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Alex Ring moves past mistake, looks to lead NYCFC to Eastern Conference title

“We should have secured three points. I mean, things happen. I’m not too stressed about it. It won’t happen again.”

NYCFC captain Alex Ring says he knows his team will play a good game against Atlanta United (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

ORANGEBURG, N.Y. — With New York City FC clinging to a 1-0 lead at FC Dallas Sunday, head coach Dome Torrent was forced into a substitution with less than a half hour to play.

Midfielder Keaton Parks was felled by a hamstring strain and was replaced by Ebenezer Ofori. Torrent instructed midfielder Alex Ring to drop into central defense.

Moments after play resumed, Ring demanded a ball from goalkeeper Sean Johnson and subsequently turned it over in front of his own goal.  Zdenek Ondrasek was the delighted recipient and struck a powerful shot past Johnson to earn a 1-1 draw for the home side.

Ring, who recorded seven recoveries to lead all MLS players in Week 33, did not dwell on the mistake.

“I slept like a baby after the game – it’s my mentality,” the captain said. “You know, if Sean hadn’t played me the ball I would have shouted at him for not playing it. If you don’t show yourself when the game is tight, then why do you play this game? We should have secured three points. I mean, things happen. I’m not too stressed about it. It won’t happen again.”

While not referring directly to the Ring mishap, but more to a disjointed second half, Torrent indicated attention to detail is paramount in this exhausting stage of the regular season.

“For me it is the chronic fatigue right now for teams,” Torrent said. “We need to be focused in every single second. If just one player lose the control – just one player – the team lose the control. It can’t happen again what happened the last game in Dallas.”

The quest for the club’s initial Eastern Conference championship continues tonight for first-place New York City when they host second-place Atlanta United. NYCFC is four points clear of the defending MLS Cup champions with three matches to play.

“When you are so, so close to finish in the first position you have to take it,” Torrent said. “You have to find the best solution and the players to fight until the last moment – every single ball.”

“We’re betting on winning on Wednesday against Atlanta, our last home game in the regular season,” Ring said. “If we win that game, we’re not far off from winning the east.”

NYCFC can clinch the title with a victory tonight coupled with a Philadelphia Union tie or loss at San Jose. That match will kick off about two hours after the conclusion of the NYCFC-Atlanta game at Yankee Stadium.

Martinez out for Five Stripes, Heber returns for NYCFC

Atlanta coach Frank de Boer announced there is no structural damage to the knee of his leading scorer, Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan, who suffered the injury in Saturday’s victory against San Jose, is out indefinitely.

Ring said he wished Atlanta was at full strength.

“I prefer if both would play with their best,” Ring said. “You want to play against the best and you want to win against the best.”

With 26 finishes, Martinez is paramount among Atlanta goal scorers – a quartet of teammates are tied for second on the team with four goals each.

Like Ring, Torrent would choose to see Martinez on the pitch – for personal and psychological reasons.

“It’s not good for MLS because MLS needs to play with the best players and I’m so sorry for Josef,” Torrent told Pro Soccer USA. “I prefer to play against the best players because sometimes when that happens you relax a little bit and you make a big mistake.”

Torrent’s concern was relayed to NYCFC’s captain.

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Ring said.

Meanwhile, NYCFC anticipates the return of their talisman, Heber. The Brazilian striker has missed four matches with a quad strain. Four of his 14 goals have been game-winners and he has also provided three victorious assists.

“The expectation is maybe he can help us 25 or 30 minutes against Atlanta,” Torrent said. “He’s important because if we need to score one or two goals he’s the right player to play.”

Homecoming for Parks

 Outside the locker room after the FC Dallas match, Keaton Parks was approached by a reporter from the Liberty Wingspan, the newspaper at Liberty High School in Frisco – Parks’ alma mater.

Parks was considerate and polite following a difficult match where he sustained a hamstring injury that leaves him questionable for two games this week.

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