The relegation-threatened Black Cats were indeed making the rounds in New York City this morning, up in team gear to take a run around the park.
We’re confident this would be a bit more difficult to achieve without interruption in Northeast England. Of course, in the picture above, American midfielder Lynden Gooch is front and center on home soil.
The #SAFC players were up bright and early today to tackle a frosty morning at Central Park.
It’s causing some backlash amongst Sunderland supporters, who think their players should be grinding it out on the training pitches of England, but Moyes said they’re still working on the pitch (So keep an eye open, NYC).
“But sometimes going to a training camp can just be more of the same. I want us to build a real good team spirit here, to have a togetherness on and off the field, to help us in this situation. Not just now but for the long-term.
“A few days together will do them no harm.”
Instead the club will be bringing its accents to the shores of the U.S. (Except for Lynden Gooch, who may be bringing a Californian accent anyway).
Sunderland is coming off a 4-0 waxing at the hands of Southampton, about a week after pasting Crystal Palace by the same score. The Black Cats sit 20th in the Premier League, two points back of safety. Anything that puts them in a better mental place is a good idea.
The club’s Twitter background claims “Unity is Strength” and urges fans to “Keep the Faith”. Perhaps this trip can help the guys tighten up on both counts.
If you’re a soccer fan — or a fan of any sport, really — what’s the no. 1 trait you want the head coach of your favorite team to possess? Beyond a genius-level IQ, it’s adaptability. As a fan, there’s nothing more frustrating than a thick-headed, inflexible coach who trots out the same tired gameplan week after week after week, despite a wealth of evidence that screams out, “It doesn’t work, dummy, try something else,” but of course, he’s too stubborn to do so.
Two games into his first gig as a first-team boss, New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira is anything but stubborn. In fact, he’s proven to be a fairly resourceful, clever tactical tinkerer. A quick look at NYCFC’s roster indicates a wealth of quality in central midfield (Andrea Pirlo, Tommy McNamara, Federico Bravo, Mix Diskerud, Frank Lampard and Kwadwo Poku), which is great in any league in the world not named Major League Soccer, but given MLS’s strict roster and salary rules, possessing that kind of depth in one area of the field can mean but one thing: you’re going to come up wildly short in another area, and true to form, NYCFC are totally devoid of any kind of quality wide players.
So what did Vieira do during Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Toronto FC to get the most out of what he has? He started two-thirds of the above listed six players (Lampard is currently out injured, while Poku was a healthy scratch) in a four-man central midfield (call it a 3-6-1, or an old-school W-M) on the teeny-tiny, narrow field at Yankee Stadium. Who needs wide players when the field might or might not meet FIFA and MLS’s mandatory minimum width of 70 yards? Dummies, that’s who.
With Bravo playing the role of destroyer next to Pirlo, the Italian maestro had by far his best game since signing for the Bronx outfit last summer (106 touches, 84 passes attempted at an 81 percent completion rate, three key passes and a should-have-been assist on an absolute peach of an over-the-top ball); Diskerud and McNamara were clever in their interplay (they also pressed incredibly well, far up the field) underneath David Villa, who led the line just as you’d expect a World Cup and two-time European Championship winner to do.
In short, it was functional; it was effective; and more than anything, it was a joy to watch. TFC were genuinely caught off guard by such an unexpected tactical wrinkle, and it took them more than an hour to crack the code an produce anything of merit from open play. Sure, Vieira won’t catch anyone by surprise the next time he throws out the four-man central midfield, but Sunday’s tactical deviation served a valuable lesson for all: let us not be afraid of new coaches with new ideas coming to MLS, for it’s those ideas that might just set them apart and on the pathway to success. In theory, Vieira’s everything you want your coach to be — adaptable, idealistic, and far from afraid to buck any trend.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Victor Cabrera (Montreal Impact), Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution)
Pontius’ last brace in league play was nearly four years ago — June 24, 2012 — thanks in large part to a rash of injuries that limited him to just 51 appearances over his final three seasons with D.C. United (6 goals, 4 assists combined). The season prior, 2012, he bagged 12 goals and four assists en route to his first (and only) MLS Best XI selection. It’s been a long road back to relevance for Pontius, but he looked healthy as ever in Saturday’s 2-1 away win over Columbus Crew SC. Here’s to Pontius’ name appearing in many more MLS Rewind columns this season.
With Frank Lampard’s loan deal with Manchester City set to expire at the end of December, time is running out for Manuel Pellegrini to agree an extension for the New York City FC star to remain at their sister club.
Lampard, 36, signed for New York City FC of Major League Soccer in the summer as a Designated Player but has since been on loan to their sister club Manchester City and had made quite the impression on Pellegrini and City’s fans with five goals in 13 appearances so far.
In the latest twist in this complicated saga, Pellegrini revealed that he wants Lampard to remain at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the season but also stated that MLS and other parties are involved in the discussion as they try to figure out what’s best for everyone.
“I think Frank is a very important player for us and I hope we will not have any problems for him to stay here. I hope we can have a decision as soon as possible. He has a loan just until the end of December and there is another club involved. The MLS is involved also,” Pellegirni said. “There are a lot of parties with an arrangement. It’s not just depending on one opinion. If he can finish the year here, better – but I think that the MLS is a very important league also and I think that Frank Lampard will be very happy in the United States.”
So, an initial loan deal which was sorted out for Lampard to train and maybe play the odd game while he waited for NYC FC to being their inaugural 2015 season has turned into something a whole lot bigger. With City pushing Chelsea all the way at the top of the Premier League and qualifying for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, the English midfielder has become an integral part of Pellegrini’s rotation.
Who will win this debate on where Lampard ends up: MLS, Manchester City or New York City? What is best for the player and his new club?
As you might remember, Garber recently made public MLS plans to expand to 24 after New York City FC joins the league in 2015, expansion that will take the league to 20 franchises two years from now. While it was generally assumed the southeast United States will be strongly considered for some of the teams, little other information was known about MLS’s expansion plans.
Today, however, Garber revealed most of those expansion slots may already be taken. From TSN’s Luke Wileman, posted before tonight’s kickoff:
Amazingly, encouragingly, and a bit surprisingly, the process of identifying those that will get MLS to 24 seems like it’s almost done. At least, it’s three-quarters of the way done, leaving only the details of who they are and when, exactly, they’ll be phased in. In addition to deciding on that fourth team, of course.
Given how little time it’s taken to settle on three, Orlando has to be among them. At least, that’s when makes the most sense. Orlando City SC owner Phil Rawkins has been talking a big game, saying his team will be among the four, and it’s starting to look like that was more public relations. The 20,000-plus crowd that packed the Florida Citrus Bowl this weekend may soon be doing so for an MLS team (albeit in a new facility, in all likelihood).
As for the other teams, one of these has to be Beckham’s right? Former LA Galaxy star David Beckham has the right to purchase a team, and rumors have linked him to a Miami franchise for some time. It’s hard to see MLS settling on three new franchises so quickly without Beckham’s being among them.
As for the third, there are a litany of options always bandied about here, all of which have their virtues and problems. But if hitting the southeast was a major goal of this round of expansion, MLS looks ready to accomplish it.