Burn it. Burn it with fire. Burn it with fire, and let us forget that this afternoon's game ever happened. Burn it with fire, let us forget that this afternoon's game ever happened, then start looking forward to Saturday's game against Columbus.
New York City played the LA Galaxy today. Okay, fine: "played" is probably a bit much. For the first 15 minutes, this was a game. The Blues pressured the Galaxy, forcing defenders like AJ De La Garza to step up, and the ancient Donovan Ricketts to actually play. For 15 minutes, they looked the better team. For 15 minutes.
This is how they lined up:
For the remaining 75 minutes? Not so much. That's when reality hit. The fatigue from a cross-country trip, and a tough draw against Columbus on Wednesday, meant that New York City was at an even greater disadvantage against the Galaxy than they otherwise would be. In truth, the Blues were extraordinarily fortunate that they were only losing 1-0 at the interval. Saunders was at his oaken-walled best on numerous occasions, denying LA a bevy of certain goals. What Saunders didn't reject, the crossbar did.
Halftime came not a moment too soon. But any hope of a resurgence by New York City was quickly extinguished by LA. They were simply too good on the day. The Galaxy shredded New York City's defense and midfield at will. Halftime was but a temporary respite; having scored early in the second half, the Galaxy obliterated an exhausted expansion team, scoring four goals. In truth, it could've been more; they eased off as the game wore on, their dominance manifest.
The second half served more as a threat warning to the rest of the league: this LA Galaxy team is lethal, not to be trifled with. They are, now, what New York City fans hope the Blues can be, and what they should demand they are. The game ended 5-1, and it should've been more. David Villa scored a consolation penalty goal in the 78th minute, but it was immediately canceled out by a surging Galaxy counter-attack.
Symbolically, the injured Frank Lampard, wore flannel and sat next to technical director Claudio Reyna. The aged midfielder, around whom New York City were supposed to be built, was supposed to be on the field, not looking over it. The game was billed as a clash of the two greatest English midfielders of their generation: Lampard versus Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's once-talisman. It was anything but. Gerrard was quietly efficient; Lampard was simply quiet. Hampered by injury, his likely role as a foundation stone for New York City taken by another venerable midfield legend in Andrea Pirlo, it's unlikely that Lampard will live up to the expectations everyone had for him.
This New York City team is a better team without him. Look at the lineup again: where does Lampard fit in there? Which player do you sit? Do you bench Tommy McNamara? Do you bench Kwadwo Poku -- arguably, the find of the year? What about Mix? I suppose you could bench Andrew Jacobson, but if you're expecting Frank Lampard to shield Andrea Pirlo, well...
No, this lineup and this team is a better team without Lampard. We saw that against DC United, and against Columbus. We didn't see it today, but I would make no hasty conclusions based on this result. The focus now moves to Columbus, at home, next Saturday. Once more, New York City need to win; a draw won't suffice. A win can be, must be had. This team is capable of it; the question is, which team will show up?
The one that beat DC United and Orlando? Or the one that capitulated today against LA?
That's been the story of the season thus far: the duel between these two extremes. I think it'll be the one we want, but that there's no way of feeling confident — well, that's the reality of following an expansion team.