Four friendlies, four wins, zero goals allowed.
In many ways, Saturday night's 2-0 victory over Danish side HB Koge was more of the same: Patrick Vieira's men controlled possession, dictated pace, and were never truly exposed, save for a couple of skittish moments that reminded us that it's still the preseason.
Here's how NYCFC lined up under the lights at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida:
That's right, three trialists and one newcomer, Federico Bravo, whose loan from Boca Juniors wasn't officially announced until the early afternoon.
One incontrovertible fact that this preseason has brought to light is that Patrick Vieira insists on building up play with precise passing from the back, as opposed to, say, launching goal kicks into the fray and hoping for the best. One of the key questions going into tonight was quite simple-- who can be trusted to lead the ball up from deep and link up with the attack? Andrea Pirlo, for instance, simply isn't built for that kind of job.
But it looks like Federico Bravo is. (To be fair, Ned Grabavoy was competent in that task as well, although he was never the deepest-lying midfielder.)
The first half wasn't much to watch.
I MISS TONY TAYLOR— Hudson River Blue (@hudsonriverblue) February 21, 2016
Can we just call the game a draw and go get some damn @Applebees?— Hudson River Blue (@hudsonriverblue) February 21, 2016
But, at the very least, the quality of the IMG Academy live stream was streets ahead of the tragically pixelated balderdash we witnessed watching -- rather, attempting to watch -- the February 12th friendly win against OKC Energy.
HB Koge was content to hang back and wait to spring counter-attacks, imposing very little of their own will on the Boys in Blue. If there was a first half highlight, it was a point-blank save by Josh Saunders on a dangerous headed chance in the 30th minute.
In the second period, the game opened up and the local fans got their payoff.
Around the hour mark, David Villa, Tommy McNamara, and Mix Diskerud came on and brought an infusion of energy with them. And with the introduction of Andrew Jacobson, we saw another iteration of what promises to be an interesting dynamic this year: the box-to-box center back.
Yes, as with Saturday night's win over Montreal, AJ came on in the second half as NYCFC switched to an unorthodox back line: with Ethan White on the right, Ronald Matarrita on the left, and Frederic Brillant in the middle, Jacobson often found himself playing level with the newly-acquired Frenchman, only to race forward like the proper marauder we knew him to be last year as play built up. Like Bravo in the first half, Jacobson was entrusted with shuttling the ball forward from deep, serving as the link between defense and attack.
And it basically worked.
Yes, when Khiry Shelton came on for Romain Gall in the 69th minute, it was winning time. Andrea Pirlo flipped a carefully-weighted ball out for Mehdi Ballouchy wide to the right of the box, who slid one in for Shelton. The second-year man swept it home without much bother in the 85th minute.
Just three minutes later, Shelton would make his best decision of the match: with David Villa tearing ahead to take advantage of some loose man-marking, Shelton lobbed a pretty ball for the captain, who fielded it beautifully on the run. The Koge defense was dead to rights, and dragged Villa down in the box for a penalty chance.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) February 21, 2016
Boom. Dos a cero. Final whistle. Good guys win again.
The Blues return to action this Wednesday at 5:30 pm against FC Cincinnati, who will make their debut in the USL division this year.