RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Friday, September 15

16-Man Metaphysical Roster: NEW YORK CITY FC

{squeezed into Yankee Stadium for a long minute now}

[16-Man Metaphysical Rosters are divined using a football metaphysics methodology where minutes played over the past 50 competitive club matches determines which 16 players constitute the strongest psychic influence over a club’s current psychic trajectory. Intuitive analysis is then added, with a decidedly un-American foundation. Football metaphysics believes in the beautiful game, not the modern corporate spectacle. We have more of a love for Maradona in Mexico than Messi in Miami. One North American club is done each month, divided equally between Liga MX and the MLS, as they are the top two leagues in our home country of America (because in footballing terms, many parts of America are actually Mexico). This is now a solo project again by Raven Mack, but used to be a small group effort, so it bears saying, Rest In Peace Neil.]

Our first foray into an MLS club begins with New York City FC, who is a pretty good example of the strange position soccer is jammed into the American cultural landscape. In terms of ownership, they’re owned mostly by the same holding company that was built around owning Manchester City FC, hence the similarity in kits. But there’s also minority ownership from the Yankees ownership group. The club was not created as any grassroots effort by supporters to have a club, so much as created in a major city to seemingly fill a marketing void. U.S. soccer clubs in Major League Soccer don’t develop as blossoms of football culture followed and supported for years (which does actually happen in the U.S. in a lot of different places), but more as deciding where a new Whole Foods should be built.
But it’s a long-term process. MLS identified their desire for a second club in the greater New York City metropolitan area back in 2006. In 2013, the club started to come to fruition, finally playing in the 2015 MLS season. So the club exists, and with some high profile talent coming through as they are not lacking for financial support, as Manchester City looks to establish itself as a major American brand as well. But finding a home for the club has been more difficult, with various stadium plans dreamed up and abandoned, in various industrial sites along the margins of New York City’s five boroughs. In fact, there’s been abandoned plans for an NYC FC soccer-specific stadium in Queens, the Bronx, and Harlem, touching on all the potentially gentrified spaces needing “cleaning up” so to speak. It appears they may be closer than ever, with a site identified at Willets Point, next to the New York Mets stadium, and within sight of the U.S. Open tennis complex.
This in itself is a pretty solid exhibit of soccer in America. It has no obvious place, culturally, so it’s sort of sown into marginal spots as a sign of improvement, not unlike street mural festivals. It’s not the mainstream accepted sport like basketball of American football, but it is widely supported. The strange thing about U.S. soccer though is it seeks out the support of a privileged class, while shitting on poor folks from international backgrounds who might actually be much larger futbol fans. Willets Point being the site of their potential stadium is perfect example, as it’s been a thriving but chaotic used auto parts corner of the city for many decades. The streets are unpaved, but if you’re not afraid to venture in, affordable quick fixes for all sorts of car problems can easily be found. It’s one of those amazing places that still exists in NYC that feels like another country, and it’s mostly populated by immigrants or non-English speakers, many of whom come from places where futbol is just as religiously followed as American football is even in the football-heaviest parts of the country. But that entire area is going to be turned into a soccer stadium complete with development of hotel and commercial properties. It’s hard to imagine how long of a clean-up a giant unmonitored used auto parts zone is going to take, and it's sad to think of all the folks who were able to carve out a living in this desperate way, for years and years, who are just gonna get displaced, with no real alternative location for that chaotic mechanical type of flea market anywhere else. In its place will grow a waterfront commercial development anchored by a couple of sports stadiums that, to be honest, looks like a dozen other complexes around the country. A uniquely New York City environment displaced by just another shopping complex where white folks from suburban counties will ride the train in to watch a soccer match a few times a year, and enjoy an overpriced meal and drinks while they’re there.
So that’s soccer in America – simultaneously an outsider to the mainstream, while also being a gentrifying force that squats itself right over top the existence of poorer folks, who otherwise might be huge American futbol fans if any sort of outreach was done whatsoever. But poor folks don’t have money, and American futbol is not about actually being a cultural force so much as cosplaying as one, so wealthy Americans can act like they’re some sort of ultras group, and wave their rainbow flags of pride that don’t really give half a fuck about black trans folks or actual marginalized sex workers. It’s all kinda fucked, and makes it hard to pull for Major League Soccer as an entity, because it’s not pulling for me. It’s all about the money, but without the history of older domestic leagues elsewhere.
Nonetheless, New York City FC has existed now for nearly a decade, and been fairly successful in that short term. And somehow, by not actually having a home, a strange hominess has been found by them being forced to play in Yankee Stadium. They can’t always play there, due to it being the Yankees home first and foremost, but for the most part, they squeeze in a smallish version of a pro futbol pitch, and it’s one of the more unique set-ups in U.S. soccer, that has been forced to go on for so long while New York city tries to build a soccer stadium, that it’s made NYC FC matches have a strange marginal beauty. And in their short history, NYC FC has finished second in regular season standings twice already, and won the MLS Cup in 2021. They’ve firmly established themselves as a top MLS brand (lol), and with Major League Soccer player movement being so rapid and tied to money, they’ll likely remain that type of club, so long as the luster doesn’t wear off those baby blue kits as an off-brand version of Manchester City for U.S. soccer aficionados to claim as their own. And here are the top 16 players in terms of minutes played over the past 50 competitive matches, who weigh the heaviest on the club’s current metaphysics (through September 02, 2023)…

#1: KEATON PARKS – This midfielder’s name sounds quintessentially U.S. soccer… the privileged kid from a suburban background (Dallas area in Keaton’s case) who maintains his fees and remains in the pyramid scam that is youth soccer here, going from high profile high school to collegiate scholarship, then into the MLS after a draft. Except somehow Keaton Parks, despite that name, bypassed that traditional U.S. soccer path. After high school, he immediately signed with a semi-pro club in Texas, and got a few tryouts with Portuguese clubs somehow, ending up overseas for about five years, including making one of the Portuguese big three’s senior squad, at Benfica, briefly. In 2019, they loaned Parks back to America, which is how he landed at NYC FC, likely due to shared scouting with Manchester City perhaps? Anyways, whatever the path, he never played college soccer in the U.S., and after his move to NYC FC was made permanent in January of 2020, he’s become a mainstay on the squad, and will cross the 150 caps with club in the next month most likely.

#2: SANTIAGO RODRÍGUEZ – Uruguayan attacker who’d been an early star at one of that nation’s most prominent clubs, Nacional, before moving to a crosstown club Montevideo City Torque. NYC FC signed him on an 18-month loan early in the summer of 2021, which ran out after last season. It wasn’t clear if he was coming back, though NYC FC wanted him to badly, but he finally signed a permanent contract this past March, and is one of their key players on attack, wearing the precious #10 for the club.

#3: TAYVON GRAY – New York metropolitan area youngster who was born and bred in the Bronx but spent time in Jersey as well, and has been with NYC FC since the age of 15. Over the past few years (he just turned 21), he’s grown into key defender for the club. He also has Jamaican heritage so got his first call-up and appearance for the Jamaican national team earlier this month. He had played for the US at various youth levels, but made the move to the Jamaican team apparently, getting subbed into the match in the second half in the Reggae Boyz 1-0 win over Honduras.

#4: THIAGO MARTINS – Brazilian central defender who excelled for a while with Palmeiras in his homeland, and did a stint in Japan playing for Yokohama F. Marinos for a few years, before returning to this half of the Earth when NYC FC signed him last year. Along with Gray, the backbone of the NYC FC defense now that Maxime Chanot (next up) has left.

#5: MAXIME CHANOT – French player who’s played around Western Europe, but spent his longest gig at NYC FC for 7 seasons, establishing himself as their key defender. He went back to France this summer, playing for a Ligue 2 club Ajaccio, that’s located on Corsica, so they got that dope bandana dude from the Corsican flag in their crest. He also remains key defender for the Luxembourg national team, which has never qualified for hardly anything, as one of the smallest nations in UEFA.

#6: LUIS BARRAZA – Barraza is a Mexican-American GK who grew up on this side of the border in New Mexico, so has been in the MLS youth system, played college soccer at Marquette, and been immersed in the U.S. soccer pyramid since he was 14, when he joined Real Salt Lake’s Arizona academy. He had only sporadic appearances for NYC FC’s senior team up until this year, when he’s become their primary GK.

#7: BRAIAN CUFRÉ – Argentine left back who made his name at Vélez Sarsfield back home, which got him attention from La Liga in Spain. He’s been contracted to Mallorca since 2020, and spent time loaned to Málaga in Spain as well, and was loaned to NYC FC at the beginning of this MLS season in February, which an option for a permanent transfer. He’s done well enough in MLS to become a key player for the squad, but they’re also buried in the standings outside the pretty large playoffs window, so who knows? NYC FC has been one of the consistently more successful clubs, and they seemingly still have a good foundation on defense, but need a strike threat to takeover for offense. But also MLS is even more fickle than normal football clubs, because MLS has so much more player movement than other domestic leagues. This whole list might get angrily shook up. I guess I hadn’t mentioned their manager is Nick Cushing, an English dude who had spent a longtime managing the Man City women’s team before coming to NYC FC’s coaching staff in 2020. Though his win percentage is only at around 30%, hard to imagine a guy so entrenched in Manchester City coaching style would get run off even after one less than exciting season in charge.

#8: TALLES MAGNO – 21-year-old winger, and one of a number of Brazilians on the NYC FC squad. Magno cut his footballing teeth with Vasco da Gama in Brazil, and joined NYC FC a couple years back, and has been considered a potential breakout player for MLS, but has yet to really seize that destiny by the throat. Still, a pretty good scoring threat to be part of the NYC FC arsenal, and having been steeped in Brazilian football culture, not afraid of any potential intercontinental draws against Mexican clubs.

#9: JAMES SANDS – NYC FC’s first academy player to make their senior roster. Sands was good enough to be loaned to Rangers in Scotland for part of last season (Scottish seasons, not American seasons, which don’t sync). Born and raised in Westchester County, just outside New York City proper, but a really good example of how more sports leagues should embrace performative names for competitors. “James Sands” is boring as fuck, I don’t care how good a defender he is. But change that shit to “Jimmy Sandman” and I’m gonna automatically be thinking, “Oh fuck, they gotta watch out for Jimmy Sandman!”

#10: GABRIEL PEREIRA – Pereira is a young Brazilian attack player who spent about 16 months with NYC FC, and became a key goal scoring threat for them. His performance caught enough attention he was part of the rush of talent to the Middle East this summer, though a less glamorous path, instead of Europe to Saudi Arabia, Pereira went from the U.S. to Qatar Stars League, signing with Al-Rayyan. Interesting to see how that fossil fuel money has so suddenly disrupted the football migration patterns we’re used to this past year.

#11: JUSTIN HAAK – Born in Brooklyn the day after 9/11. Also not even a real human being, but a composite cyborg AI tech creation performed in the MLS Laboratories to create the most American soccer-looking player possible, with the most Football Manager-generated sounding name possible. The reason they don’t allow green lasers in the stands in the U.S. like they use so extensively in African football is because the lights would cause cyborg creations like Justin Haak to overheat, thus ruining the illusion of “American soccer” being competed entirely by humans.

#12: RICHARD LEDEZMA – Ledezma is an American defender from Arizona who made enough of a splash at an early age to get signed by PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, one of the Dutch Eredivisie’s biggest clubs. He did time on the reserve team and got a few starts with the senior squad as well, but had long been rumored as coming back to America. This past March, PSV signed him to a contract extension then immediately loaned him to NYC FC. He’s gotten one call-up to the US national team, appearing ina  single match against Panama in 2020, where he was subbed on in the 68th minute and got two assists.

#13: ALFREDO MORALES – Morales is an American player of Peruvian descent born in Germany as his pops was born in Peru but was an American and in the military. Morales actually spent his youth academy years moving up the German ranks, ending up at Hertha BSC, where he also started his senior professional career on their reserve team, eventually cracking the senior squad. He moved between a few different clubs, being sort of a tweener between Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga (second German division). But during this time, he also was recruited for the U.S. national team during the time Jürgen Klinsmann was shifting the national team recruiting philosophy to get more players who were based overseas. Morales had sporadic appearances for the national team from 2013 through 2019, though he toyed with playing for Peru up until 2015, as he hadn’t made an appearance yet for the U.S. The exposure on the national team got him more domestic attention, and NYC FC signed him in April of 2021 through the end of this year, with an option for another year. Hard to say if he’ll be part of their long-term plans or not, as he’s 33 and hasn’t exactly lit it up in MLS.

#14: MITJA ILENIČ – Spent his professional career entirely in his native Slovenia, finally becoming a main player for top Slovenian club Domžale befor eNYC FC signed him this past January. He’s made another of appearances with the club so far, and is only 18, and has already graduated to the U-21 Slovenian national team, their second youngest player ever. No diss to MLS but you gotta figure after gaining some first-team exposure, the Slovenian football federation is gonna want him playing somewhere in Europe. And at the same time, what fun it must be to be a young, carefree, professional soccer contract-having Slovenian living in New York City (although I’m going by memories of NYC, not what the modern gentrified weird ass NYC is).

#15: KEVIN O’TOOLE – Former Jersey kid who was a homegrown player for the New York Red Bulls, and spent plenty of time on their youth and reserve squads, and played for Princeton collegiately, but was left unprotected for the MLS SuperDraft (lol) last year, and NYC FC seized the opportunity to poach him from their local rivals. O’Toole can play a slew of roles, so gets plugged and played here and there as needed, but still hasn’t really settled as a steady starter in any capacity.

#16: MATÍAS PELLEGRINI – Argentine winger who briefly showed flash with Estudiantes in his native country before getting imported to Inter Miami early on in their existence. Pellegrini’s been an MLS mainstay ever since, but never really caught on at Inter Miami like expected. He got loaned back to Estudiantes multiple times, but the last time, they passed on purchasing the player back, so Inter Miami waived him and NYC FC claimed him last August. He’s been a bit player at NYC FC ever since.

No comments: