Wow. Wow. WOW. New York City FC wins yet another road match, giving the club it’s 4th straight win and 3rd straight clean sheet. It marks the first time in club history the Boys in Blue have tallied three straight clean sheets. It also gives the team it's 5th road victory, the most in MLS. The 3 points keep the club on top of the Eastern Conference with 30 points, 4 ahead of the Philadelphia Union who sit in second with 26. Their 1.58 PPG average also rates as best in the Eastern Conference as well. They are now only 4 points out of the Supporter's Shield race as well. Again...WOW.
Here's how the teams lined up this evening:
Vieira stuck pretty much true to form with the recipe for success lately, the only difference from the win over the New York Red Bulls being reinserting Ronald Matarrita into the lineup at Left Back and moving R.J. Allen back over to Right Back, with Jason Hernadez in the 18 but not starting tonight. More on that later.
How it Played Out:
The match actually started off pretty rough for NYCFC, as sloppy passes led to turnovers and quickly put them on the back foot against the New England Revolution almost immediately. For the first ten minutes or so of the match, the game was being almost entirely in New England's attacking third. Emergency defending led to one corner and free kick after another. In the seventh minute, New England and Kellyn Rowe pleaded for a penalty on Jefferson Mena but to no avail as the referee merely awarded a goal kick for City. Despite the sloppy passing, the NYCFC back line was strong in their challenges and in winning the ball back. After the no call on Mena in the box, NYCFC seemed to find their footing. Their passing became much sharper and the buildup play was crisp and threatening all night. The attacking players for New York City really put Bobby Shuttlesworth to the test on this evening.
Throughout the match, NYCFC sought to absorb pressure and pounce on counter attacking situations against the Revolution. Ronald Matarrita was only nominally a left back, as he pretty much spent the majority of the match in the attacking half. New England consistently tried to capitalize on this, using Teal Bunbury and Je-Vaughn Watson to attack and overlap in that space Matarrita was leaving uncovered. Despite some dangerous moments, the Revolution could not get on the scoresheet. Bunbury did, however, miss this peach of a chance:
David Villa also had a couple of chances he failed to put away as well.
At the half, the game was tied at 0-0 but honestly it could've been tied at 1-1 as well. Both teams felt they should've done better, and they probably should have.
In the second half, Matarrita continued to press forward, unleashing dangerous crosses that just kept missing the mark. The Boys in Blue needed Mata's pace out on the wing as well. Tommy McNamara had a very strong game tonight making smart run after smart run. However, his lack of pace kept getting exploited by the defense as they kept beating him to dangerous through balls set up by his teammates. That is until, this moment in the match:
Tommy line drives a cross so good all Lampard has to do is let it ricochet off his body. And, as Frank Lampard is known to do, he puts the ball in the back of the net. A great run by McNamara and a simply beautiful flick pass by Andrea Pirlo as well. With the goal in hand, Vieira focused on locking down the defense. Tommy Mac’s day was done, and in came Jason Hernandez. Hernadez again played in the right back position as he did in Sunday’s derby match, with R.J. Allen switching over to left back and Matarrita moving up and now officially playing the role he was all game at left wing. The substitution essentially dried up any hopes of attacking the New York City defense. With Mata no longer responsible for defensive duties, it closed the space he was leaving open with Allen being a more defensive minded player. And with Allen playing the touchline, it allowed Mena to focus on what he does best: be a beast and snuff out plays near and around the box. He and Frederic Brillant were stout this evening, especially in the second half. They were winning headers, intercepting passes, and were consistently strong on set pieces all night.
New England did not go quietly into the night however. As I mentioned, the team did well against set pieces. They also gave the Revolution 11 corners and a multitude of free kicks, many coming in the final minutes of this match. The bright side? The team (for the most part) played strongly and defended those set pieces well. This has definitely been a point of emphasis by Vieira and today he saw the fruits of his labor on the pitch.
What I liked:
- Ronald Matarrita: attacking full back. Many people have pointed out how much work on the defensive end of the game Matarrita still has to do, and their right. At the same time, not many teams can say their left back is one of the best offensive weapons on the team. And he was again tonight. Only an amazing diving stop from Shuttlesworth kept him off the scoresheet tonight. And a header gone wide from Lampard kept him from an assist as well. He also is the league leader in tackles so far this season.
- Frank Lampard being a fox in the box. That's 3 goals in less than a month's worth of time for Dank Phrank. We hate to love him, and love to hate him...but the guy can play. This is exactly the time of threat we were looking to have paired with Villa all season. And now we are reaping the benefits. What a time to be alive.
- Jefferson Mena: starting center back? Mena has started the last three games for New York City FC, coinciding with the club's first ever 3 match clean sheet streak. Not coming on here to say it's all because him. He has his warts (namely some nervous passing). And asking him to do double duty for Matarrita is probably a little out of his depth. That being said he's by far the team's strongest and most athletic central defender. He has the speed and strength that's been lacking from this backline. And his presence has helped bolster the team's set piece defense.
- This winning thing. For the first time in this club's brief history some silverware is within their grasp. As mentioned above the club is only 4 points out of the Supporters' Shield race, behind FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids. Could they pick up ground? Hard to say, but this club is starting to make us believe anything is possible this season. And not just us:
Another great road win for @NYCFC. I'm officially taking the L on this one - didn't think they'd keep it up, but they clearly have.— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) July 7, 2016