall Street – Gordon Gecko’s habitat – for the “big guys” for a living. And when I say “big guys,” I mean the “big guys” – the Goldman Sachs’, the J.P Morgans, the Morgan Stanleys, you name it. He didn’t specify the specific investment bank he works at, but who wouldn’t assume one of those?

“You see,” Danny said, “Working at a financial firm is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. The field of business is great, but lemme give ya a piece of advice: Don’t end up doing it for the rest of your damn life. It was the biggest life mistake I’ve made.”

“I’ve heard some scary stories about Goldman Sachs interns committing suicide because of endless hours,” I noted.

“Just picture me being in between a rock and a hard place,” Danny said. “There is no way that I’m escaping my authoritative boss of a few years nor will I get a raise, even after a shit ton of fucking major index presentations.”

Usually, I don’t continue to discuss about someone’s workplace, because, to me, it isn’t normal to respond to apoplectic lamenting about someone else’s boss. Quite frankly, it’s none of my beeswax.

But sometimes you have to go against your principles (had to stick a Brighton Beach Memoirs reference in there). This was Danny. Even though he’d only missed three games, I feel like I’ve known him forever— like that long lost best friend you had in elementary school that drifted apart from you transitioning into middle school. This guy would tell you anything and, along with that, would go on and on until someone interrupted him mid-sentence. The age gap between us is immense – I’ll assume that he’s at least 15 years older than me.

“Analyzing Wall Street is the toughest and most masochistic job in the world,” Danny continued. “Not only do you have to haul ass while making presentations, you have to make these presentations accurate.”

“So, like an Andrea Pirlo free kick?” I shouted over the plangent crowd roars. (I know, how topical of me.)

Danny chuckled. “Yes! Exactly like that! Except, you can’t sky it over the bar or kick it wide. The ball must go in. If it’s saved by the goalkeeper, doesn’t matter. You’re fucked if the ball doesn’t touch twine.”

Aside from sports, I’m an avid browser of financial markets. I’m usually up at 9:30 waiting for the opening bell. But working on Wall Street? Screw that! There goes my life. The six-figure salary? That ain’t worth it. Working 15 hours with bantam breaks while conforming to being a pathological liar like all of my other co-workers? I can’t even imagine what Danny has to go through.

via boomsbeat.com

“How many suits were here for Montreal?” Danny asked.

“Oh, not too many,” I said. “People are still filling the stadium up for two bottom table teams. It was another game filled with fun.”

Danny and I turn our heads over to the game for a second and – out of nowhere, me being totally unaware – Danny introduces me to a friend of his.

“James, this is Mark!” shouted Danny. “Mark, this is James!”

“What’s up dude!” said Mark. “Great to meet you!”

The first time I looked at Mark, I couldn’t help thinking that he’s this unabashed frat dude from some unknown social club. Turns out he was the antithesis of that, minus the raspy quasi-Jeff Spicoli voice, which is a plus. He was wearing a Mets hat (+1), a mega-small wifebeater with a $10 cup of Stella Artois in hand, colored shorts and loafers with near-knee high socks. Frat boy clothing sans the frat boy mentality. He gets a free pass.

I learned that he’s a Red Bulls fan. He constantly saluted the Garden State Ultras and the Viking Army, the Red Bulls supporters groups that occupied the front rows of the nosebleeds. He wasn’t afraid to showcase his Red Bulls fandom. I guess that explains the inaudible Red Bulls chants.

“You know,” he says, “is it me or do NYCFC and American soccer fans are trying to act like European soccer fans?”

“What I don’t like is that Americans don’t support their own league, yet they support the Premier League and La Liga while trying to act like hooligans,” I said.

“Exactly! Some people need to get a fucking grip,” he said.

Loved this dude INSTANTLY. I’ve known him for 2 minutes and we’re already agreeing on stuff, particularly on the subject of Americans not supporting their own league and hooliganism.

Hooliganism – yeah, that means you, ultras – is terrible. It’s like fans watched “Green Street Hooligans” and thought “hey guys, let’s support our club while committing assault crimes!”

“Yeah,” Mark said. “There’ll always be fugazis wherever you go. But these kinds of games are great for not only MLS, but for the national team.”

All throughout the game, Mark didn’t say one bad thing about NYCFC as a team. However, he had to stick with his roots. Still, respect for the guy. And his Mets cap.

THE PRIDE OF WEST NYACK, TOM MCNAMARA:

I’ve been a very staunch advocate of starting Tom McNamara from…the start, really. And I’m not saying that because he scored the MLS goal of the week a few weeks ago against the Union, nor am I saying it because people confused him, Ned Grabavoy and Mix Diskerud because of their copycat long flowing hair; he’s a swift midfielder that has utmost confidence on the ball. Exempli gratia, he swirls around midfield double teams with ease.

It only took NYCFC eight minutes to open the scoring via McNamara’s goal – a brilliant fusion of composure and body touches that led to a nice far post finish past Luis Robles. If you’re wondering how I reacted, here you go:

The lone NYCFC goal was a pretty good one. Too bad that they lost, but what an experience. #nycfc #redbulls #mls

A post shared by james griffo (@jgriffo12) on

In case you’re wondering who I zoomed in on during the euphoria, that’s the almighty Danny, the same Danny that is the mascot of this series. Brief, but glorious.

Lampard, Pirlo and…BALE?!?:

Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo made a very special appearance on the scoreboard. Not surprisingly, the “We Want Pirlo” chants rained down on Yankee Stadium. Lampard smiled and waved, while Pirlo gave a smirk, as if to say “yeah, I’m Andrea Pirlo. Bitch.”

(Side note: I might get myself a “No Pirlo, No Party” shirt in the future. Or maybe I won’t, because everyone is going to have one by the time Pirlo makes his NYCFC debut.)

Gareth Bale took a picture with Ferran Soriano, the CEO of Manchester City, so by the Internet’s logic, that means he’s going to City.

And on Monday, I also discovered that Bale played a round of golf at Bethpage State Park, which is about 20 minutes away from my house. So that means an initial loan to NYCFC followed by a permane…oh, who am I kidding.

Here’s what I really feel about Pirlo: he didn’t need to be signed from a playing standpoint. A defensive midfielder is the least of NYCFC’s positional needs. But in public opinion terms, Pirlo needed to be signed (just read the shit that goes on in the NYCFC supporters Facebook group). Come his debut on July 26th against Orlando City, we’ll see how much coach Jason Kreis alters his gameplan.

LL Cool J was even at the game, too. “I Need Love” turned into “I Got All The Love” after he was shown on the scoreboard. Yankee Stadium got Bigger and Deffer…after this monumental picture.

No Poku, No Party, No Presentable Style of Play in the Second Half:

Onto the derby. NYCFC absolutely dominated the first half. They rained on the Red Bulls’ parade for as much as they wanted to. A couple of minutes later, Mehdi Ballouchy almost followed up McNamara’s goal with a far post curler that just missed the post. It looked as if the only goal of the game was going to be the game winner, because the Red Bulls were incredibly disorganized. The Third Rail was euphoric, as was 90% of Yankee Stadium.

via nydailynews.com

Mehdi Ballouchy, via nydailynews.com

Most impressively, the defense was in place throughout the first half. Shay Facey made very strong clearances and – if it wasn’t for his clearances – Josh Saunders was there to pick out errant crosses and long balls that looked destined to touch the head or feet of any Red Bull, from Dax McCarty to the very dangerous Bradley Wright-Phillips.

But after Chris Wingert went down with an injury – leading to Jeb Brovsky coming on for him – the team imploded. And, as every other fan in the section said, “what the hell happened?”

NYCFC fans really can’t blame Wingert for getting hurt, but that’s where it all started during the second half. BWP split the defense and scored two minutes into the second half. Right back Chris Duvall followed suit five minutes later. Just like that, the Red Bulls were up 2-1, with two goals scored in a span of seven minutes.

This is where Jason Kreis turned frantic. When the fans chant “We Want Poku!” that’s usually Kreis’ cue to sub out Ballouchy for Kwadwo Poku. But Ballouchy was playing well enough. In fact, if he had scored that curler in the 10th minute, maybe he wouldn’t have been subbed off early. The fans were wrong this time around.

Ballouchy was indeed subbed off for Poku in the 56th minute. Poku is the club’s moxie, the prototypical “energy guy” that fuels the attack almost immediately. Unfortunately for NYCFC, this was one of the rare times where Poku – and ultimately, NYCFC’s offensive game as a whole – faltered.

via hudsonriverblue.com

Kwadwo Poku, via hudsonriverblue.com

NYCFC was never able to recover. Matt Miazga, who was sent off in the first New York Derby, slotted home in the 73rd minute. The Red Bulls hit the post a couple of times, one via BWP and the other courtesy of Manolo Sanchez, who, somehow, missed a relatively wide open net. The Sanchez attempt really should have gone in, but it didn’t. The scoreline should have been 4-1. Thankfully, it was 3-1, but still, it was gutting.

Would I consider it a rout? Unfortunately, yes. Being down by a goal in the middle of the second half isn’t a massive margin to overcome, but the two shots that clanged off the post easily could have inflated the scoreline. Allowing three goals in the second half is simply inexcusable. The NYCFC of old during the 11-game winless run returned in the second half.

What started off as a fantastic game of ball retention, chance creation and delectable link-up play turned into constant temerarious direct passing to Poku or David Villa hoping to move the ball forward with no reinforcements. Playing desperation football only down by one in the 56th minute is, well, not smart.

It Might Be Time to Settle Down:

Two New York Derbys, two losses, double the bragging rights for the Red Bulls, who are six points ahead of the Blues with a game in hand. The unmitigated “fuck the Red Bulls” and “20 years with no cup” chants won’t stop, but after Sunday, they must be put on hold until further notice – like, maybe when NYCFC surpass them in the Eastern Conference standings or when they meet in the playoffs.

Yankee Stadium was completely silent after the third goal – except for the Viking Army and Garden State Ultras doing their spiel on the opposite end. The Third Rail were probably the loudest they’ve been this season and they went silent. Not even the “Los Templados 12” were banging the shit out of their bass drums.

NYCFC’s next five fixtures are very important ones. In order: the Impact today, Toronto, New England, Orlando City and the Impact again. The two Impact matches could be six points. They trumped New England in their home opener, but they sit right above Toronto in second. And even though NYCFC beat Toronto 2-0 a couple of weeks ago, they round out the top three in the East. Orlando will probably be a tough game as well, considering that they’re in a three way tie with the Red Bulls and Toronto, with their goal differentials being 3, 2 and 1, respectively. Two top three East teams, a team fighting for a top three position and the team above them…I would say that’s a tough road ahead.

But, hey, as Edie Brickell once said, stranger things have happened. Come on, you boys in blue!

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