Monday, July 25, 2016

Best Damn Game of the Weekend (BDGotW): New Jersey Smacks Around New York

Fun! Just keep your hands where I can see 'em.
Major League Soccer's Week 20 featured a trio of routs (briefly, what Montreal did to Philly, and TFC’s, or rather Sebastian Giovinco's, destruction-by-free-kick of DC), but, for sheer entertainment value, for emotions heightened to high, permanent "eeeeee!", for just sheer fun, none of them topped the New York Derby. I didn't have the pleasure of watching the whole thing (on which, sad), but it turns out that New York City FC bloodying the New York Red Bulls earlier this month was just what this match-up needed!

The Red Bulls opened playing loose, just running head-long all over as if the goal of soccer was just getting tired. I know this feeling well thanks to all those times I responded to the own-goals I scored by trying VERY, VERY HARD TO MAKE IT BETTER. Their eagerness to repair the damage from that early July loss showed in every over-hit pass and the way players chased those not so much like they wanted the ball to play it, but to jump on it again and again and again, until it was flat. Until it knew their shame and embarrassment for letting even a sliver of blue into New York.

It looked desperate stuff and felt the same, basically, and one got the feeling that they wouldn't settle into the game until they scored – and that's when all the freneticism paid off. The Red Bulls picked off a pass coming out of NYCFC's defensive third and, between NYCFC's distorted defensive line and a flat diagonal from Sacha Kljestan to Bradley Wright-Phillips, they stuffed the mistake straight down their throats. That theme carried through the game until the Red Bulls came out 4-1 winners.

Because Kljestan had himself a game, more goals followed; the game even briefly threatened to reprise the 7-0 blowout from still earlier this season when, after the Red Bulls' second goal, NYCFC looked perilously close to unhinged. That didn't happen because, well, god bless Tommy MacNamara, who let rip with a couple "fuck-it" bombs; one that went in, and one that didn't, but, oh, jesus, if it had...just one for the ages.

The thing finally did boil over, and beautifully, when, shortly after a moment of divine fronting in which Kljestan got a little too playful with the ball, Frank Lampard tackled him with more anger than grace (no video - SAD! - but here's the aftermath). After that, Kljestan popped up and went after Lampard, then everyone bitched at everyone for a while...ah, it was glorious, I tell you, simply glorious. Definitely Kljestan's day yesterday. More fun than a barrel of masturbating monkeys...

MLS loves its rivalries, a little too cutely sometimes. This one, though, felt real: the way one team celebrated while the other endured it with barely concealed rage, just that marvelous tension. Ah, so satisfying! It's not often that any rivalry outside of Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers moves me at all, and that has a lot to do with localism (especially lately, what with the distasteful imbalance), but I am pretty goddamn keyed up for the next round of this one...both teams just need to hold on to, like, all their players. Can't lose even one drop of that finely-poised balance between humiliation/jubilation...

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