The New York City FC fan base and coaching staff received some good news on Thursday evening: Alexander Ring is retiring from international soccer.
In an Instagram post, Ring called it “an extremely hard decision” but one that he made after two years of constant travelling across the Atlantic Ocean. Ring called an end – at least for now – to playing for his native Finland. According to a quick flight search, a non-stop flight between New York and Helsinki, Finland can take upwards of eight hours, and long travel such as that is not conducive to soccer players staying fit, flexible and healthy.
For New York City FC, this is a big boost knowing that a player still in his prime will be focusing solely on his club and not keeping an eye out for a long trip ahead for international fixtures. Ring started five of six World Cup qualifiers in the last run-up to the World Cup and he retires with 43 caps. Heading into the playoff stretch, Ring will also be better rested than he would be if he left in October to train with and play for Finland.
While every person responds to long-distance travel differently, the decision is a bit peculiar. Ring is still young enough to play a major role for Finland ahead of the 2020 Euros, and his 35-year-old teammate David Villa accepted a rare call-up to Spain’s national team within the last 12 months. In addition, players such as Fred of Manchester United or Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham regularly jet-set across the Atlantic Ocean for their national teams.
Either way, it’s a chance for Ring to extend his career while taking better care of his body.
Atlanta United could take another massive step toward the 2018 Supporters’ Shield with a home win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, despite New York Red Bulls’ victory over Toronto FC in the day’s earlier game.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: 6 games in MLS, beginning at 7 p.m. ET ]
The Five Stripes entered the day with a four-point lead on the Red Bulls (it has since been reduced to one) with five games left to play (four for RBNY). RSL, on the other hand, are riding a four-game unbeaten run and have lost just twice in the last 12 times out. That run has seen them rise from near the bottom of the Western Conference to fifth place, five points clear of the playoff cut line.
In the Eastern Conference, the story of the last month has been New York City FC’s slide: five games without a win, and just one win in their last eight games. Domenec Torrent enjoyed a strong start after taking over for Patrick Vieira, but everything has turned sour in the last six weeks. From Shield contenders, to just another member of the chasing pack. Their opponents, Montreal Impact, are currently clutching the East’s sixth and final playoff place, thought D.C. United have cut the gap to just four points with a game in hand.
Today’s MLS results
Los Angeles FC 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — underway
Tonight’s full MLS schedule
Atlanta United vs. Real Salt Lake — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Colorado Rapids — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC vs. Houston Dynamo — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers — 8 p.m. ET
Sunday’s MLS schedule
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City — 1 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET
New York City FC hadn’t lost a home match heading into this week, and thanks to David Villa the club avoided a second straight defeat at Yankee Stadium.
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New York City FC and D.C. United finished level, 1-1, on Saturday after the Spanish international scored a brilliant free kick late in the match to level the game.
Steve Birnbaum’s second-half header past goalkeeper Sean Johnson from close range had given D.C. the lead in the 58th minute, but Villa finally broke through after many missed opportunities prior to that for NYCFC.
Both teams were missing several key pieces in their lineups, particularly NYCFC, who saw nine players sidelined due to injuries, suspensions and international call ups.
D.C. fielded a team of just 15 players on the day, while NYCFC had six substitutions available on the rainy day.
NYCFC extended its winless streak to seven of its last eight matches, however, Villa’s heroics did secure a point for the hosts.
Domenec Torrent’s team boasting an overwhelming 19 shots on the day, however, the club’s scoring struggles continued during their losing skid.
For D.C., the club sits five points out of the East playoffs with eight matches remaining.
The international break has a focus on the U.S. Men’s National Team and many other countries around the globe, but several Major League Soccer sides will be in action on Saturday.
[ MORE: Neymar, Brazil top young USMNT squad in friendly ]
New York City FC has struggled as of late under new manager Domenec Torrent, winning just one of its last seven league matches dating back to late July.
The Eastern Conference side enters Saturday’s contest against D.C. United having suffered a 1-0 defeat to the New England Revolution on Wednesday, despite totaling 28 shots in the match.
For D.C., Wayne Rooney aims to continue to lift his side towards the Eastern Conference playoffs, with a win against NYCFC putting Ben Olsen’s squad within three points of the Montreal Impact for sixth place.
Meanwhile, Sporting KC can move second in the West on Saturday with a home victory over Orlando City, who has fallen well out of contention for a playoff appearance.
Peter Vermes’ group looks to rebound from a 3-1 defeat to the Seattle Sounders last weekend, which was the team’s first loss in over a month.
Saturday’s MLS docket
New York City FC vs. D.C. United — 4:55 pm ET
Sporting KC vs. Orlando City — 8:30 pm ET
Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids — 10:30 pm ET
NEW YORK (AP) Brian Wright scored his first MLS goal in the 71st minute and the New England Revolution beat New York City 1-0 on Wednesday night for FC’s first home loss of the season.
New England (8-10-9) snapped a nine-game winless streak to move within three points of sixth-place Montreal. NYC (14-8-6) has just one win in its last seven games.
Wright was in front of the goal to one-touch home Cristian Penilla’s blocked shot from the left side.
Wright also sent a breakaway shot off the post in the 25th minute and Isaac Angking, making his MLS debut, hit the frame in the 80th on a sliding rebound attempt. New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton started in his first game of the season.
NYCFC controlled the game with 66 percent possession, but couldn’t find the back of the net on 28 shots.