“I’ve never played centre back before on a professional team” claimed a chuckling Keaton Parks “but I stayed focused and listened to Maxim (Chanot)”
Those remarks put into perspective what was behind NYCFC’s thrilling 2-1 extra-time comeback against the New England Revolution Saturday evening at Yankee Stadium. A no questions asked mentality and being comfortable leaning on teammates makes for an exciting mix of a playoff run. The Blues only have to look to their Landlords the Yankees for example, but they don’t, they look to each other.
“Maxi asked me how I felt and if I was confident and I was” said a jubilant Jesus Medina of his game winning penalty kick “I needed it and I think he knows that, so he gave me the ball and I am very happy it was the winning goal.”
Between a very untimely injury to offensive starlet Heber last week and the current international break, the Pigeons entered Saturday’s showdown with a makeshift roster but equipped with that ever present hive mentality. Making it five wins in a row and eight of their last ten, NYCFC finally reached the top of the Eastern Conference. A sweet fact to savor in itself yes, but not a fazing statistic to a laser focused club.
“I know we already clinched playoffs but going into this last stretch we are here to win” said Keaton Parks “we know we are almost always the better team on the field, we want to finish in first place.”
And finishing seems to be the team motto as of late. Not caught up in their scorching rise up the Eastern Conference table or basking in how they cut down surging teams without hesitation, the Blues are not only about next man up but next game up as well. And with a tricky Toronto team braving a Bronx visit Wednesday night, staying on the same page will be essential no matter who is on the field.
“With the international break everyone has to be ready to play so we won’t skip a beat while in the game.” said Ben Sweat. But that does not seem to be a point of concern even with starter Maxim Chanot departing after this latest victory.
As Sebastien Ibeagha said “It doesn’t really matter what the personnel on the field is, we are just very comfortable with each-other.”
All through-out the line-up and even the coaching staff there seems to be a sense of calm. No one cares about the circumstance just the mission at hand. In years past a lack of focus seemed to be the Achilles heel of the club, with great progress spoiled by lapsed judgement. So when a slip up put the Pigeons into a 1-0 hole by just the second minute there was absolutely no panic, this team know who they are.
“We are very confident and we don’t give up” said Parks “we definitely deserved to win this match”
Having confidence while being part of a collective usually leads to happiness. And that happiness is contagious, making this NYCFC club a place where players want to stay and grow. Signs of that happiness are beginning to show with young players like Medina, James Sands, Heber and Taty Castellanos given ample opportunity to make their mark on the game and call the Bronx their home.
“This is the place I want to be” said Anton Tinnerholm who joins several Blue’s players who have signed recent contract extensions “there was interest from Europe but when you have it so good it’s going to take very much to change my mind.”
The depth is being constructed in a forward fashion for NYCFC, even if that construction does not lead to a new stadium in the near future. But it does not matter whether they are on the road or in the Bronx, the ownership of this team by the players looks to be at the heart of everything good happening for this club.
“Every single player is ready to play,” said coach Dome “we lose Heber, we have another player. Soccer belongs to the players and I believe in that.”
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