By Glenn Crooks
» More Columns
I hopped on a media conference call organized by New York City FC on Thursday to speak to the team’s captain, Spanish star David Villa, and Costa Rican left back, Ronald Matarrita. Both are currently in Florida for preseason. Standing by was NYCFC staffer Nicole Chayet to provide the translation for the English-speaking broadcasters and scribes.
I ended up first in the queue of reporters and asked Villa to compare preseason under new coach Patrick Vieira to last year’s camp with Jason Kreis. I know there was a collective smile among my colleagues on the line when Villa responded to my first question in English – the first time he has spoken English in a public media setting.
“The most important thing in preseason is that Patrick has the respect of the team,” said Villa, who was congratulated on his new communication skill by every journalist. “He wants to create change and we are working hard to create an identity of play that Vieira wants.”
David Villa finished last season fourth in Major League Soccer with 18 goals. He said this season already has a decidedly different feel compared to last year’s expansion voyage.
“This year is different,” Villa said. “We started the first day with these good players, other players and a team more compact.”
The “good players” Villa acknowledged include Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and his roommate, Andoni Iraola.
It is consequential that Villa has pursued a communication skill to enhance his interactions within the NYCFC program. Upon his arrival in the fall of 2014, Villa commenced weekly tutoring sessions to add English to his native Spanish.
“Right now, it’s better for me, it is important for me,” Villa said. “As captain of the team, the club, Patrick and my teammates need me to speak about some things. Right now, I can communicate with them.”
We learned that Matarrita has a strong desire to earn a starting role at left back, but he needed Chayet’s assistance to translate. Perhaps next year at this time, Matarrita will provide another pleasant moment and reply to the first preseason call question “en ingles.”
“It’s very important for me and for each player to improve his English to understand teammates, the coach and the people in the club,” Villa said.
— Ivan Ivanov, a central defender with 40 caps for the Bulgarian National Team, is a trialist for NYCFC. He is coming off a serious knee injury which led to his release from 1st Division Swiss side FC Basel in December.
A Bulgarian journalist provided the following evaluation of the 27-year-old, Ivanov: “He is slow but reads the game very well. He is great in the air and was one of the top defenders at his age in Europe before he suffered the knee injury, which has been a major setback. He has not played in almost two years and is looking for a place to play regularly and regain his confidence.”
Ivanov is competing with nine other backs that are listed on the NYCFC roster. As of Thursday, he was still in camp.
— On Thursday, MLS announced that Arsenal FC would be the MLS All-Star’s opponent on July 28 at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Arsenal released a video to celebrate the announcement. It’s a fun view, featuring, among others, Thierry Henry, a former New York Red Bulls captain and Arsenal star.
“I like the format of the All-Star Game as long as it is a marquis opponent,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “The brand of Arsenal draws a lot of attention to our All-Star game. Sometimes, we’ve had opponents where I wonder the value of it.”
Marsch did not list those teams, but Fulham (2005) and West Ham (2008) are two sides that would hardly tingle the soccer senses.
— April Heinrichs, the Technical Director at U.S. Soccer, called Elite Clubs National League president Christian Lavers on Jan. 24 to alert him that the Girls Development Academy would be announced the following day. At the time, there had been no collaboration between the two groups.
Curiously, the declaration was postponed and on Friday US Soccer was to meet with officials from the ECNL to discuss the forthcoming Girls DA.
“The ECNL has done an absolutely brilliant job,” Anson Dorrance told me Wednesday on my SiriusXM FC program, The Coaching Academy.
Dorrance, who has won 21 national championships at the University of North Carolina and also coached the USWNT to its first world championship in 1991, has had perhaps the greatest impact of any individual on the women’s game.
“I hope that US Soccer does it the right way,” explained Dorrance, who coached Heinrichs at UNC and on that ’91 team. “The system on the girls’ side is not broken in any way — there’s got to be an open dialogue. There needs to be some sort of compromise so that no bridges are burned with this wonderful collection of leaders of the women’s game that have put us in contention for world championships on a consistent basis.”
The Boys DA was formed in 2007. In the absence of a Girls DA, The ECNL has replicated the boy’s academy since 2009.
— The Youth Council Technical Working Group, which includes MLS, US Club Soccer and US Youth Soccer, released a statement last week in regard to US Soccer and its limited communication with the grass roots.
“The Youth Council Technical Working Group unanimously agreed that there has been generally insufficient dialogue between the U.S. Soccer Federation technical staff and the technical leadership of the various youth membership organizations,” the statement read. “Not only does the Federation have a responsibility to discuss such broad issues with its membership, but a transparent and inclusive process will produce better outcomes for everyone.”
A US Soccer official recently admitted to me that there is a greater need of transparency at the federation level.
“In general we do a poor job of telling our story and what we are doing. We keep things internal – we need to be pro-active and break down the barriers. We should talk more about these things.”
For all things NYCFC, Red Bulls and the world of futbol, please follow Glenn on Twitter at @GlennCrooks