Preseason Journal: Leadership & An Unlikely Hero

Journal Day Eight Brillant

We’re now more than halfway through the Jacksonville leg of NYCFC’s preseason.

Since our last journal entry, the team enjoyed a well-earned day off on Saturday to allow muscles to rest after an intense first five days of the training camp.


It was needed as Sunday’s double session required every bit of endurance available to our 28-strong party.

The highlight of the morning portion of the day was undoubtedly the 1v1s which pitted Chanot vs Brillant, McNamara vs Pirlo, Shelton vs Okoli and Harrison vs Matarrita to name but four matchups.

They might be teammates at Yankee Stadium on gameday but there was certainly no easing up on the competitive nature of these duels as you’ll see in the video below from around 03:50!

We saw some brilliantly cynical defending in the battle of the center backs, some goal-poaching of the highest order, and of course, some sublime finishes and saves.

The Unlikely Hero

Then, the players split into two teams of 11 for the final section of the morning for a game which produced the unlikely hero of this journal’s title…

With the teams deadlocked at 1-1 and time running out, Andre Rawls hinted at a future sideline as a no.9 with the winning goal – a predatory near post finish which he steered in past the ‘keeper at the near post.

A goal worthy of winning any game from the 25-year old stopper.

As with any game overseen by Patrick Vieira, there are “consequences” for the losing team… in this case, a few extra sprints with Performance Coach Matt Cook.

The Machiavellian smile on Patrick’s face said it all.

Leadership Roles

A quick pit-stop back at the hotel for some fuel was followed by a shorter afternoon run-out where the coaching staff set up some shape work, designed to work on the team’s build-up play.

We followed the group consisting of trialist Stertzer, Johnson, McNamara, Okoli, Pirlo, Sands and Villa as they played their way around mannequins and practiced passing combinations.

Patrick was pleased with the work he saw from his charges and told them so during the warm down.

We caught up with RJ Allen after training and the defender who signed a new deal with the club in the offseason revealed that he was pleased with the efforts of the newcomers in the squad.

Allen told us: “The new guys have been great – it’s definitely an adjustment coming from college. I’ve been there myself but they’re working really hard. There are some leadership roles previously held by guys who aren’t here anymore and they need to be filled by some of the guys who’ve been here for a long time.”

RJ himself is definitely helping on that score, providing an encouraging, vocal presence in the sessions from day one – talking through the game to the less experienced players and ensuring that the energy levels are always high in the wider group.

We’ll have that full interview with RJ on the site very soon.

The First Game

Onto today (Monday), where the build-up to our first game of preseason really kicked in.

Of course there were more consequences for the losing team of the session’s final game… this time, push-ups and sit-ups, while on the other side, Sean Okoli channeled Usain Bolt with his celebrations after netting the winner.

NYCFC take on Jacksonville’s University team on Thursday for a game which you will be able to read about and see highlights of here on

Bring it on!