New York City remained winless at home this season in a dispiriting 1-1 draw against a 10-man New England Revolution. The Blues dominated the early going, but faded badly as the game wore on. They took the early lead on a Tommy McNamara goal, but surrendered the equalizer later on in the first half on a Chris Tierney free kick just outside the box.
Patrick Vieira opted yet again for a W-M, replacing Rónald Matarrita with Jefferson Mena and Kwado Poku taking Mix Diskerud's place.
The setup, which allows Pirlo to create deep whilst still giving him defensive cover, gave the Blues cause to pressure the Revolution relentlessly in the early going. In the 10th minute, that pressure paid off. Pirlo set up the play for the Blues, who deftly worked the ball in the New England box. It made its way to David Villa, who uncorked a nasty volley which cracked off the crossbar and dropped beautifully for McNamara.
But as the half went on, the Revs grew into the game. They repeatedly victimized defender Jefferson Mena, whose performance was so undistinguished that, 28 minutes in, Vieira had seen enough. He replaced him with Argentine loanee Diego Martinez. Martinez wasn't much better, but he was more lively in transition.
A silly foul by Andoni Iraola led to a Chris Tierney free kick just outside the New York City penalty area. Tierney took full advantage, and drew the game level.
The second half began with more of the same. Then, seemingly, disaster struck for New England. In the 54th minute, Gershon Koffie got a red card for what looked like a tough tackle on McNamara. It's the kind of tackle that normally gets a yellow, but given the unspoken directive by PRO to protect offensive skill players like McNamara, you can see why the card was given, harsh though it may have been.
From that point on, the Revs were on the ascendancy. Thanks to some stout defending, New York City earned a point, but it's hard not to feel disappointed with a solitary point, at home, no less. If the Blues are to improve on last season, losses have to turn into draws, and draws into wins. Unlike last Friday, New York City didn't look likely to score for most of the second half.
The midfield really missed Diskerud, and the defense missed Matarrita. This is a really obvious thing to say, but it's still worth saying. Diskerud isn't a creator, and regardless of what Klinsmann might think, he'll never be a lockdown defender. But he brings a nearly-inhuman level of stamina, and this season he's been excellent at crafting offense off the shoulder of Andrea Pirlo. Without him, the midfield looked pedestrian at best.
The same thing goes for Matarrita. Not only does he provide plenty of speed, he's excellent at reading the game and closing down on defenders. Neither Mena nor Martinez were able to do that. In some fairness to Mena, Vieira mentioned in his post-game remarks that part of the reason for his early substitution of Mena was because there was a disconnect on defensive responsibility between him and winger Stiven Mendoza. But still -- having Matarrita allows a winger like Mendoza to fully concentrate on scoring opportunities.
Poku isn't ready to start yet. New York City fans have been clamoring for Poku to play. The Ghanaian got his chance. He didn't make much of it. He started off well, but as the game went on, Poku faded badly. He was repeatedly dispossessed in the final third, and he tried way too many times to overwhelm his markers with raw physicality, rather than passing off to teammates or using technique. Based on today's evidence, I don't think Vieira saw anything to convince him that Poku is a spot starter, at best. It might be a long season for the young midfielder.
Blues have to start scoring and locking down games. Unlike Friday's game against Orlando, New York City were rather fortunate to get a point from today's game. What makes the draw frustrating for both fans and the team is that they were up a man for nearly 40 minutes. Now, having a man advantage is deceptive; lots of teams become harder to score on when missing a man, because they defend and work on containing their opponents.
New England, however, didn't just do that. They were actually more threatening at points than the Blues, and should've scored at least twice in the second half, if not three times. That is what's driving fans batty. It isn't just today's game, either. This is an ongoing pattern dating to last season: the Blues score, and then...nothing. Chance after chance goes begging. This was a game that should've been closed out in the second half, particularly in the last ten minutes.
This needs to change, and soon. I've said it before: MLS is an endlessly adaptive league. Teams are now familiar with New York City's W-M. New England were drilled to mark Pirlo and Villa, which they did, and the result was a stagnant offense. New York City need another scoring threat; they can't just depend on Villa to provide the bulk of the scoring.
Up next for the Blues: another home game, against the Fire, on April 10th.