Ronald Matarrita: “We’re all working really hard, giving 100 percent, so that we get back to winning and get back to being the team that everyone is scared of, getting back to winning and being at the top of the table.” (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
When Patrick Vieira was named New York City FC coach before the 2016 season, he revamped the roster and helped turn a losing side into a winning and even formidable.
One of those players he brought in was Costa Rican international defender Ronald Matarrita, who has been an important part of four winning seasons.
This year, not so much.
It has been a difficult season for Matarrita, whose 1-5-0 cellar-dwelling team welcomes Columbus Crew SC to Red Bull Arena Monday at 7 p.m.
Prior to this season, NYC was 65-35-36 in the Costa Rican’s first four seasons, all winning ones.
“It’s hard for us to see these results. We’re not used to them,” Matarrita said during a Sunday ZOOM conference call with the media. “We’re not used to playing poorly or losing. Obviously this is new to us and we’re all working really hard, giving 100 percent, so that we get back to winning and get back to being the team that everyone is scared of, getting back to winning and being at the top of the table.”
That might be easier said than done.
The team has produced only two goals in games, while allowing seven. The defense hasn’t been the problem, but goal production has been.
NYCFC’s lack of production has produced more pressure on the defense – team, backline and goalkeeper — to be as perfect as possible. You can’t win games without scoring.
“It’s definitely hard to play a good game when you can’t win or score,” Matarrita, who played his 100th game with the club in Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls. “But we have really good players on our team, and we have a really good coach. It’s important to get back to how we played before when we were winning and get back to how we were. Very important.”
Matarrita, 26, is the longest-serving player on the team.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences throughout the years, good and bad,” he said. “I’ve been able to overcome the injuries that I’ve had throughout my career especially two years ago. I had a few injuries then, but today I’m really happy to be able to have said I made it to 100 appearances, and I’m happy where I am.”
His most memorable NYCFC experience?
“I’m going go back to the first year that I was with the team,” Matarrita said. “That was a great year for me. I played in Copa America Centenario. I was in the Starting XI. So that was definitely my best career year. You know, unfortunately, I had some injuries after that and I declined a little bit, but I’ve been able to get back to the level that I was at. So, 2016 was my best year my favorite year, and that’s the year that I was the happiest.”