New York City Football Club recently dropped points to both the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire FC in games that were close, but not good enough; a mantra NYCFC has represented all season long.
Poor defense, Excellent Goalkeeping from NYCFC
The first game against NYRB had its ups and downs, though the ups were few and far in between. Just 39 seconds into the first half, NYCFC got their first chance when Alfredo Morales found Maxi Moralez with a low cross from just outside the box. Moralez went to strike it in but missed the ball first time. He went for another, much more lackluster strike afterward, which rolled right by the right post and out. This was a slight sign of how NYCFC weren’t really mentally ready for a chance to come so early.
Two more chances back-to-back came six minutes later when Moralez whipped it in from a corner to Alexander Callens. Callens hit it square at the net, but in a moment of brilliant defending, Sean Davis headed it nearly off the line. After it went back out, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi whipped it back in to Morales, who attempted a header at goal. Carlos Coronel was able to save it and keep the Red Bulls’ clean sheet. For the rest of the first half, there were no major chances again for New York City.
For NYRB, it was a different story in terms of capitalizing on opportunity. Their first chance came around the nine-minute mark when a long throw-in led to a headed pass by Cristian Cásseres Jr, which fell to Omir Fernandez. He was able to get a shot off, but Sean Johnson was able to block it with his face in a stroke of luck. After a poor attempt by Sean Nealis, Johnson was able to collect the ball. The only thing stopping the Red Bulls from scoring here was a very lucky save by Johnson.
Luck Can Only Go So Far
Luck wouldn’t be on NYCFC’s side at the 42nd minute though, when a ball in from Kyle Duncan straight to Fernandez led to a goal for NYRB. This was made much more possible due to poor marking from James Sands, which let Fernandez run into an open area to get to the ball first. The rest of the game would be more of the same, with the Red Bulls staying in control. When opportunities came, NYCFC wasn’t able to put them away. It was either because shots weren’t good enough or Coronel was performing well.
The game ended 1-0–a disappointing display for the Blues.
Better and Yet Somehow Worse
Fast forward a couple of days to their showdown with Chicago. The early game was much better from the Blues, with a lot more major opportunities for them. While some ball movement could’ve been better, it was an overall unlucky day for both sides. Moralez had a shot on target that was nearly inches away from goal. It hit the right top right corner of the post and bounced back into play. The Fire had similar results around the 42nd minute when a shot by Robert Beric went right off the crossbar back into play. It landed right at Jhon Espinoza‘s feet, where he decided to take a crack at it. The shot deflected off of Callens and Gudmundur Thórarinsson and once again hit the crossbar.
The second half was a much different store. Just three minutes into it, at around the 48th minute, a swift free kick was taken by Álvaro Medrán. He passed it to Beric, who was free with plenty of space because NYCFC hadn’t been defending him. Beric went on to slot it right past Johnson to make it 1-0. The sloppy mentality that NYCFC have shown in past games led them to be relaxed at a time when they needed a sense of urgency. That mentality is what is slowing down their defensive side currently.
Another goal came when a swift cross came in right to Federico Navarro, who was able to put it past Callens and Johnson after a slight deflection. The defense gave way too much space to both of these players, and Chicago capitalized on it.
Discipline and Urgency are a Must
If NYCFC hope to stick it out in the playoffs this season, they need to fix up their defense. With teams like New England Revolution, Nashville SC and Sporting Kansas City putting up 57, 46 and 47 goals respectively, the defense the Blues have now just won’t cut it. Lack of movement and poor marking will continue to leave their opponents with massive gaps for them to go into and cause trouble for NYCFC. Opportunities need to be taken, and chances need to be created more often on the other side of the field. If the Blues can improve on their weaknesses by playoff time, there’s no reason why anyone should count them out as Major League Soccer Cup contenders.