Well, that was fun! Wait, no, it wasn’t. Unless you have a perverse definition of fun. Like, maybe you’re an avid stamp collector, or Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.
But we’re getting off-track here, folks: on Wednesday afternoon at the Kino Sports Complex, a squad of New York Red Bulls starters controlled proceedings on its way to a 2-0 victory over a mixed-’n-matched NYCFC team.
While 2016 MLS MVP finalist Sacha Kljestan found the net twice for Red, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo were left off the team sheet for Blue.
Here’s how the Borough Boys lined up to start the game:
GK: Eirik Johansen
DEF: RJ Allen (c), Ben Sweat, Ethan White, Shannon Gomez
MID: Kwame Awuah, Chris Wingate, John Stertzer
FWD: Khiry Shelton, Sean Okoli, Jalen Brown
Unsigned rookie Wingate and trialist Sweat didn’t acquit themselves well in the affair, and Ethan White picked up, shall we say, right where he left off. Good news came in the form of a fleet, sure-footed Shannon Gomez, who appears just about every bit of the way back from a season-ending ACL injury last summer. Additional bonus points go to John “Give This Guy a Damn Contract” Stertzer and rookie Jalen Brown.
Sean Okoli, who blasted home a javelin-strike from outside the box last week in Ecuador, wasn’t much to look at in the center-forward spot, slapping a 39th-minute penalty attempt right into Red Bulls netminder Luis Robles. The spot kick, drawn by Khiry Shelton thanks to some late contact from Aurelien Collin, was the only obvious chance the Bronx Blues had in the game.
The second half brought immediate changes for New York City, with none of greater gravity than the 66th-minute introduction of academy kid James Sands. The 16 year old was a night-and-day change from the generally apprehensive Wingate. Let’s face it, the kid can play. Already.
He can play the ball, set his feet, and at least make it look like he knows how to manage his positioning. We had no particular reason to distrust Vieira when he said the kid had the mind of a 30 year old... it’s just borderline-paranormal to see him conducting himself like an ostensible pro out there.
The final whistle blew without much fanfare, but from where we sit, NYCFC’s Arizona Campaign is off to a well enough start, modest as things looked for most of the afternoon.
NEXT UP FOR NEW YORK CITY: A Saturday evening showdown in Tucson with Houston. The match begins at 8:00pm ET, and will air on YES. Streaming is available on Fox Sports Go.