Three games in and NYCFC is winless in their last two matches. Is the loss against Orlando City a sign of a downward spiral?
By Jeff Weisinger
Coming into the 2016 season, NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira wanted a more aggressive type of play on the pitch.
They scored four goals in their opening day win and went up 2-0 early against Toronto FC in their draw to the Reds last Sunday in the home opener.
Getting shut out at home on a cool Friday night in the Bronx wasn’t in any way a part of Vieira’s plan.
NYCFC fell 1-0 to Orlando City Friday night, as goalkeeper Josh Saunders misplayed a chip over his head by Rafael Ramos who found Cyle Larin in front of a wide empty net in the seventh minute.
Larin easily headed in the poorly played ball and the Lions’ backline played well enough to see Larin’s lone goal stand for the following 83 minutes for their first win of the season.
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The loss drops NYCFC to fifth place in the Eastern Conference table, just a point ahead of the Red Bulls in the early standings.
Vieira has this to say in the post-game press conference.
“I think we played better than we played against Toronto, I think that was really key to the way we try to play. Obviously we created some chances, but I was really pleased with the way we moved the ball around the pitch.”
He then elaborated about what went wrong:
“We gave away the game in the first 10 minutes. The way we entered today wasn’t good at all, and they it was really easy for them to defend and go on the counter-attack and we tried to manage to move the ball quick.”
NYCFC out shot the Lions 16-10 (6-5 on goal), however they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Blues created a ton of chances midway through the first half and in throughout second, however the New York City supporters may have had better luck finding the back of the net compared to the players on the pitch Friday night.
This is a scene we’ve seen before – in fact, it’s this current scenario that puts NYCFC in a very similar downfall spiral, similar to the one they found themselves in at the same time last year.
Vieira told reporters:
“I am really disappointed because I think we managed to play well, especially in the second half, but we gave the game away in the first 10 minutes. The way we entered the game wasn’t good at all. Then, it was easy for them to defend and counterattack. We tried to move the ball quick, but it wasn’t for us tonight. We went into the game with not enough desire, enough concentration. We were a little too sloppy, and we made it easy for them.”
NYCFC’s offensive production has gone down since their four-goal opening day at Chicago. Since then, they have scored just two goals in the last 153 minutes – David Villa’s second goal against Toronto the last goal for the Blues.
After three matches last year, NYCFC was 1-0-2, scoring just three goals while allowing just one. Their last match before the losing streak was a scoreless draw at Colorado.
They lost their fourth match of the season to Sporting Kansas City 1-0 and couldn’t snap out of the funk after the international bye, losing six of their next nine matches (three draws) before pulling a comeback win at Philadelphia to earn just their second win of the season, sparking some sort of comeback run that saw them win three MLS matches in a row.
But can this NYCFC club, now Vieira’s club, avoid falling back into that funk?
Seeing NYCFC create chance after chance was very promising and is exactly what we expect out of this club under Vieira. However seeing the boys in blue miss the net time, and time, and time again was something that everyone, unfortunately, became used to last year.
Seeing the club blow coverage in their defensive third, even with this now improved backline, was something that NYCFC supporters became used to.
Seeing NYCFC booed off of the field after the final whistle on Friday night was something that the club isn’t used to, but was well deserved.
If they hope to change that, they’re going to have to find a sense of urgency to win matches, and win them now, starting with Saturday’s match against the New England Revolution.
The Blues will be without three current starters on Saturday – Mix Diskerud, Khiry Shelton and Ronald Matarrita – due to international duty, meaning that their depth will be tested for the first time this season.
Although Shelton has been a bit of a non-factor in the early goings of the 2016 campaign, New York City will have pretty big shoes to fill in Mix and Matarrita.
We should see Steven Mendoza Start in place of Shelton in attacking front, giving the Blues a lot more speed in the wings between Mendoza and Tony Taylor, with Villa coming up through the middle.
Closer Look: @MatarritaRonald controls the entire left side of the pitch during last night’s match #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/XgfdLPy34g
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) March 19, 2016
Ethan White should make another appearance for the Blues in the backline on Saturday in place of Matarrita.
White, or whomever takes over for Matarrita, will have really big shoes to fill as Matarrita tends to control the entire left side of the pitch, coming on late as another dangerous part of NYC’s attack. We could also see RJ Allen make his season debut in lieu of Matarrita as well, or Frederic Brillant or even Jefferson Mena if he’s healthy and cleared to play.
We could, and probably should, also see Kwadwo Poku make his long-awaited season debut on Saturday in place of Mix, especially with how disappointing Mehdi Ballouchy was in his shift on Friday night. Whether or not Poku starts, however, is the real question.
But first and foremost, NYCFC has to win against New England on Saturday, taking momentum with them going into the international bye week and going into their Sunday night matchup against the Chicago Fire on April 10 (7 p.m. ET, FS1).
NYCFC, let alone Vieira, cannot afford to go on another losing streak out of a home stand – that much is certain.