The formula for a winning season in any team sport has many elements. One of the most important is also one of the simplest: win your home games, and avoid losses in the road if possible. The MLS season is one of the most unpredictable in American sports, but that rule still applies.
This is why it's so frustrating that the Blues have yet to win a game at home this season. That's right: New York City haven't won at home this year. Three points from four home games. It's not like the Blues are playing stout opposition, either; games against Orlando and Chicago should be winnable games. If New York City fails to make the playoffs, it'll be because of game's like tonight's against Chicago.
As the season progresses, New York City's bright start fades more and more. Tonight's game against the Fire, in front of 22,930, was easily the worst game they've played yet. After two games using the W-M, manager Patrick Vieira decided to return to his standard 4-3-3.
There's only three real issues with that lineup. One, it puts a lot of defensive responsibility on both McNamara and Diskerud, turning them from offensive outlets into shuttlers and shielders for Pirlo. Two, it places all the creative responsibility on the shoulders of Pirlo. Three, you're shunting off David Villa off to the left.
In fairness to Vieira, he doesn't have a lot of options on the squad. That showed clearly during the first half. Despite controlling possession for most of the first half, the Blues were clearly pinned back, playing tentatively, without the ferocious intensity that characterized their first encounter in Toyota Field in Chicago. While Villa had a couple of good looks in the first half, he was denied both times by Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson. Beyond that, it was hard to see where New York City would make their breakthrough. They were consistently stymied by a well-organized Fire defense that restricted the Blues to harmless crosses to nowhere.
Referee Mark Geiger ended the first half on the stroke of 45 minutes gone. Neither squad made a half-time substitution.
At the hour mark, Geiger had his trademark moment of controversy. Chicago, after a setpiece, had presumably scored the go-ahead goal off a header from defender Jonathan Campbell. But after about a minute's conference with his assistant, Geiger waved off the goal, ruling that a Chicago player involved in the play had been offside.
New York City failed to do much with the lifeline. Patrick Mullins was subbed off five minutes after that for Tony Taylor, Pirlo made way for Federico Bravo in the 72nd minute. Neither sub could spark the Blues offense. Finally, just as Geiger revealed that there would be five minutes of stoppage time, Vieira made a final roll of the dice, replacing Mix Diskerud with Kwadwo Poku.
Poku may have had the most incisive runs of the night for New York City, but they were for naught. The game ended all square at zero apiece. As the game ended, boos rang out across the stadium. The night's result moved New York City to 1-1-3 on the year -- and still winless at home.
Next up for the Blues: a Saturday night clash against Columbus on the road.