New York City Football Club has started its season off on a relatively good note, but they’ve had a problem when it comes to utilizing its strong points. So far, Jesus Medina leads NYCFC in goals with five this season, which is just one over teammate Valentin Castellanos. Overall, New York has scored a total of 13 goals in seven games, the most in the Eastern Conference and third-most in the entire league. Yet, they’ve been struggling with putting games away.
NYCFC’s Inability to Put a Game to Sleep is Their Biggest Hurdle
New York has always done a great job keeping the ball and controlling the tempo of the game to suit them better. The earliest example of this was the first game of the season, against D.C. United. Their possession for that game was 63% while having a relatively good passing accuracy of 76% percent, completing 428 passes of their 566 attempts. That’s nearly double D.C.’s successful passes of 215 throughout that game. NYCFC did a good job forcing the ball out to gain control as well, with 12 goal kicks, 34 throw-ins, and four corners throughout that game. The tempo of the game was theirs and theirs alone. They had the control they wanted so bad.
With this information, you’d think New York would put away this game. They even got an early goal in the 15th minute, courtesy of Castellanos with the help of Anton Tinnerholm. Then low and behold, they would concede two swift goals from Brendan Hines-Ike and Russell Canouse respectively. The rest of the game would be fruitless for NYCFC and they’d take their first loss in their first game of the season. All because they didn’t use the possession they had well enough.
The Best Example of Underutilization From New York
Another game where the possession wasn’t used to its greatest potential was against Toronto Football Club. While NYCFC’s mentality disintegrated due to a controversial decision, before and after that, they had control of the game. Possession was 57% for NYCFC with 83% passing accuracy and six shots on target.
The early part of that match was in favor of Toronto, as they came out hoping to beat NYCFC at their own game. Possession was high for them at first, even causing a chance or two against the Blues. Around 25 minutes in though, NYCFC finally got their tempo going and the control they wanted. They used that control well in the second half when Medina was able to put away a great goal to make it 1-0. All they needed was a second goal to really put the game away.
Chances came and went time and time again without any of them being taken advantage of. Finally, around the 70th minute, a decision from the referee that denied NYCFC a crucial goal made the whole team absolutely livid. This decision combined with the fact that they couldn’t put the game away sooner led to an absolute mental meltdown that gave Jacob Shaffelburg a perfect chance to draw the game, which he did. The game ended that way and left a sour taste in the team’s mouth.
How NYCFC Should be Using Their Ball Possession
The games against FC Cincinnati and Philadelphia Union are perfect examples of how to use the high-ball possession playstyle NYCFC are so good at.
Starting with the 5-0 win against Cincinnati, New York had 53% possession with 83% passing accuracy. This game has been ideal for NYCFC’s season and what they should strive for all season. Chances were taken, passing was smooth, the ball control was on point and players were where they needed to be when they needed to be there. The scorers of the team were able to get proper goals, like Castellanos and Medina, with even Gudmunder Thorarinsson getting on the score sheet.
For the match against Philly, there weren’t nearly as many goals, but there was just about the same quality from the team. Possession was 67% with 89% passing accuracy, their best all season. They also got off 23 shots, with seven being on target. Sean Johnson didn’t even have to lift a finger as the Union had no shots on target. This is the game Ronny Deila should be showing the players when it comes to using ball control well. NYCFC moved the ball well in the final third to open up Philly’s defense and did well to deny the Union any real chance at their goal.
Overall, NYCFC needs to strive to perform as they did against the Union and Cincinnati. Every match and team is different, but if they’re able to really utilize the ball control capabilities they have now, they will be an unstoppable force in the East and will take the top spot away from New England Revolution in no time at all.