In their penultimate preseason outing against the Colorado Rapids, NYCFC opted to once more field a squad mostly of young players in what would be be their last official matchup in their first ever appearance in the Desert Diamond Cup. And much like their previous showings against the Houston Dynamo and the rival Red Bulls, City seemed to lack the cohesion and creativity to put themselves past their opposition, failing to give fans that extra bit of excitement they desperately crave heading into the 2017 season.
New York City lined up as follows:
GK: Eirik Johansen
DEF: Shannon Gomez, Fredric Brillant, Ben Sweat, Kwame Awuah
MID: John Stertzer, Andrea Pirlo, Tommy McNamara (c)
FWD: Khiry Shelton, Sean Okoli, Jalen Brown
Striker and captain David Villa was unavailable for selection due to red card suspension. New DP Maxi Moralez did not dress for the game.
For the first 15 minutes or so, both teams struggled to work the ball into the attacking third, often turning it over in front of the box or elsewhere in the midfield. However, the game’s monotony would end in the 21st minute when Colorado forward Kevin Doyle fired a screamer from just beyond the 18-yard box, taking a deflection and zooming just past the far post.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute when the Boys in Blue would have their first real scoring opportunity. NYC cult hero Tommy McNamara attempted to add another clip to his highlight reel when the West Nyack native fired a beautiful curler from the far left of the box to the far post, forcing goalkeeper Zac MacMath to make a beautiful diving save to keep the game level.
However, the 0-0 impasse would end in the dying moments of the 45th minute when Colorado midfielder Sam Cronin volleyed a gorgeous goal into the bottom corner past City goalkeeper Eirik Johansen, giving the Rapids a 1-0 advantage heading into the half.
The second half saw the Rapids make wholesale changes to their squad, with New York City instead electing to retain their squad in favor of making select substitutions later on.
However, the tempo of the game remained the same.
Both teams relentlessly stamped out the opposite’s attempts to create real chances on offense. For every instance of brilliance in their midfield, the Bronx Blues seemed lifeless in and around the box and failed to create any dangerous or otherwise significant chances. And the same could be said about Colorado.
But in all fairness, what the game lacked in excitement, it made up for in possibly providing NYCFC fans more information about who’s in and who’s out come the Blue’s opening game against Orlando City on March 5th.
At this point, I think 16-year-old James Sands is a shoe-in to be offered a contract from the club, assuming he doesn’t decide to take the college route. Even when he isn’t at his best, Sands always seems cool and collected and has shown himself to be competent and effective in both the defensive midfield and even at center back. The kid just has it, and I wouldn’t surprised if he is still wearing blue come March.
Another player who I see perhaps signing his name on the dotted line is trialist Ben Sweat. The former Tampa Bay Rowdies defender really proved himself in his outing against the Rapids and could provide some relief to what has always been a disjointed back four. And if he’s made it this far, my gut tells me that Patrick Vieira believes it, too.
Unsigned rookie Jalen Brown has shown flashes of raw talent on the left flank, but I feel he was very much outperformed by newcomer Miguel Camargo, who made his first appearance for the Boys in Blue since arriving on loan from Panamanian club Chorillo in January. And with City signing MLS veteran Rodney Wallace last week, Brown’s odds aren’t looking any better. While I believe he still has somewhat of a chance to prove himself and that he could potentially be signed and loaned to a development club like San Antonio FC, I don’t expect him to crack into the first team.
NYCFC’s loss to the Rapids officially eliminates them from the Desert Diamond Cup. The team wraps up their series of preseason matchups in Tuscon on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City at 5PM EST.