Prologue: This season I’m looking to take a different approach to assessing and reviewing the performances of the Boys in Blue. Each week, after they have played their match, I will be posting the team’s player ratings, as taken from whoscored.com and will be providing added context to the ratings. I’ll also be adding in where I agree or disagree with the rating each player was given. This is essentially the premise of this new series. I hope you enjoy it.
Overview: For the second time in three years, the entirety of both franchises MLS existence, New York City FC traveled South to face Orlando City SC. The key difference this time being that the Lions were unveiling their brand new soccer specific stadium. The energy level was high from the first whistle, with the fans overjoyed and the players feeding off that exuberance. The result was an intense first 15 minutes that saw Orlando City in despair seeing Kaká limp off the field in the 8th minute, which quickly changed to elation as they drew first blood in the 14th minute with slick header from Cyle Larin off a cross from Giles Barnes, who just entered the game to replace Kaká.
After that goal, however, the game took a much different tone. While many people projected Orlando City to play in a 4-4-2 diamond, the reality was more of a flat 4-4-2 where Jason Kreis deployed a tactic NYCFC never saw in it’s inaugural season: they sat back and countered. The resulting effect was a very one sided match with possession heavily favoring NYCFC. Here’s the breakdown:
|Categories||Orlando City||New York City|
As you can see, NYC were the aggressors in this game, not only leading in possession but also in total shots and shots on target. Unfortunately, Joe Bendik put in an amazing performance in goal (He was Man of the Match according to whoscored.com ). Also, there were a few chances in that game you’d have to imagine a more in form attacking side will put away as the season progresses. As it stood, NYC’s finishing boots still had some dust on them and Orlando City held on to the 1-0 victory. Now let’s move on to the individual performances. All data from this article can be found here.
Sean Johnson (5.9 rating) - Sean Johnson didn’t get challenged much on the day, but the lone shot that was on target got past him on the day. However, he did well to sniff out plays before the opposition could fire a shot on goal as well. Much has been said about his ability to play with the ball at his feet, but he did fine in distribution on Sunday. No gaffes or untimely turnovers to speak of, so in that respect he acquitted himself. The rating here is bit harsh in my opinion.
R.J. Allen (6.4 rating) - Allen had an unspectacular match on Sunday. He failed to close out Barnes on the cross that lead to the eventual winning goal on the night, and did not add much to the attack. There was not much combination play between he and Jack Harrison, and ultimately his night ended short when Vieira moved to a 3 man backline in the second half. I think I might have swapped the ratings of Johnson and Allen on this night.
Maxime Chanot (7.1 rating) - Chanot earned the highest rating of anybody in blue on Sunday, and I have to agree with this rating. He was very strong with the ball at his feet (both he and Callens actually). He also helped put out a good amount of fires, making potential chances end up being wayward shots or errant passes. And with the switch to the back 3, he proved very capable out towards the right and helped solidify the back so the team could push up for a goal later on in the game. Good performance all around from Chanot.
Alexander Callens (6.7 rating) - as mentioned in my commentary on Chanot, Callens proved very strong with the ball at his feet. His recovery speed was very crucial in tracking back on Carlos Rivas and Cyle Larin all game long. However, I have to hold him accountable for the Cyle Larin goal. Right before Barnes made his move to fire in a cross, Larin (who Callens was marking) fell to the floor and Callens preceded to forget about him and move into the box. This caused Matarrita to have to try and win a header by himself against Larin for the decisive goal - a futile effort to say the least. Callens needs to have the awareness that even if he slipped and fell, Larin is the last man that should be left alone, or left to be marked by a full back or midfielder so close to goal, or even in general. Given that information, I’d have to say this rating was a tad too high for Callens.
Ronald Matarrita (6.7 rating) - Mata had himself a very solid game on Sunday. He combined well with Rodney Wallace all night (not really a surprise there). He overlapped well and with Wallace willingness to defend (and defend well), Mata was able to join the attack pretty regularly up until Vieira moved to a 3 man backline. He did well in that role as well for the final 15 minutes or so of the match. Fair rating.
Alexander Ring (6.5 rating) - Although he played much more like a box-to-box midfielder than a holding midfielder, Ring had a very solid game. He was strong in possession and made some dangerous runs to get in front of goal. Hopefully, as he gets more comfortable in MLS, those runs will start finishing with the ball in the back of the net. Bendik did well to stop Ring’s chances, but you also wonder if he could’ve been more clinical as well. Overall, I would say Ring did well in his first match, and this was a fair rating of his efforts on Sunday.
Maxi Moralez (6.4 rating) - Billed to be the club’s new “Number 10” this season, Moralez found himself in a much different role on Sunday. While not quite playing as a holding midfielder, he was often times the deepest midfielder, making himself available to connect with the defense and then shuttle the ball across midfield either with his dribble or a clever pass. The drawback, though, was that this too often took him out of the final third, where the team really needed his service to unlock Villa and co. This became evident by the fact whenever he was able to get into the final third, especially later in the second half, we started to see more threatening chances thanks to his combination play or creative passing. He played well in my opinion though and I would say this rating is too low for Moralez.
Andrea Pirlo (6.7 rating) - The highest rated of the midfield trio by whoscored.com was the Maestro. However, I have to adamantly disagree with this rating, sad to say. Pirlo may have been fairly accurate with his passing and his corner kicks, but other than he offered very little else. Ring and Moralez spent the greater part of the match compensating for Pirlo’s weaknesses, which Orlando City were always looking to exploit. He may have had the highest rating, but I thought he was the weakest midfielder on Sunday.
Rodney Wallace (6.1 rating) - Another new face added to the starting XI, Wallace played as a hard nosed defensive winger on the left in combination with Matarrita. The Costa Rican connection showed well, as you could tell that both players were very familiar with each other and had good timing and chemistry when it came to overlaps and tracking back on defense. Although Wallace offered great support in defense, he was not very threatening in attack. Also, his aggressive nature almost put NYCFC down a man, as he almost collected what should have been a second yellow card on the day for him early in the second half. Rating is more than fair for Wallace.
Jack Harrison (6.3 rating) - Harrison at times looked like the most threatening player in the final third. He shuttled the ball well into the attack, giving Toia various abouts of fits trying to slow him down. He had a great chance at goal that Bendik somehow managed to keep out as well. While he was on the right, however, it seemed like he was having trouble finding the right weight to put on his crosses into the box. He did well to free himself up and fire crosses in, but they were often times too strong or fell too short and into the defense’s lap. They improved when he switched over to the left side, but he was not as effective at breaking free against Will Johnson. I think I would’ve rated Harrison slightly higher here.
David Villa (6.6 rating) - You can never question Villa’s tireless work rate, and Sunday was no exception to that rule. He led all players with a total of 4 shots taken in the match, so he got his chances. But few were ideal. This is going to be perhaps a season long dilemma for Villa and the club: what do they do when Villa can’t get off clean looks at goal? He tried to create chances for others as well (most notably that flick on he gave Okoli as soon as he came into the game), but a goal just wasn’t in the cards this game. I agree with El Guaje’s rating for Sunday.
Khiry Shelton (6.2 rating) - The first sub on for New York City, Shelton came in to replace Rodney Wallace. He stayed on the right wing, pushing Harrison over to the left. Shelton made some nice runs, especially the one where McNamara found him with a nice ball over the top. But that was about it as he didn’t do enough with that chance (Taylor Twellman said he should’ve headed that ball over to Moralez instead of bringing it down with his feet, and I agree), and wasn’t really able to help unlock the offense as the game wound down. Fair rating.
Tommy McNamara (6.1 rating) - T-Mac came in to replace R.J. Allen in the 76th minute of the match. The move signaled a formation change, with NYC going to a back 3 with a 3-4-2-1 formation of sorts. This kept Tommy more as a central midfielder rather than playing out wide. McNamara had a couple of nice passes, including the one just mentioned that he played over the top for Shelton. It was probably the sweetest pass of the night, but it was just one moment at the same time. Fair rating.
Ugo Okoli (6.4 rating) - Okoli came on in the 84th minute, and probably had the biggest impact of any sub, putting two shots on target, one of them being truly threatening and required another spectacular save by Joe Bendik. The formation changed slightly once again when he came in, as he and Villa played up top together. That seemed to create a ton of defensive issues for Orlando City, but in the end it was too little too late to come away with a goal and a point. Perhaps his performance will encourage Vieira to bring him into the next game sooner. I’d say he deserved a higher rating, but he really didn’t play enough minutes to justify that.
Summary: Despite dropping 3 points on the road, there were a lot of positive to take away from this game. The team looked sharp in possession. The backline was not responsible for some of the gaffes and bad turnovers we saw for large parts of last season. And the team was definitely threatening, the chances were there but a combination of perhaps early season rust and a herculean effort from Joe Bendik kept them off the score sheet. To see them create so many chances against a team that essentially chose to bunker for most of the game is a good sign as that may be something they see a lot of this season. The key will be putting those chances away moving forward.
On the other hand, there may be some questions to address in the Starting XI. Number one being Andrea Pirlo. Moralez and Ring, more so Moralez it seems, are going to be asked to sacrifice their ability to attack to cover over Pirlo’s weaknesses in midfield. Juxtapose that to the last preseason game NYCFC played against Sporting KC, where it was a trio of Moralez, Ring, and Yangel Herrera. That midfield was interchangeable and we got to see Moralez roam all over the field, more importantly roam all over the final third. In order to replace the goals the team lost with Frank Lampard, Moralez is going to need to be able to do that.
Also, while he looked good at times, Callens still remains a question in central defense. His decision to hand Larin off to Matarrita chose to be the decisive moment of the match. We will have to see if that was a fluke or if he’s going to be a player consistently guilty of mental mistakes on defense.
Next up for the club is their home opener, this Sunday versus D.C. United. Let’s hope they open up this home stand with 3 points.