Overview: New York City FC played in a winter wonderland this past weekend in their match against the Montreal Impact. And while once again City dominated possession played as the aggressor for much of the game they were unable to hold their halftime lead and could only muster a 1-1 draw against the Impact. While the Impact were definitely a stronger opponent than D.C. United, NYCFC will take a long hard look at themselves and all of their missed chances that once again deprived them of more points.
As what should be the running theme this season, NYCFC dominated in possession, and took more shots on the afternoon. However, Montreal were very threatening on the counter, winning the slight edge in Shots on Target despite having significantly less possession in the match.
Sean Johnson (6.8 rating) - Johnson tallied 4 saves on the afternoon, and I know all of us wish he could’ve saved one more on that Dominic Oduro equalizer. The goal was not really of him though. While a herculean effort to stop the goal would’ve been appreciated, his defenders let him down on that one. Fair rating here I would say.
Ronald Matarrita (6.8 rating) - Mata had another solid game on the attacking end, and for most of the game on the defensive side as well. However, it has to be mentioned that his marking of Oduro was poor on the equalizing goal. He switched off for a moment, and that was all it took for Oduro to get in behind him and put the ball in the back of the net. One has to believe if he was locked in on that play that pass gets intercepted and the threat is averted. Otherwise he was solid, but I’d lower the rating a little for his culpability on the goal.
Alexander Callens (6.9 rating) - Once again Callens put in a solid day’s work. Outside of his mental gaffe on the Cyle Larin goal opening week, the best thing we can say about Callens is that we don’t have anything to complain about. And that’s one of the best things you can say about a defender. His recovery speed has been great, his passing is top notch, and his Kid n’ Play flat top is A+ and withstanding the cold/elements. Agree 100% on the rating here.
Maxime Chanot (7.0 rating) - Chanot has really turned into a rock for this backline. He was solid again, finishing the game with an excellent completion percentage on his passes, and showing his ability to fight in the air. It really has made a big difference this season to have central defenders who make smart and accurate passes out of the back. Chanot and Callens did their best to fend off Montreal’s vaunted counter attacking prowess, and although Oduro and Ignacio Piatti got dangerous looks at goal, they weren’t clean looks for the most part and that’s a testament to the growth of this backline, mainly spearheaded by Chanot. Not only was his defensive prowess notable, so was his passing ability. There were a few times where he saw him launch long diagonals to the left wing for Wallace to get a hold of with outstanding precision. I agree with the rating here for Chanot.
Ethan White (7.1 rating) - So the second week in a row, Ethan White started over R.J. Allen at Right Back for NYCFC. And he looked even better than he did in the D.C. United game. White has looked much more comfortable in the fullback role this season than he did in his limited exposure last season. It’s clear this has been something Vieira wanted White to master over the past year, and he’s looking much better in the role so far this season. He’s starting to learn when to overlap and when to sit deep in defensive support. He did a good job of not allowing Piatti to dominate his side of the pitch, as well as helping open up space for Harrison to operate on the right wing. Good performance overall from White in this one.
Alexander Ring (6.6 rating) - Ring continued to be a menace in the midfield against Montreal, being a defensive force and joining the attack fairly often. The big issue in this match, however, is Ring still has not found his finishing touch in the final third. The club’s lone goal came off a rebound from his initial attempt on goal, which perhaps he could’ve done better on. He had a couple of other looks at goal on the day, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Let’s continue to assume this is still a matter of it still being early in the season for Ring, but it’d be nice to see him put one of these chances away soon. The good news is he’s getting in good spots, while still providing defensive bite - everything you are looking for from a box to box midfielder. I’d say the rating is fair here.
Andrea Pirlo (7.2 rating) - Montreal’s midfield did not look to impose their will on Saturday, instead looking to sit back and provide defensive support to spark a counter. This allowed Pirlo more freedom than he enjoyed the previous two weeks and he used it to control possession for NYCFC. He delivered in some threatening balls on corner kicks as well, but nothing really too eventful on the day. This is the third week in a row where to me it seemed like Pirlo was just kind of “there” on the pitch. His ability to play the long ball is as sharp as ever, but you have to openly wonder how useful that is on this team specifically. There is also overlap with Moralez and even players like Chanot capable of delivering similar passes when those are called for. Pirlo’s passing was sharp, so I can understand the rating, but I believe it oversells his impact on the pitch once again.
Maxi Moralez (6.4 rating) - Saturday’s match against Montreal was a game of missed or blown chances, and Moralez definitely contributed his fair amount of those as well. Moralez had several chances where he just couldn’t get the shot on frame that wide (the blown shot off the counter sticks out) or couldn’t get his foot on the ball from a pass (the cross from Harrison sticks out specifically). Like with Ring, the positive is that he is continuing the get himself in positions to score, which is an improvement we’ve seen the last two weeks in comparison to the Week 1 match versus Orlando. I don’t want to be too harsh on Moralez, but also as DP he’s the guy above all else you’re expecting to put the ball into the back of the net. This rating is more than fair and he should be expected to perform better than this moving forward.
Rodney Wallace (8.1 rating) - WhoScored.com rated Wallace the Man of the Match, and it was much deserved in this game. Once again Wallace was able to score simply because he did not give up on the play. Wallace’s movement created defensive fits for Montreal as his goal made clear. Not only did he do great work to get into position to set up Ring on the initial play itself, but he continued to position himself well in recovering the rebound off Evan Bush and putting it away for the opening goal. When Vieira discusses the need for his attacking players to be “ruthless” one has to imagine these are the sort of plays he’s talking about. Well deserved rating for Wallace.
Jack Harrison (6.5 rating) - There was both good and bad in Harrison’s performance against Montreal. The good: Harrison did a great job in getting in good positions to both attack and set up his teammates. He also made some dangerous passes that created good chances in front of goal. He also showed a new wrinkle by stretching out to the touch lines near the box instead of doing his usual move of pinching in. The bad: Harrison blew a golden opportunity to the team up 2-0 and put the game out of reach. Harrison has had moments of brilliance so far in the early going this season, but he has yet to find his name on the boxscore. Fair rating here.
David Villa (6.4 rating) - El Guaje was another culprit as someone who couldn’t put away a good chance at goal in this game as well. Montreal keyed on the captain all game long, keeping him relatively quiet for much of the match. This won’t happen most days, but it did on this one and it cost the club two points they’d love to have right now. The rating may be a bit harsh, but Villa’s presence just wasn’t very strong in this one.
Jonathan Lewis (6.0 rating) - While it was nice for the rookie to make his MLS debut, there wasn’t much else to report on his appearance in this match. He came on for Harrison in the 78th minute, but wasn’t really able to get into the attack much at all. There will be more to see from Lewis this season, but his effect was muted in this appearance.
Tommy McNamara (5.9 rating) - Coming on in the 83rd minute for Rodney Wallace, McNamara shared the same fate as Lewis of having limited impact (pun intended) on the match. His sole opportunity came in the 92nd minute, when he headed a Pirlo free kick over the crossbar. The difference in play from McNamara to Wallace has been night and day in the early going, as Wallace pace and physicality befits a Vieira winger more than Tommy, who has faked playing a winger at best, while he’s operated more as a pseudo No. 10 as he cuts in leaving the left flank for Matarrita to cover. That partnership worked well last year, but it’s easy to see how that style would be harder to capitalize as a sub rather than a starter. We’ll see if Tommy can find his way in this year’s iteration of the roster.
Summary: While the draw may feel bittersweet at best from last weekend’s match, there are some positives to draw from it. First, the defense looks much stronger than it ever has before in the early going. Chanot and Callens have provided stability in the backline while also providing Vieira with players who can deftly play out of the back. NYCFC has only conceded two goals in 3 weeks, and both of those goals can be attritbuted to mental mistakes by a single player, as oppose to a complete breakdown of the backline or by players shooting the team in the foot with errant passes. Second, the team is creating a myriad of chances through 3 weeks. Last season the team started on a dreadful run to begin the season at home, not even properly being able to find consistent chances in the box. This season is much different, as the chances are coming but the players are not putting away chances they normally would. Harrison, Villa, and the rest are all guilty of missing goals they have put away in the past. And for newcomers like Moralez and Ring, their resume suggests they are better than their misses in the early going as well.
These are points we can take the heart in realizing this team is playing great soccer, and if they hold this form the goals, and results, will come sooner rather than later. Last week’s game against United proved that to be true. Will they be able to capitalize against tougher competition? That’s what we are waiting to see.
Next Up: This week the team is on International Break, but will return to action in Yankee Stadium on April 1st, when they host the San Jose Earthquakes.