Mancuso: Challenge Wins Building character for NYCFC

Trap game? Not for NYCFC at Yankee Stadium Thursday night as they challenged Minnesota United FC.  And coming off wins over the rival Red Bulls and defending MLS Cup champion Seattle, a match against an expansion team could be considered a trap.

And Minnesota was seeking their first road win in the MLS, so to NYCFC and coach Patrick Vieira this could have been defined as that trap game. But don’t tell them because this team continues to build character and is always up for a challenge which is the sign of a championship team.

So they took to the stadium turf and refused to believe this was a trap. The captain, David Villa scored his 11th goal of the season, Ben Sweat got his fourth assist which is the second highest tally in the MLS for a defender, Alexander Callens scored his second goal of the season and Jack Harrison his eighth.

NYCFC won their fourth straight game,and with a 10-5-3 record through their first 18 games after a 3-1 win, have third place to themselves. So they refuse to say this was a trap game and look at this as another confidence builder and a team that has that character of a champion.

Recovering from an early 1-0 deficit also helped their cause as a team that is building character as the winningest sports team in New York. And that says a lot for soccer in the Big Apple market and for a team that continues to build with their fan base.

Rodney Wallace one of their leading scorers needed some rest and Vieira gave his forward the night off. RJ Allen sat down because the coach will not tolerate lateness for team meetings. That apparently built this character more for a group that enjoys playing for their coach, and they describe the locker room as one that is friendly and full of that character.

“We have character,” Vieira said. “Balance is good and we challenge each other in training. It is important for me to challenge the players again and use the right words.”

And to Mikey Lopez, the 24-year old midfielder who has had his share of challenges that means a team as a loose group and always being ready for the task. He says this is a coach that responds to his players and a team that will joke and take their tasks seriously.  

Lopez has been used as a replacement and the confidence continues to build.  He has been attacking and defending the ball and was ready off the bench in the final minutes of the first half.  

And this so called trap game built character for Eirik Johansen. His first game as goalkeeper gave NYCFC the opportunity in place of Sean Johnson.

“I think yes, the goal that we conceded, we could do better,” Vieira said, “but I was really pleased with the reaction that he had after that. A few times he came out at a really important period in the game for us. I was really pleased with his reaction. I think he showed good character.”

So you heard that word character and nothing about a trap game when it was asked.

“Patrick does a great job keeping everyone on the same page,” Sweat said. “Everyone plays together, works together, and it’s fun. It’s way more fun that way and winning is even a better feeling because you know, we deserve it after working that hard and sacrificing that much and tonight was another fantastic display of if.”

Villa said this was that game of character but he added, “we are in a good period.” His emphasis was “the game of soccer does change day-by day.”

So to reiterate this was not a trap game for NYCFC as they head almost to their midpoint of a long season. And because they share Yankee Stadium with a baseball team that is known for winning, their next home game is not until July 19th against Toronto FC the conference leaders they trail by two points.

This was the third straight time NYCFC trailed at home and came back. They did that against Philadelphia and Seattle so by all means this was a confidence builder that builds character.

But a trap game? “More of a challenge,” said Lopez.  And if this confidence continues there is no question that Patrick Vieira has built a team with character.

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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