A sellout crowd of 30,321 saw New York City and Toronto FC scrap to a 2-2 draw in the 2016 home opener for the Blues. Manager Patrick Vieira stunned more than a few people before the game with how he lined up the team - a 3-4-2-1 that seemingly ignored the flanks in favor of controlling the midfield.
That strategy paid off in a first half that saw New York City score two goals in the space of four minutes. New York City captain David Villa was on point for both goals - one off a volley, the other off a penalty. The stadium was rocking, and the Blues looked like adding on to the score.
But Toronto scored at the stroke of halftime. New York City gave up a free kick on the edge of the box. Reds talisman Sebastian Giovinco rifled the kick, and defender Damien Perquis nudged the goal home.
New York City had several more chances to score in the second half, but as the game wore on, Toronto gradually grew in to the game. Finally, in the 76th minute, Giovinco bolted on the equalizer from distance.
With 15 minutes to go, manager Patrick Vieira made two substitutions: midfielder Mikey Lopez for Tommy McNamara, and defender Ethan White for Khiry Shelton. New York City managed to get a handle back on the game, but despite a last-second corner, New York City was unable to find a winning goal.
Frederic Brillant is improving, but still needs work. The 30-year-old French defender struggled mightily with Chicago last week. Tonight's game went better, but he didn't cover Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco as closely as he could have. The result was that Giovinco was free to rifle home the equalizing goal with 15 minutes to go. Still, he's probably a lock for the backline going forward. I suspect that once he gets more used to the leeway that MLS defenders get from officials, he'll make his mark.
Mix is much more comfortable in the midfield. It's not even close. I spoke with him after the game, and he mentioned how he could read the MLS game much more easily this season than last. Whether in a 4-3-3 or a 3-man setup, Diskerud is firmly a part of the central midfield, responsible for providing combination play. I've said in the past that Diskerud is at his best operating in the right central midfield, off the shoulder of a creator. That gives him the freedom to roam at will, without forcing him to operate as either a number 6 or a number 10. That's what Patrick Vieira is doing with Diskerud, and it's showing in his improved play.
The Blues are finally playing like a coherent whole. Last season, any time New York City had something go wrong in the run of play, you could see players panicking. This led to a whole lot of disjointed play, and it contributed to the team's historic inability to either hang on to leads or to come from behind. This is most definitely not the case this year. Whether last week against Chicago or tonight against Toronto, New York City didn't fold up after giving up a goal; they simply methodically got down to it. Give Vieira tons of credit here; it looks like he's radically improved the team's mentality over the course of the off-season.
Next up: The Blues have a quick turnaround this week; they play Orlando City at home on Friday, at 7 p.m. The game will be on Univision.