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NYCFC Is Tied for First. What Just Happened?

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Or, how a planned tirade about our lousy team turned into a love letter.

Villa and Shelton celebrating in Portland
Villa and Shelton celebrating in Portland
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at Yankee Stadium, watching the Vancouver match, I prepared for another aggravating result - a loss, or a tie at best - and to write about just how disappointing NYCFC has been in year two.

I was going to write that it has been more of the same from last year: stumbling towards a finish below the line; going winless for a long stretch; failing to score despite tons of chances; finding a way to lose or tie in the final minutes after being ahead and dominating possession. I was even going to write about how I felt like a sucker paying my hard-earned money to CFG, supporting a franchise with a lot of promise but headed nowhere fast, one that couldn't deliver much besides attractive merchandise and big names.

What a difference three wins in three weeks makes. It's beyond bizarre to see NYCFC tied at the top of the East. But what's more shocking still is how the team looks. During the Portland match, I honestly didn't recognize them at all. Character was the word Coach Vieira used in his post-match presser, and he's got that right.  Could this aggressive, exciting, determined squad possibly be the same group that went winless for seven matches? Tenaciousness replaced temerity, and it was evident that our side desperately, passionately wanted the win, and would stop at nothing to get it. Somehow, we flipped from being a team that finds a way to lose to one that finds a way to win.

Just as impressive as our newfound ability to put the ball in the net has been our vastly improved defense. Let me be blunt: Matarrita is a total Godsend, and we are so, so fortunate to have him. Even before we started our current winning streak, he was stopping attack after attack, repeatedly rescuing us from danger. And others are stepping up, too -- especially, in Portland, Jason Hernandez.

Of course, more often than not, whenever a team isn't winning, its coach will put a positive spin on things -- he'll say the players are making progress, that everything's headed in the right direction, and that the team will turn around soon. I don't usually buy that kind of talk, but in this case, Vieira may have been right all along. Perhaps we're just now seeing his plans come to fruition. Maybe, as he said after the win in DC, it was only a matter of time.