Sporting a much shorter look, Tommy McNamara hasn’t lost any of his playing strength as Samson did, vs. the Red Bulls. (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

NEW YORK — On Sunday, Bruce Arena will name his 23-man roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

New York City FC midfielder-forward Tommy McNamara, whose name is on the United States’ 40-man provisional roster, hope he gets the call, but that isn’t the West Nyack, N.Y. native’s No. 1 priority these days.

“Once the preliminary list of the roster came out, the game’s leading up to it do matter, I would presume,” McNamara said on MLS Rivalry Week media day Tuesday. “So, yeah, that’s maybe slightly in the back of my mind. I’m focused in our games here. Whatever happens with the national team — hopefully I am part of the 23 — and I’ll be very excited to represent the country. First and foremost, my focus is on this game.”

This game, of course, is Saturday’s Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena at 1:30 p.m.

Not so much of a hairy situation

A few weeks ago, McNamara decided it was time for a change. So, he decided for a barber to cut off his long locks for a much shorter haircut.

“I just wanted a change,” he said. “There has been a couple of years now where I had long hair. Kind of felt I wanted to do something different and cut it short. Hair can always grow back.”

Midfielder-forward Jack Harrison talked about the team’s reaction to Tommy Mac’s new look.

“Did you see the video the club put up on twitter?” he asked. “As soon as he walks into the locker room, everyone was just cheering and stuff. I was amongst them as well. Surprised to see it, but I think he looks good in it.”

Asked if he cut off his hair with making the provisional roster, McNamara replied, “I didn’t cut my hair in thought of it … I think it was more correlation than causation, but it is funny on how it did work out that way.”

Derby days

Playing for Inter Milan, Arsenal and Manchester City, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira participated in some of the world’s greatest derbies.

While the NYCFC-Red Bulls derby is just picking up steam, it pales in comparison to the ones in Europe and South America.

“The week of the derby, the people in the street, everybody’s talking about it,” Vieira said. “The city’s really divided and the passion that the fans are showing during the week but in the stadium as well. This is something that you need time and history to build that.”

Vieira had plenty of games that stood out.

“I am only going to mention the ones that we won,” he quipped.

Then he became serious, remembering some games from the Arsenal-Tottenham derby in London and the Milan derby in Italy.

“I think when we won the semifinal in the cup,” he said. “That was quite really special. Winning the Milan derby; was winning four-nil and at the end of the game it finished 4-3, nearly drew the game. That’s what makes it really special. Of course, us losing the game at home seven-nil, that is something that is still in our mind, something that we want to turn around. So, it should be important for us to start winning those games.”

To use VAR or not to use it?

After watching his same shot bounce off the crossbar and on the goal line twice in the 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup, McNamara still wasn’t sold on the Video Assistant Referee.

“After that shot … I don’t know,” he said. “It’s been interesting to watch in the Confederations Cup. I haven’t watched every game or seen every play. In some moments it has been great, it’s been brilliant. When you’re on the team that benefits, you’re like, ‘Oh man, thank God,’ more or less, that it’s here. When it hasn’t benefited you, you’re kind of like, ‘Ah, I wish it wasn’t around.’

“I think it also takes maybe something away from goal celebrations. The goal’s scored and kind of you’re like, ‘Ahhh, is this goal is it not? We’ve got to check it.’ We’ve got to see if it continues to develop in the game.”

Inside his heart

David Villa has played for Sporting Gijon, Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in Spain and of course, for NYCFC.

A reporter asked the star striker where his playing heart lay.

“I can’t choose because all the teams gave me the opportunity to be the player that I am,” he said. “Of course, inside your heart you have more opinion for one club or one other club or have more love for one club. But in public I cannot do that. Thank you for all the clubs. I love all the clubs because all the clubs gave me the opportunity of playing my sport. They made me better, day-by-day with this sport.”

Momentum, Red Bulls

Entering Saturday’s latest derby encounter, Vieira gave the Red Bulls the advantage.

“The momentum will be on their side, of course,” he said, “because of winning six times against us and winning the last one. They will have the momentum and confidence. But it will be important for me to find the right words to challenge my players and try to perform in the game. That’s why the game in the cup was really important. That can dictate the mood of the players.”

Stopping BWP

Bradley Wright-Phillips has found the net eight times in seven derby matches against NYCFC.

Asked how does one stop the Red Bulls striker, Vieira replied, “We just have to stop players giving him the ball to supply to him. We have to try to get him outside of the box. When you look at the two goals he scored against Philly, he is at the right place at the right time. He’s a good player. at the same time, I don’t want to get just focused on him because there are other players around well and played well for him. So I think we have to look at everybody on the team. We have to have a really good team performance if we want to take something from this game.”