Overview: For the second week in a row, New York City FC dominated possession, dictated the pace of the game, and came out the aggressor in terms of attacking play. The key difference: the ball found the back of the net. Again, again, again, and again.
Match Highlights: A big day in the Bronx ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/TFJ6QIISjy— New York City FC (@NYCFC) March 13, 2017
New York City FC came out with a 4-3-3, just like last week in Orlando, with one major difference: Ethan White replaced R.J. Allen at right back. D.C. United lined up in their typical 4-1-4-1 formation. As mentioned, NYCFC were definitely the aggressor on the day and dictated the pace of play. Here’s the breakdown:
|Categories||New York City FC||D.C. United|
|Shots On Target||5||4|
Sean Johnson (7.8 rating) - Johnson recorded his first ever clean sheet for City in the home opener. And while the Boys in Blue definitely dominated possession and the pace of the game, Johnson played a huge role in keeping D.C. United off the scoresheet. No save stood out more than his spectacular kick save on a Patrick Nyarko shot on goal.
Ronald Matarrita (8.3 rating) - Matarrita had a strong defensive performance on Sunday. He was great at reading passes and making key interceptions, and did a very good job of not overlapping too much beyond Rodney Wallace, which was not needed considering the strong game Wallace had in the attack. His discipline to stay deep really neutralized players like Lloyd Sam and Lamar Neagle, who weren’t able to do much of anything against NYCFC. It’s a very high rating for a player that did not record an assist or goal, but I believe it’s warranted.
Alexander Callens (7.7 rating) - Callens’ performance mirrored a lot of what we saw the previous week, only this time without a mental gaffe, like leaving a player open for the decisive goal. Instead, he was quick to collapse on any United attempt to spark a counter. Once again, he was very strong on the ball and did fine work in playing smart passes and not making any untimely turnovers on the afternoon. Not much to complain about with on this rating.
Maxime Chanot (7.7 rating) - Now with a full offseason with the club and 100% fitness, we are really starting to see how much of an impact Chanot can make on the pitch, not simply in terms of possession—with which he has been quite good—but also in terms of defensive steel. Chanot proved strong all game long, broke up numerous counter attempts, and was strong in set piece defense as well. This is a fair rating for Chanot, but I will say I felt he was the best defender in this game.
Ethan White (7.1 rating) - The only new member to the Starting XI. While he wasn’t a revelation, White got the job done. Doing his “Jason Hernandez faking right back” impersonation, White stayed deeper and did not join the attack often. While this left Jack Harrison on his own in the attacking third at times, it seemed to do the job in preventing potential D.C. counterattacks, much like Mata was doing on the left side. Does this mean Vieira thinks White will be a better fit (at least at home games)? We’ll have to wait and see how the team lines up on Saturday versus Montreal. A fair rating for White as well.
Andrea Pirlo (6.7 rating) - Much like last week, Pirlo seemed to fare the worst out of the midfield trio, and the ratings in this match showed that. While this is not to say that he had a bad game per se, it’s clear that the team has to compensate for his weaknesses, and at times had to leave him out of the attack in order to find that proper verve. We’re at the point with Pirlo where he is surviving on skill and guile and not much else. It’s a testament to how amazing his skill set is, really, that he is still able to bring some level of positive quality to the Starting XI. On the day, D.C. seemed to be licking their chops to press Pirlo whenever he had the ball or the ball was passed to him. This amounted to a lot of first touch from the Italian wizard. Most of the time it worked, but not always. This team’s ultimate potential seems to lie in a midfield three of Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring, and Yangel Herrera (who subbed in for Pirlo on Sunday in the 75th minute). With offseason rumors suggesting this could be Pirlo’s last season, perhaps we will see Vieira phase him out of the lineup more and more as the season progresses. Stay tuned.
Alexander Ring (7.5 rating) - While Maxi and Villa stole the show this game with their playmaking and goals, Ring was arguably the best player on the pitch in so many ways. The box-to-box midfielder epitomized the number 8 on his back perfectly. Not only did he bring steel and grit to the midfield, he also brought quality with passes that helped NYCFC get out into the break for scoring opportunities. He drew foul after foul from D.C. United players, really getting under their skin, and ultimately dominated the midfield with his play. He was also very quick and successful in retrieving the ball whenever NYCFC did turn it over. I think I would’ve rated Ring even higher in this match.
Maxi Moralez (8.9 rating) - Moralez quickly showed the home fans the type of impact he can have for New York City FC this season, notching an assist on a nice combination play with Rodney Wallace that led to a beautiful teardrop header by Villa, and then later scoring a clinical goal to the far corner on a beautiful through ball from El Guaje:
Unlike the last game versus Orlando, Maxi spent more time in the attacking third. He didn’t drop back deep as much to shuttle the ball across midfield, instead leaving that task to Ring or allowing Pirlo to deliver diagonal balls to the wingers. The result was that Moralez again and again found himself in dangerous spots to set up the front three or go for goal himself. Moralez is by no means a like-for-like Frank Lampard replacement for the Boys in Blue, but he is a very creative player who may be able to do even more for the attack than Super Frankie could. I look forward to seeing more from him. This rating is spot on.
Jack Harrison (7.9 rating) - While Harrison did not end up on the box score in this game, it was indeed a much improved performance from the week before. Jack Flash consistently got into threatening positions in this game, and just narrowly missed hitting the opening goal with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced nicely in front of Wallace, who put away the rebound. His crosses were more dangerous, and he did a good job tracking back on defense. A fine performance, and I agree with the rating here.
Rodney Wallace (8.1 rating) - Like Moralez, Wallace endeared himself to the home crowd early with an impressive home debut. He started things off early with a opportunistic scissor kick to get Harrison’s rebound past Bill Hamid and get the goal fest rolling on the afternoon. He was also pivotal again in the attack, helping set up Villa’s first goal after receiving a beautiful pass from Moralez. He was the first player subbed off, but not due to performance. Patrick Vieira mentioned in the post game that Wallace is still not 90 minutes fit; that would appear to be the main reason he was subbed off. He was much more involved in the attack, and the results were clear in how much more dangerous the team looked. With a goal and assist in 65 minutes of work, it’s hard to argue with this rating.
David Villa (9.7 rating) - With an assist and two goals on the day, El Guaje easily won Man of the Match honors on whoscored.com, and reminded all of us why he was named the MLS MVP last season. Villa was a nightmare for the D.C. United backline all match long. Not only did he constantly probe the defense, he did his own bit of defensive work as well. His beautiful through-ball to Moralez came after winning the ball back on his own in the midfield and starting the counter attack. Seeing Villa get rolling like this at home can only be a good thing. This was easily his best performance in a home opener to date.
Tommy McNamara (6.1 rating) - T-Mac came in to replace Rodney Wallace, starting off primarily on that same left wing, but drifted more into a central role as the game progressed, with Moralez and Villa at times going out wide. McNamara didn’t make much of an impact on the game, but to be fair, it was already sewn up by the time he came on. On a positive note, we got to see him wear the captain’s armband once Villa was subbed off. If anything, it shows how highly Vieira and his teammates still rate Tommy. Not much to say on the rating.
Yangel Herrera (6.2 rating) - Herrera came in for Pirlo to solidify the defense in midfield, and he did a fine job of doing so. Earlier, I mentioned how Pirlo may eventually get phased out as the season progresses, and I’d have to imagine that right now it’d be for Herrera. Coming on a loan from Manchester City, who paid a pretty penny to sign him, the 19 year old has to figure as a prominent player as the season progresses. And as a natural defensive midfielder, he seems like the missing piece to unlocking this team’s potential.
Ugo Okoli (6.0 rating) - Big Sean came on in the 77th minute for Villa, but as with with McNamara, the game was already put away and there wasn’t much more for him to do. He did a good job of keeping the pressure up top on the opposition in hopes of creating turnovers, but other than that, not much to report on the young striker’s brief appearance.
Outlook: NYCFC put together a complete performance on Sunday, something not we are accustomed to seeing, especially at home. Not only was the team adept at finding space in the attack, they did a good job of holding their line in defense and not making mental mistakes and costly turnovers with possession.
Ring and Moralez have been welcomed additions to the midfield, and Rodney Wallace is proving why he might have been the most underrated signing of the offseason. He and Mata are (not suprisingly) in sync right from the beginning, and his pace and athleticism are vital for the team’s defensive shape.
While Harrison has not yet reached the scoresheet, he has not shown any signs of a sophomore slump. And new goalkeeper Sean Johnson has looked very strong so far. This really is looking like the best team NYCFC has put together yet. Good vibes all the way around as the club looks to continue their winning ways at home this Saturday versus the Montreal Impact.