The losses keep on mounting for New York City.
Unlike the last game, against Chicago Fire, the Blues came out firing from the start. Khiry Shelton started the action with a near-miss in the first minute of play. The team kept up the action throughout the first twenty minutes of the game, placing the Seattle Sounders under intense pressure.
But the New York City high press was always vulnerable to a lightning Sounders counter-attack. That's one of the risks of a high line. In the 23rd minute, Seattle striker Obafemi Martins made the Blues pay. He rampaged down the field, and scored off a through ball from midfielder Marco Pappa.
Despite that, New York City kept pushing, looking to score at every opportunity. That cutting thrust was all too absent from previous games; what's more, it kept Seattle pinned back, forcing them to defend. The Sounders countered where they could, but contrary to expectations, New York City dominated the run of play in the first half. Indeed, Seattle counted themselves lucky to be leading at the half. While New York City was losing, all signs pointed to them being able to stand toe-to-toe with Seattle.
The second half started cagily. Both teams poked at each other's defenses, neither willing to go all out just yet. Then New York City started pushing for the equalizer. In the 54th minute, their pressure finally broke Seattle's defensive wall. Forward Patrick Mullins moved silkily down the sideline, finally setting up Mehdi Ballouchy at the top of the key. Ballouchy then struck gold with a perfectly-weighted shot that keeper Stefan Frei couldn't save.
It was his last action of the match, as he gave way for David Villa. Villa's been the principal threat for the Blues this season. With Yankee Stadium rocking, it seemed as though a go-ahead goal for New York City would come from him.
But life's not like the movies. Instead, it was Seattle who would take the spoils. Four minutes after giving up the tying goal, the Sounders struck again. Obafemi Martins raced down the sideline. He made New York City centerback Chris Wingert look like a rag doll as he faked him out repeatedly. Martins then crossed to Marco Pappa, who passed neatly to Clint Dempsey. Dempsey's shot wasn't pretty, but they count all the same.
New York City kept pushing for another equalizer, but by now, Seattle were more settled into the game. The league's best defense parried away one attack after another. As the Blues searched for a second goal, Seattle threatened to punish their efforts; in the 66th minute, Obafemi Martins did just that, with a sweet, back-breaking third goal. Dempsey set him up with a beautiful back-heel flick, and Martins absolutely smashed it home.
In spite of that, New York City never stopped pushing forward. Their efforts were hampered, though, by a senseless foul by Kwame Watson-Siriboe. That foul earned him a second yellow card, a red card, and a one-game suspension; he'll be missing the New York rivalry game. A missing man didn't deter the Blues. Villa very nearly made it two on the night for New York City, but Frei somehow was able to save the strike.
So: five losses in six games for New York City.
That's not ever a good thing. There's a lot of frustration out there — on everyone's part. Still, there's something to be said for the fact that for the first time all season, New York City looked to be attacking from the start. At some point, the laws of averages and physics demand that New York City will start converting more of their shots.
It bears remembering: this is an expansion team. For some, that sounds like an excuse. It's not. It's putting this team's struggles in necessary context. These are the growing pains that every new team goes through, as they strive to adapt and overcome. It bears remembering: not only is this an expansion team, it is an expansion team that's missed their primary scoring threat for significant amounts of time. It is a team that won't be seeing their other two key players — Lampard, and whomever they sign as a third designated player — until summertime.
As they approach their inaugural grudge match against the New York Red Bulls, though, at last we can say that there are some signs of progress. And as the saying goes: the ball is round, so that the game can change direction.