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Carroll’s Column: Soccer Season Is Underway!

2023 MLS Season Is Underway! - Image Credit: @NYCFC/Twitter/New York City Football Club

NEW YORK– This is March. Let the Sports Madness begin! There’s little to no debate of March ranking at the top as most exciting months in the sports year. Seriously, how could you go wrong with a surplus of games comin’ at you day by day? 

But, as much as March is a treat for the common sports fan, due to all the action, many followers miss out, and tend to overlook a select number of sports leagues. 

Between college basketball’s March Madness, the NBA and NHL heading into their respective home stretches of the regular season, and spring training baseball, it is easy to overlook the fact Major League Soccer’s 2023 season is now underway. To help promote the arrival of the new season, Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club invited members of the media to meet with its CEO, Brad Sims.

While the best athletes in the world come to the United States to play for most professional sports, that is not the case with soccer as the best players tend to play in European leagues. Big names such as David Beckham, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo, played in the United States as a last hurrah before they called it a career. 

Brad Sims acknowledged that perception of MLS has been accurate, but things are changing. He pointed to 20-year-old Brazilian star Talles Magno’s decision to play for NYCFC in 2023 as an indicator of MLS slowly closing the talent gap with the European leagues. He is hopeful parity will arrive a decade from now. He also believes a new standalone soccer stadium will attract the best players in the world. 

Image Credit: NYCFC/Related Companies

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other civic officials are backing NYCFC in getting a new stadium across 126th Street from Citi Field. Sims is hopeful for a groundbreaking during the summer of 2024. “We are working closely with Community Planning Board 7. We are excited not just about a new soccer arena but also the development of a new neighborhood which will include affordable housing and schools,” Sims said. 

Brad Sims and Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, who grew up in Bayside, Queens, NY, are determined not to make the same mistakes Amazon did when they selected Long Island City to be their second headquarters. Amazon officials acted imperiously, which infuriated many local politicos, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being the most notable. Amazon eventually decided against coming to Queens, opting instead for northern Virginia.

Image Credit: NYCFC/Related Companies

Being located in the “world’s borough” understandably excites Sims. He is well aware of the numerous soccer matches taking place in Flushing Meadow Park every weekend regardless of the weather. He also anticipates new NYCFC customers coming from Nassau and Suffolk County on Long Island. The parking lots at Citi Field, which they will have access to when their new home is built, are also easier for motorists than the indoor garages surrounding their current Yankee Stadium home. 

I asked Sims if he was concerned Mets owner Steve Cohen, who has plans of his own concerning Willets Point, would try to thwart NYCFC. “He has been very supportive. We have had several matches at Citi Field, and we will have more again this year,” Sims said. 

MLS Play at Citi Field – Image Credit: Latino Sports

NYCFC will play Nashville SC and FC Dallas at Citi Field on April 15 and 22, respectively.

WFAN Host Sal Licata Goes At It with Caller

Sal Licata has carved out a nice career as a pundit for SNY programming, and as an overnight host on WFAN. He has shown he can be a cool, calm, and collected host on SNY’s daily 6:00PM show, “Baseball Night in New York.” A few hours later, he can turn into a screaming maniac on his overnight radio shows.

WFAN Sports Radio – Image Credit: WFAN New York

This past Friday, Licata caught the attention of sports media digital sites such as Barstool Sports and Awful Announcing. They were writing about a caller by the name of Ross, who blamed Licata for the Mets losing the 2022 National League East title. Last year, on May 31st, Licata confidently declared the NL East was over when the Mets had a 10.5-game lead over the Atlanta Braves. Ross called Licata’s declaration “the kiss of death.” 

Instead of just issuing a lighthearted mea culpa and playing along, Licata threw a temper tantrum and called Ross an idiot. The sad part is it appeared Licata really did lose his composure as opposed to it being a comedy bit reminiscent of the late Sam Kinison. 

David Feherty on LIV Golf Broadcast

LIV Golf was founded by links legend Greg Norman to be a competitor to the PGA Tour. LIV has generated controversy, and is a pariah to some, because it is bankrolled by the Saudi government. LIV has been able to sign some well-known golfers as evidenced by Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, and Charles Howell III, who all played two weeks ago in LIV’s first tournament of 2023 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The tournament was broadcast on the CW, which made it the first sporting event ever televised by the broadcast network. The always delightful David Feherty provided his usual wit and humor to the proceedings. It will be interesting to see whether the CW bids on broadcast rights for other sports should the LIV Tour prove profitable. 

Free Lacrosse Clinic in Flushing, Queens, NY for Middle School Students with Jeff Teat – Sunday March 19th

New York Riptide star Jeff Teat, who won last year’s National Lacrosse League Rookie of the Year Award, will be giving a free clinic to middle school students at JHS 185 in Flushing, Queens, NY from 9:00-10:30AM on Sunday, March 19th. 

Jeff Teat – Image Credit: New York Riptide/NLL

The program is sponsored by Citylax, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the growth of America’s oldest sport, lacrosse. Citylax has named its outreach to young teens the Eamon J. McEneaney Middle School Lacrosse Program in honor of one of the greatest NCAA lacrosse players of all-time. McEneaney, who grew up along the Queens border in Elmont, was a vice-president at Cantor Fitzgerald who lost his life on 9/11. Jeff Teat, like Eamon McEneaney, is a Cornell University alum.

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Creed III starring Michael B. Jordan

There is little doubt boxing has long benefitted from the “Rocky” film franchise since its inception in 1976. The latest descendent is “Creed III,” and it is the first without an appearance from Sylvester Stallone.

Creed III – Image Credit: IMAX/MGM

Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Creed, the tough but tender heavyweight champion who has retired from the ring. Adonis’s world is rocked when a childhood buddy, Damien Anderson (Jonathan Majors), who was a Golden Gloves champ, returns from prison after serving an 18-year prison sentence for pulling a gun at an LA convenience store which involved both of them. 

While the acting and boxing on the parts of both Jordan and Majors are terrific, the script leaves a lot to be desired. We never learn what caused the fateful incident which occurred nearly 20 years ago. Filmgoers are supposed to believe real heavyweight boxers, who have trained in gymnasiums against tough foes for years, cannot handle a boxer who operates via prison rules as opposed to those set down by the Marquess de Queensberry.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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