Friday, April 14, 2017

Female wrestlers grapple with change

By Robert Cole

SPORTS NEWS- Those who espouse the benefits of high school sports - learn discipline, cooperation, teamwork, and self-control - would have been proud of the girls that gathered at The Bronx High School of Science gym last Saturday for the Wolverine Welcome Tournament, sponsored by the PSAL and Beat the Streets NYC Inc.

The event is one of a number of tournaments added to the PSAL Girl’s Wrestling Season, designed to provide opportunities for wrestlers to compete and implement the techniques they practiced all week.  Ted Cook, the head girl’s wrestling coach at Truman High School, mentioned how important these one-day events are to the long-term development of the wrestlers.

“Having these extra meets has a big impact, because normally in a dual meet season with five teams in your league, you will only get five meets,” Cook said. “The more you are on the mat, the more you are going to progress, and the more you are going to grow as a wrestler. The tournaments allow the girls to finish with up to 30 matches at the end of a season, which is a big help.”

A total of 19 high school teams from throughout the city gathered in the Bronx for this event. Schools from the Bronx included, Truman, Bronx Science, Bronx Studio, and Taft, with Truman capturing the top team spot with 160 points – 35 points ahead of second place Brooklyn Tech.  Bronx Studio finished in fifth place, accumulating 89.5 points. Bronx Science captured 27 points for an 11th place finish, and Taft completed action tied for 15th with 22 points.

With the PSAL adopting girls’ wrestling as a sanctioned sport only five year’s ago, many of the competitors have been in the sport for one to two years. However, you would never know how inexperienced they are on the by attending today’s tournament. The action was intense and the girls exhibited the skills of veteran wrestlers.

Credit for the rapid growth in the quality of the sport can be attributed to the partnership between the PSAL and Beat the Streets NYC Inc., a not-for-profit organization that services about 3,000 inner-city youth by providing free wrestling opportunities for youngsters in NYC.  The partnership insures that the athletes are provided the training and resources needed for growth and development in the sport.

Jackie Davis, head girl’s coach and head of girl’s programming at Beat the Streets NYC Inc., plays a big role in the partnership with the PSAL. Coach Davis, in addition to coaching many of the girls competing throughout the PSAL, provides much needed technical support to newly organized wrestling teams and wrestling beginners. PSAL coaches can also call on Coach Davis for coaching education, practice plans, and mentoring. 

When asked what the girls get from wrestling, Coach Davis’ immediate answer was “empowerment.”

“Wrestling allows them to realize what they are capable of and they do not need to be pressured by outside things,” Davis said.

One athlete who is an example of that empowerment is the tournament’s 112lb. winner and last season’s 107lb. PSAL Champion, Pearl Fletcher. The senior captain of Truman High School, Fletcher had a desire to play high school football, but quickly pushed that aside when she was introduced to wrestling. In addition to the efforts of her high school coach, Cook, her continued participation in the Beat the Street’s NYC program has lead to convince Cook - who has coached the boys team for 10 years to start a girls’ wrestling program at Truman. Fletcher stated that wrestling taught her two key lessons: “… to never give up in any situation, and that you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

The competition, cooperation, and camaraderie displayed today by teammates and opponents alike lets us know that something powerful is taking place with the PSAL girls’ wrestling program.  With girl’s wrestling growing at such a rapid rate, Coach Davis believes that the popularity that the sport has now is only the beginning.

“We’re not going anywhere.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice for Lehman

Maritime Powers Past Lehman
(Photos by Robert Cole)

By Robert Cole

SPORTS NEWS- The SUNY Maritime Privateers used back-to-back-to-back homeruns to pull away from the Lehman College Lightning, last night at Reinhart Baseball Field, on the campus of SUNY Maritime, in the Bronx.  

Falling behind early in the game 9-0, the Lightning would fight back, to cut the Privateer lead to 9-8 after 7 and ½ innings.  

Lehman’s starting pitcher, Christofer Rodriguez, had a rough three innings giving up nine runs on 10 hits.  While Maritime’s freshman, Luciano Besh, was able hold the Lightning scoreless on four hits, during his three innings stint. 

Lehman’s defense would slow down the offensive production of the Privateers behind the relief effort of freshman, Anthony Riley. Riley pitched four shutout innings, during which time; the Lightning scored eight runs behind Chris Lopez’s two-run homer in the fifth inning.  

Lehman, however, would squander a chance to take the lead and place the pressure on the Privateers.  

In the top half of the eighth inning Lehman would load the bases with no outs. However, the Lightning would only score one run. Maritime’s Matthew Buckshaw, who came into the game in relief for Sklar Graff, would strike out, Chris Lopez and Juan Arias, swinging before getting Jamie Maldonado to ground out to pitcher to end the half inning.  

Looking to score insurance runs to seal the game, Maritime would get more than expected.  

With two outs in the eighth, Joe Deddo hit a two-run homer over the right centerfield wall, scoring Matt Costleigh, who doubled earlier in the inning.  

The next batter, Joe Semier would send another ball over the right centerfield wall to increase the lead 12-8.

Lehman’s Emmanuel Velasquez would come into pitch to Brian McLaughlin, who also hit a homer over the right centerfield wall, for a 13-8 lead.

Brandon Castillo would give the Lightning hope when he hit a leadoff homerun in the ninth.  However, Buckshaw would close the game for the Privateers giving them the 13-8 win.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pineda is Perfection for Yankees

Could Right Hander be the Missing Piece for the Yankees?

By Rich Mancuso 

SPORTS- Michael Pineda was sharp and there is no other word to describe the New York Yankees right-hander and on Opening Day in the Bronx it was almost perfection. He was perfect through 6.2 innings before a two-out double that the Ray’s Evan Longoria hit sharply to left field.

But there was a moment, and at Yankee Stadium where this looked like to be another special day in the Bronx. And it also was the Michael Pineda the Yankees hope to get every fourth or fifth day on the mound. The fastball hit all cylinders, the slider had momentum and the changeup was effective against the left hand hitters.

When asked to describe what was going on in the Yankees dugout before Longoria became the first base runner for Tampa Bay, manager Joe Girardi said, “Thinking it’s going to be another special day at the stadium.”

And with 46,955 Opening Day fans riding every pitch, Pineda made them believers because the Yankees need this youngster to step up with a starting rotation that had a lot of questions coming into the season. They can depend on Masahiro Tanaka and don’t know what to expect from the veteran left hander CC Sabathia.

But a consistent and effective Michael Pineda, well, that makes this Yankees team a lot better and more optimistic in a season that is not supposed to go towards a championship route. You can say Pineda has the skeptics, and his reputation for losing focus on the mound does give him that bad rap but Monday afternoon on a day perfect for baseball. Michael Pineda got the skeptics going in another direction.

“It’s satisfying because he did pitch well,” Girardi said. The manager was pleased with the focus and mentality. More so it was the Michael Pineda the Yankees have come to expect and on this day it was more. At a point, there was talk that this was going to be a historic Opening Day in the Bronx.

And because Michael Pineda threw strikes, 67 of them on 93 pitches, he was special in the Yankees 8-1 home opening win over the Rays.

From the fourth inning on, Pineda had to notice something special was happening. The crowd was with him, his teammates in the dugout do as all ballplayers do when a special moment may be closing in. They ignored Pineda and he went back to work.

After the Longoria hit that spoiled the possible and historic moment, Pineda went back on the hill. He said about the moment, “Don’t lose focus ….be aggressive.” And that he was, attacking and continuing to throw strikes in becoming the first Yankees pitcher to be perfect through at least 6.2 innings since Andy Pettitte in August of 2009.

Girardi did not want to remove his starter, and this early in the season there was no need to keep Pineda in the game as his team with home runs from Aaron Judge, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro built a lead.

Yes, the 28-year old native of Yaguate Dominican Republic who also had 11 strikeouts for the second time in his career, may have finally arrived for manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees. And on Opening Day, and as they say, You can’t beat that.”

But will Pineda be consistent and come back strong in his next start? That is the question, but who cares because this was an Opening Day that was memorable and could prove to be beneficial for the Yankees in the long run.

Comment Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Right Chemistry For NYCFC Soccer

By Rich Mancuso

SPORTS- Patrick Vieira came with the resume when he was named head coach of New York City FC and last year took his team to the eastern conference semifinals of the MLS playoffs. There was optimism because there was David Villa the premiere player and Vieira used the proper mix to getting this right for his team

Consider that NYCFC has not lost their last 11 regular season home matches at Yankee Stadium after their 2-1 win over San Jose Saturday afternoon and how Vieira uses the proper strategy that goes with chemistry to make this season special. In any sport the chemistry is so important and it showed again as Jack Harrison and Thomas McNamara got their first goals of the season as NYCFC improved to 2-1-1 in their first four games.

At this juncture last season, Vieira was struggling with decisions and who would be on the field. And with Villa not having an impact in the scoring the right chemistry was on the field. More so, NYCFC was coming off a bye week and the mental aspect of staying focused was very evident.

“I see Tommy in the right place at the right time, and with his strength, he put it in the back of the net, but sometimes you have a plan and games go in a different way and you have to change your plan,” said Vieira about the late game and winning goal that was scored by McNamara. His midfielder came off the bench and those moves have described this chemistry.

The manager in baseball always plays percentages in late innings and sometimes they work, and at times they don’t. But it seems that Vieira has that same approach on the sidelines and his players respect the moves that are made. The percentages at this point have put NYCFC in the proper direction after these first four games.

“I made a decision to take off Andrea, not because he was having a bad game,” Vieira said about removing Andrea Pirlo, the other high profiled and international star who played a role with the Italy World Cup win of 2006. “I thought he was playing quite well. The way we were playing in the first half, we were managing to get on the board and dictate the game, it’s just I wanted something a little bit different and that’s why I changed Andrea.”

So in comes McNamara and the percentages worked again. As Vieira said, for McNamara the goal went in where it was supposed to. 

“But that’s just a coach making a decision,” said Vieira in his quiet and calm tone, “but it’s was a tough one to make because Andrea was having a good game.” If this was Joe Girardi making another move late in the game, where some work and some don’t, there would be more criticism. However this is the MLS and a team that competes in a market with fans who know their soccer. They are a robust group at Yankee Stadium and Vieira hears them cheer and wants to appease those loyal fans.

Often and more so last season, when NYCFC was not playing up to expectations, Vieira often said in his postgame meetings with the media that the fans deserved better from him and his players. He promised to had to get better and would get better. Two weeks ago after a  1-1 draw with Montreal  in the Bronx, Vieira was glad to get the points but not satisfied.

Said Vieira: “And defensively as well, we’ve conceded less this year, but there’s still parts of the game that we need to improve, but overall, I’m really pleased with our attitude when we’re on the field.” Those changes made also put pressure on San Jose from their opportunities to score and in their prior three games NYCFC had possession more than 56.6 of the time and that added to 62 percent for the season.

The team had some time off during the bye week, but the mentality of getting back on the field was a key and according to McNamara, and those in the NYCFC locker room that was the approach that carried to their latest win.

“He’s a player’s coach,” says McNamara about his coach. “He knows his players well. With the week off we focused all the time. Some players he does not need to talk to, some he needs to go after. He makes everyone believe it’s about the team”

The instructions to McNamara from his coach were go on the offense, push, and score. That goal sent everyone home happy as NYCFC prepares for a week and their second match of the young season with D.C. United on the road next Saturday.

“You know we want to get three points at home,” said McNamara. “That is what we need to do every game when we're playing at home and so that is what I was looking to do, to be solid with the the ball, to get myself forward trying to create things, and try to get myself into place where others are creating for me.”

And this time the chemistry worked again for Vieira. It seems that the coach is making the right moves and that can only help with the mentality.

Comment Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

NYCFC Comes From Behind to Win Big in Bronx

SPORTS- An earthquake rocked Yankee Stadium as NYCFC came from behind to beat San Jose in Saturday soccer.

San Jose had not beaten their hosts in two attempts but they had an excellent opportunity to strike an early blow in this third meeting when Chris Wondolowski raced onto a pass from Darwin Ceren into a one-on-one situation but Sean Johnson came up big with the block.

That proved to be just a warning shot for the Earthquakes as they took the lead a few minutes later through Marcos Urena who slotted calmly past Johnson at the near post following a fortuitous bounce off the knee of Alexander Callens.

However, the away side's lead would last just four minutes as NYCFC equalized with a goal of the highest quality.

Ronald Matarrita’s cross to the top of the box was flicked sublimely into the path of Harrison by David Villa and the Englishman’s shot on the turn was too hot for David Bingham to handle.

It was the perfect reaction from Patrick Vieira’s side and, following this tempestuous opening, things settled down a little, allowing the boys in blue began to dictate therhythm of the game, moving through the gears, piling on the pressure as the first half minutes ticked by.

This increased pressure almost earned its reward on 40’ but a brave piece of last-ditch defending by Victor Bernandez denied Rodney Wallace his third goal in as many starts on the Etihad Pitch.

It was a familiar Bronx tale for NYCFC at the halftime break as they boasted more than 70% of the possession and more than double the number of passes to San Jose but would they get the three points they deserved in the second period?

Hearts were in mouths 10 minutes after the restart when Urena went down in the box under a challenge from Andrea Pirlo but referee Jorge Gonzalez felt the Costa Rican went down cheaply and waved play on. 

That controversial moment aside, the pattern of the game had continued with Vieira's men bossing the game but unable to find a way through the Earthquakes defensive traffic.

Tommy McNamara was introduced on 62' and he only took four minutes to make his presence felt, finishing off a stunning team move to make it 2-1.

Another Villa backheel was involved in the silky smooth build-up play but it was Matarrita who produced the key pass, pulling it back for Tommy unselfishly when he might have gone for goal himself, laying it on a silver platter for his teammate.

San Jose's hopes of getting back into the game were dealt a huge blow when Bernandez was shown a straight red card for a nasty rake down McNamara's leg with his studs on 79'.

That man advantage certainly eased the nerves for NYCFC as they held on relatively comfortably for their second win of the season.


NYCFC earned six corners in the first half of the match. They finished with seven corners on the afternoon. They had only eight in their first two matches at Yankee Stadium this season following a 9 corner performance in the season opener. 
Jack Harrison and Thomas McNamara scored their first goals of the 2017 season. Both were set up by assists from David Villa and Ronald Matarrita, who each had a primary and a secondary assist today. It was also both Villa and Matarrita's first multi-assist performance in MLS. 

NYCFC drew their first red card of the 2017 season. A red card was issued to Victor Bernardez in the 80th minute. It was the first red card issued at Yankee Stadium since Bobby Shuttleworth of the New England Revolution on July 6, 2016. NYCFC has only drawn one red card in home matches at Yankee Stadium. 
Sean Johnson continued his strong start to the season. He put in his fourth straight performance of allowing one goal or less for NYCFC. He has an overall streak of five dating back to last season with the Chicago Fire. 
The win marked NYCFC's first come from behind victory of the season. It is also the first time since July 30, 2016 that NYCFC were victorious without a goal from David Villa. NYCFC were victorious in that match 5-1, thanks to a hat trick from Frank Lampard. 
John Stertzer was named in an NYCFC matchday squad for the first time.

NYCFC have had more possession than their opponents and completed more passes in every game so far in 2017. NYCFC finished with a 62.4% time of possession and 82% passing accuracy for the match. 
NYCFC remain undefeated against the San Jose Earthquakes, going 2-0-1 (W-L-D) 

NYCFC continues their regular season home match unbeaten streak, extending it to 11 matches. NYCFC are 9-0-2 (W-L-D) in that span, with a goal differential of +20 (31-11).