NYCFC has won just one of their first seven matches. Can they get their act together in a mid-week matchup against the Montreal Impact?
By Jeff Weisinger
For the second time in as many seasons, New York City FC is in the midst of an early-season winless streak. Once again, NYCFC (1-3-3; 6 pts) hasn’t won a game in over a month, going on two months, and look nothing like a competent team.
They couldn’t find the back of the net again, getting shut out for the second time in the three matches that have been played this month, and couldn’t defend in their half of the pitch, allowing first half goals to Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong in their 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday the club’s 20th loss in the young history of the club.
While the Union were able to take advantage of their goal-scoring opportunities, NYCFC had their chances to take the early lead and to, possibly either claw back or tie the match, especially in the second half.
Despite their deficiencies on both sides of the pitch, head coach Patrick Vieira still believes that his side was the better team in the loss at Philly.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 24, 2016
“I think if you analyze the game, you see that we controlled the game,” he said in his post-game presser. “I think we were by far the better team today.”
To his credit, he was right, statistically speaking. NYCFC easily dominated the possession (65-35) and had a higher passing accuracy (81-70) than the Union. The difference, obviously, was the final score.
“I personally believe we dominated the game,” Vieira said. “I personally believe we created enough chances to score goals. But we weren’t ruthless enough in front of the goal to put the ball in the back of the net.
“And we gave two goals away. Philly didn’t create them. We gave it to them.”
Deciding to go with a four-man backline in a 4-3-3 formation, NYCFC looked lost at times in the defensive third of the pitch, an area where they have struggled in their last two matches. Their best centerback, Jason Hernandez, looked lost inside the box on Pontius’ goal and the backline simply stood flat-footed on the long-ball that led to Sapong’s goal in the 41st minute. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders also got caught in no-man’s land on Sapong’s goal, coming out for the long ball before being forced to backpedal back into the box as Sebastien Le Toux found Sapong right in front of net.
“It’s a mistake that we shouldn’t make at this level but we created more than we concede, much, much more,” Vieira continued to explain. “That’s why there is a lot of frustration and anger because we should take something back home because of the number of chances that we create regarding the number of chances that we concede.”
The big issue, at least offensively, with the Blues isn’t the amount of chances that they’re creating, it’s the club’s inability to finish those said chances. NYCFC has struggled to find the back of the net at an incredible rate during their current six-game winless streak. Besides all of the missed shots on goal, NYCFC hasn’t been able to find those open shots that they found in their season opener at Chicago, when they created opportunities in and around the 18, or took a shot on the first touch.
Going into their match Wednesday night against a Montreal Impact (4-3-0; 12 pts) side that’s tied with the Union for the top-spot in the Eastern Conference table, NYCFC’s biggest challenge won’t be dealing with Didier Drogba, Marco Donadel or Harry Shipp, it’ll be their ability to create chances, take them, and find the back of the net. NYCFC has been outscored 5-2 in the last three matches, all five goals coming in the recent two matches, both resulting in losses.
The Blues won two of their three matches against the Impact last year with both of the wins coming at key points of the season. Villa, Mix Diskerud and Kwadwo Poku scored in a crucial 3-1 win over Montreal at Yankee Stadium in the first matchup, while Villa earned a brace in a 2-1 win at Stade Saputo on July 4th.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 26, 2016
They defeated Montreal 1-0 during the preseason in February on a late goal by Patrick Mullins.
Defensively, the backline and Saunders have to deal with a Montreal attacking front that includes a fresh Didier Drogba, who’s making his second appearance of the season on a quick turnaround. Whether or not he starts remains to be seen.
“Didier played 90 minutes,” Montreal head coach Mauro Biello said on Tuesday. “We expected him to tire but he said he felt good after the game, so for me it’s about getting his rhythm and being available for us going forward.”
NYCFC should see Andrea Pirlo return to the lineup after he missed his first game with NYCFC since his arrival last summer. Pirlo was held off of the roster by Vieira, who thought he had a better side without him against Philly.
“I was just choosing the best team to try to win football matches, regarding the team we were going to play against and how we can hurt them and how we can defend,” Vieira explained.
If NYCFC is going to snap their current six-game winless streak Wednesday night, Vieira will have to choose his “best team” available. That of which will include Pirlo. And hopefully a few goals.