Four home matches, a total of three points, and just three goals. New York City FC should’ve lost to Chicago Sunday night, however still (luckily) managed to pull a draw.
By Jeff Weisinger
If there was any match that the suddenly offensively challenged New York City FC was supposed to win during their four-match home stand, it was supposed to be against the Chicago Fire.
Besides, they scored on them nearly at will just a month ago in the season opener.
NYCFC (1-1-3; 6 pts.) outshot Chicago 19-8 (8-0 on goal) Sunday night, created several opportunities, especially in the second half, and controlled possession throughout the match — yet the Blues could only pull off a scoreless draw against the Fire (1-1-3; 6 pts.) on Sunday night in the Bronx.
The draw extended their winless streak to four matches with two tough road matches coming up.
“We are frustrated only for the result of the game,” captain David Villa said. “The team played very well and created a lot of chances. The man of the match was the ‘keeper of Chicago.”
That “keeper of Chicago” that Villa is talking about is Matt Lampson, who was the easy man of the match, making several key saves including stealing what should’ve been two goals from Villa in the second half, one of which in a one-on-one situation in the second half when Villa seemed as if he would walk into the net.
After scoring four goals in their season opener at the Fire, NYCFC’s offensive production has taken a nosedive during the homestand as NYC has barely managed three goals.
Sunday marked the second time during the four-match home stand that they were shut out. They lost 1-0 against Orlando City back on March 18th, their lone loss of the season so far.
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Yet, while the frustration was easy to see in the locker room after the match, several players made it clear that the frustration wasn’t on the lack of scoring, it was on the inability of the club to gain three points in any of the last four matches, all of which were winnable for the Blues.
“Frustrated because we didn’t take the three points, but at the same time still really positive the way we played, the number of chances we create,” Villa added. “It’s just a question of time winning the first home game.”
“It’s probably a fair result, but obviously, we want something more,” Patrick Mullins mentioned.
“We all understand the reality of the points that came out of it. There is some frustration on that but it’s not going to deter us going forward. We feel our performances are headed in the right direction and the production will only go up from here.”
NYCFC got really lucky midway through the second half, when what appeared to be a goal for the Fire was called back late due to an offside call, keeping the match scoreless. The near-goal by the Fire exposed NYCFC’s continued struggle defensively on set-pieces.
Despite the draw and the winless drought coming upon a month’s worth of matches now, there were still a lot of positives to take away from Sunday night.
NYCFC looked like a better side against the Fire, coming out strong from their international bye week and after a dismal showing in a 1-1 draw against New England just two weeks ago.
The Blues have looked much sharper in the defensive half of the field, proving head coach Patrick Vieira’s experiment with a three-man backline to be a success — NYCFC posted their first clean sheet of the season Sunday, despite zero saves from goalkeeper Josh Saunders. He did have a few punchouts on set pieces (and also nearly knocked out two of his own guys).
“I think it’s always good not to concede a goal,” Vieira said in his press conference. “It just shows we are getting better and better. As a team, we are defending much better.”
For the first time this season, Vieira subbed off two of his top midfielders Sunday night — Andrea Pirlo and Mix Diskerud. Pirlo looked a bit worn out toward the final 20, 25 minutes while Mix, who was awarded the Man of the Match, passed upon several shots he could’ve taken on the first touch that could’ve beat Lampson, including one where he was running free into the center of the 18-yard box in the second half.
Since their 2-2 draw vs. Toronto FC in their home opener, NYCFC has allowed just two goals in the last three matches, a vast improvement from the three the former four-man backline allowed against the Fire in the season opener had supporters wondering if this team turned the corner from the defensive struggles they had last year.
New York City also looked a lot more creative in the attacking third, easily carrying the ball into and around the Fire’s 18, however, their creation and shot selection inside the 18 left a lot to be desired.
If it counts for anything, the “Soccer Sunday” that ESPN, MLS, and Fox Sports advertised on Sunday were nothing but draws across the board — Houston and Seattle played to a 1-1 draw, as did L.A. and Portland did after the New York City match.
However, while getting a point in a match is better than nothing, NYCFC is going to have to find the back of the net sooner rather than later.
NYCFC find themselves in fifth place in the Eastern Conference table, tied in points with Chicago in the early goings, edging them via head-to-head.
However, with a team like Chicago starting to figure things out, going undefeated (a win and three draws) since their season-opening loss, NYCFC needs to start grabbing all three points in their upcoming matches, starting with Columbus on the road Saturday.