If you're new to Hudson River Blue, I want to state something unequivocally, and in full voice:
We love the Times.
We love it so much that we're willing to die on that hill.
Indeed, the Times has gone above and beyond the call this summer in its finely-crafted evaluations of New York City FC. The agility of coverage, the attention to detail, and the elegant, yet even-handed appraisals of Patrick Vieira's team across the pages of the famous paper are as welcome as they are unlikely. The Times, after all, sits at the epicenter of arguably the best and brightest of American soccer cultures: Seattle, the Emerald City, home of the mighty Sounders and the rampant Reign.
Leading the charge at the Times is Matt Pentz, a talented scribe whose bylines reach back an entire decade on SeattleTimes.com. Let's take a look at two of Mr. Pentz's most recent headlines:
Forgive the awful play on words... but these are strange times, indeed.
Let's take a closer look at the article that followed that second headline:
On paper, it was as if New York City FC had been created in a lab as Major League Soccer’s perfect foil... The club was the product of a collaboration between Manchester City and the Yankees, just to make sure it attracted the resentment of both new-money and old-money haters.
But throughout its expansion campaign last season, NYCFC languished too far down the Eastern Conference standings to inspire any kind of real resentment.
It does not have that problem anymore.
New York City FC has pulled four points clear atop the East. And with its comprehensive 5-1 rout of Colorado, the league’s stingiest defense, NYCFC has established itself as a legitimate MLS Cup contender.
Let's face it, the people at the Times are experts. Nobody over there is going to throw around this kind of superlative language without holding it up to a strict evidentiary standard. But against the greater backdrop of the Eastern Conference, Mr. Pentz couldn't be more poignant -- or more sober -- in his prognosis: NYCFC is soaring, so much so that it really is okay to start thinking about the playoffs, or perhaps even the ohmygod automatic berth in the CONCACAF Champions League awarded to each conference's number-one seed.
*Does a little dance and makes it rain $2 empanadas on River Avenue*
The fact that the folks at the Times are seeing exactly what we're seeing from all the way out on the west coast is worth noting. I'll draw attention to the fact that Mr. Pentz placed NYCFC third in his most recent MLS Power Rankings. Major League Soccer, which is headquartered in Manhattan, has never ranked the Blues higher than fourth all season, often placing them behind Eastern Conference teams that trail NYCFC in the table.
(MLS's newest rankings have New York City (#4) behind Toronto (#3), a team that has literally never beaten the Blues in five total meetings. Five!)
Thank goodness for the Times.
Additionally, West coast media outlets are occasionally known to counterbalance perceived "east coast bias." I'd never tell a left-coaster that they shouldn't lean on that. But there has been no coastal over-correction at the Times.
Just sky-blue truth bombs. In fact, I've got the ultimate proof on that account:
There is perhaps no more beloved soccer figure in the entire Pacific Northwest than Jordan Morris, the U.S. National Team scion and Sounders homegrown product. Entering 2016, Morris was the prohibitive choice for MLS Rookie of the Year. In league play, Morris's seven goals lead the team. His tally is greater than Seattle's next two top scorers combined. His 1753 minutes played place him second among Sounders outfield players, trailing the indomitable Ozzie Alonso by just nineteen minutes. But who did the Times choose as their mid-season Rookie of the Year on July 25th?
Jack Harrison .
That's right-- not Morris. Not the two rookies that made the MLS All-Star Team, Keegan Rosenberry and Brandon Vincent.
Jumpin'. Jack. Flash. Let that sink into your headspace.
It's a wonderful feeling to know you're psychically linked, no matter how improbably, to other soccer writers 3,000 miles away; that you're seeing the same things that they're seeing.
The only question going forward, then, is whether my humble little abode on the Brooklyn-Queens border is within the Times's home delivery range.
*Conducts hella Google searches*
Well, drat. But don't fear! If you're an NYCFC fan yearning for more terrific, wall-to-wall coverage, digital subscriptions to the Times are available starting at just $3.99 per week. Per week!
Seriously, what a Times to be alive.
* * *