By Glenn Crooks
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After Ronald Matarrita helped contribute to the demise of Jurgen Klinsmann with his stellar performance for Costa Rica against the U.S. Men’s National Team in the recent World Cup qualifier, distress signals were relayed throughout New York City Football Club.
Would more suitors would line up for City’s defensive MVP?
Matarrita is assured of fulfilling his dream to play in Europe one day. However, despite multiple reports on Wednesday night, including a TDMas declaration that he had signed with Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga, Matarrita remained a member of NYCFC as of Thursday afternoon.
There is no signature with Dortmund. There have been no discussions with Dortmund. Matarrita’s agent has indicated there is interest in Germany, France, Portugal and Turkey, but the City plan is to keep him in the Bronx. According to NYCFC Nation, City currently holds Matarrita’s international transfer certificate, meaning they have the final say on any transfer.
Matarrita is integral to NYCFC’s three-year plan. He is the lone returning back that is secure in the starting XI. At just 22 years old, he is still developing, but undoubtedly has international class. One could argue that he is a Top XI player in all Major League Soccer. However, a lack of consistency in focus, decision making and effort prevents a full declaration that he is “the best.”
Matarrita’s forays into the attack became more dangerous as the season progressed, partly because his deliveries from the flank had more purpose and accuracy. He’s very good at combining with teammates and exploding into the area, and his drives to the end line create havoc. His left peg is very accurate from distance. His detractors like to say that he is a poor defender. On the contrary, Matarrita is superior in one-on-one battles, but he struggles with organization. As an example, his recovery in transition while getting caught in “no-man’s land” has often left his mates at the back in precarious positions that have led to numerous goals against.
An additional season working with head coach Patrick Vieira and assistant coach Kristian Wilson (who spends significant time with the backs in training and the film room) is a recipe that can take Matarrita to another level — and overseas.
While the news that Matarrita was heading to Dortmund was circulating, there were multiple reports that Liverpool is offering a $30 million transfer fee to Dortmund for top American prospect Christian Pulisic. With uncertainty as to how much he would contribute to Dortmund entering the season, the 18 year-old has played in 10 of 13 matches in the Bundesliga with two goals and four assists.
Earlier this week, Pulisic started in Dortmund’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid, which secured first place for BD in Group F of the Champions League. Pulisic started five of the six matches for Dortmund in the CL. His one match as a reserve was memorable as he assisted on the goal that tied up Real Madrid in their initial encounter.
— Matarrita flew home from Costa Rica to support teammate David Villa, who was presented the MLS MVP on Tuesday in downtown NYC.
“When I came here, I really wanted to forget my experience in Europe,” said Villa, who scored 23 goals in 2016. “I want to make history in America, too. Getting recognized for this award means so much.”
“I think David is the perfect player that you want to bring from abroad,” Vieira remarked. “He has time for his teammates and he’s a really humble person. He has won a World Cup, he won the European Championship, he won the Champions League, but he came to (NYCFC) with humility and a love for the game.”
— John Rojas, part of the WADO broadcast team for NYCFC matches, recorded a one-on-one interview with Villa in Spanish after the announcement which you can listen to here.
Villa tells Rojas that his pick for MLS MVP would have been Ignacio Piatti of the Montreal Impact. Villa also explains that he had several options to transfer after this season but told his agent to politely decline all invitations. Villa told Rojas that he wants to be clear that when he compliments the efforts of Vieira for City’s success this season, he is not trying to denigrate Jason Kreis. He told Rojas that he thinks Kreis is a very good coach. There’s plenty more. Please check out the link above.
— Vieira signed his first player in the winter window, USL MVP Sean Okoli. Okoli scored 16 goals in 29 matches for expansion club FC Cincinnati.
“He’s an exciting young player, full of energy, really dynamic,” Vieira said, when asked for a scouting report. “He can score goals as well.”
Vieira’s first in-person look at Okoli came in the preseason when City met FC Cincinnati in a friendly at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Former USMNT captain John Harkes is the head coach of Cincinnati and became aware of Okoli while watching him at Wake Forest, where he was teammates with Harkes’ son, Ian.
“You see the creativity in him and a nose for the goal,” said Harkes, who will be in Houston this weekend to watch Ian and the Demon Deacons in the NCAA Final Four. “He has a bit of swagger about him and confidence. He went to New England (Revolution of MLS) and didn’t get any playing time with Jay Heaps. He was just a player that needed a platform and a process. It worked out really well.”
Neither Harkes nor Vieira hesitated when asked about Okoli’s position on the field.
They both said he’s a 9, referring to the central striker role.
New York City already has a pretty good 9 — the league MVP.
“He’s got to play — not sit on the bench,” Harkes said of Okoli. “Especially with what he accomplished this year. I’d wind him up sometimes. He should have had 20 or 22 goals this year.”
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