Ten games. Ten long games. Ten long, miserable games. Ten long, miserable games, punctuated by one brief moment when it seemed New York City Football Club might well have found that spark. Might well have found that spark, to fire their season into some semblance of life.
Tonight, New York City plays the Houston Dynamo, both teams fresh off a loss; New York City to Real Salt Lake, Houston to the defending champions of MLS, the LA Galaxy.
New York City goes in tonight as the worst team in MLS. It's not just that they're at the bottom of the pile; it's the manner in which they occupy that position. They have surrendered eight goals in the first 30 minutes of a game; the most in the league. They have scored nine goals in twelve games; the fewest in the league along with Montreal, and the Impact have played four fewer games.
When you play sixty minutes of a game down a goal, and you can't score to save your life: that's simply a recipe for failure. Combine that with an epic injury crisis, then add too many of the wrong pieces and not enough of the right ones. There's your ten-game winless streak.
Let's talk about that injury crisis. It's ravaged New York City's defense. Josh Williams is out, as is midfielder Javier Calle, who'd been deputising at left back. Chris Wingert, Jeb Brovsky, and RJ Allen are all questionable. At this point, if you're at a New York City game, you're even odds to being signed for emergency duty on the back line.
In seriousness, all those injuries mean that the back line hasn't had any chance to develop the needed cohesion to function effectively in shielding goalkeeper Josh Saunders. It also hampers the offense, since possession soccer effectively demands that you build from the back.
So: what of tonight?
Expect yet another lineup lining up in a 4-4-2. Expect a back line consisting of Connor Brandt — given a run-out against RSL — Watson-Siriboe, Facey, and Hernandez. Expect Ballouchy, Jacobson, Mix, and Shelton in the midfield; expect Mullins to play below Villa. Expect Houston to take advantage of the defense's inability to track runners, especially into space.
I don't expect a victory. But I sure would like to see one. A happy story is easier to write than yet another sad one.