Alex Ring celebrates his goal while shushing the phantom crowd. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
It was as surreal sight as you probably could see.
Alex Ring had just scored what would be the lone goal of the match, a 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC, and he was shushing the a phantom crowd in a closed-door match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Actually, the New York City FC captain was making a statement through a 21st century metaphor, quieting the team’s critics after its abysmal start to the MLS season.
At first Ring had: “No comment.”
But it’s difficult to keep Alex Ring quiet, whether it is on the pitch with his rugged play or talking to the media after a match.
“Everyone has their right for their opinion, but I think it’s to say stuff, or to say into my face or the face of the team,” he said. So good to win, good to score and, yeah, it was just something spontaneous,” he told the media in a ZOOM conference call. “I think it comes with the role I have for example that when things aren’t going our way, it’s my responsibility and I take that as fine with me.”
Quite appropriately, it was Ring who put his best foot forward of the night in the 59th minute when he slotted home Heber’s feed to snap the team’s 175-minute scoreless streak.
“Our leader of the team, Ring stepped up and got a goal we needed,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who recorded the shutout.
“The way we played this year is no reflection on him as a captain. I think he’s a great leader. He puts His best foot forward. He steps up in big moments like you saw today. He’s a true leader in moments where we need them. You know we all support him through and through. So, critics will talk. When we’re doing well everybody will be behind us. In rough moments I think everybody will look to point fingers. He’s a solid part of this team. He has the most respect of the players.”
Besides the three points, Ring felt it the team took an important step to play the way head coach Ronny Deila wants it to perform.
“I think it’s a little bit back to our roots, the way we want to play pressing high, creating more chances than in the game before,” he said. “All credit to the team. I thought it was a good balanced performance. It wasn’t the prettiest one yet but it’s a good first step and something to build on.”
For the first time in a while, NYCFC (2-5) was able to celebrate a win, only its second in seven tries.
“The dressing room is happy,” Deila said, “very tired of course, 25, to 30 degrees (Celsius). We have suffered a lot before the game and, and also during the game. Now it’s important to really enjoy the win.
“As I said before the game, we can beat everybody. And we have beaten Toronto and its now Columbus the two best teams so far. We have had a tough. We need to do something to turn it around. The performance the players did today was amazing, really, really good. I think this is a momentum for us and something you can really build on into the Chicago game on Saturday.”
Johnson was glad to see the team play closer to Deila’s high-pressure style.
“I think it was important for us to just really stick to the things that made us successful in the past and we dug deep,” he said. “I think there was a real fight tonight. There’s a real commitment to playing. I think you can see it all around the pitch nobody was nobody was scared. Nobody backed down and everybody was always on the front foot so that’s we’re going to need going forward to, to grab a hold of games and win and win convincingly.”