Overview: This past weekend, New York City FC showed their first real signs of the sloppiness that plagued them for much of last season, particularly in their own defensive third as they tried to build from the back. The San Jose Earthquakes pounced on that sloppiness in the early going, drawing first blood. NYCFC, however, to their credit bounced back and were able to come from behind and secure another three points in this early home stand, also keeping the club undefeated at home so far this season.
Let’s take a look at the overall breakdown of the weekend’s match:
In typical fashion, NYCFC dominated in possession and in pass completion percentage, as is their standard at this point. A new trend this season, thanks to players like Chanot, Callens, and even Wallace, is a consistency in winning aerial duels. While the Quakes got the edge in shots on target, NYCFC’s defense looked strong for most of the game in what turned out to be a hard fought match. Now let’s get into the individual player performances.
Sean Johnson (7.3 rating) - Johnson could’ve done better on the goal by Marco Ureña, but at the same time it was Pirlo and Callens who conspired to give the opposition that golden opportunity in the first place. On the day, Johnson finished with 4 saves on the 5 shots on goal, and was sharp with passing - a necessity for building out of the back. It remains to be seen if Johnson is the level of keeper that can keep NYCFC in a game, because quite frankly he has not really been put under that sort of duress as of yet. That’s a product of it being so early in the season, but it’s also a testament to a much improved defense so far this season. Fair rating for Johnson.
Ronald Matarrita (7.3 rating) - The more Mata performs like this, the more clear it becomes it’s only a matter of when, not if, he gets sold to a bigger club in Europe. Mata has improved tremendously in his defensive efforts this season, something playing alongside Wallace on the left has surely helped, while still showing strong ability to join in the attack and be a threat to the opposition. He combined well with the front three many times, in particularly on the winning goal which came off Mata’s assist to McNamara. Given his performance and the assist, I would give Mata a slightly higher rating for this one.
Alexander Callens (6.2 rating) - WhoScored.com credits Callens with the error that led to the goal scored by San Jose, hence the low rating for him. This feels like a case of misplaced finger pointing, as Callens really just had a loose ball bounce off his leg into Ureña’s path. He made a pass to Matarrita who one touched it back towards Pirlo. Pirlo’s horror of a pass bounced off Johnson’s chest and then a mad scrum for the ball ensued, leading to the goal for the Quakes. Callens could’ve done better to close out the ball or even clear it out of harm’s way, but it’s a little harsh to hold him squarely accountable for causing the error that led to the goal. Harsh rating for Callens on this one.
Maxime Chanot (7.6 rating) - If Chanot keeps putting together performances like this he’s going to find himself on the short list of players for MLS Defender of the Year. Chanot won 6 aerials in last weekend’s match, to go along a 90% completion rate on all of his passes. He has without a doubt been the anchor for this NYCFC backline, and at 27 years old he could only just now be reaching his peak. Exciting times in the land Luxembourg. Spot on rating in my opinion.
Ethan White (6.5 rating) - There was nothing spectacular about White’s performance on Saturday, but the fact that he has now put in 3 consecutive solid shifts at right back should be considered no small feat if you think back as recently as last season. While White often times looked out of sorts and was definitely often times out of position playing right back last season, he’s been the complete opposite so far this year. He’s combined well with Harrison on the wings, while making sure not to overextend himself, putting priority on tracking back and solidifying the team’s defense. He probably will never be the passer RJ Allen is, but his athleticism and newly found discipline on defense has so far made it clear why he’s the first choice right back for Patrick Vieira. Fair rating for me.
Alexander Ring (7.2 rating) - Ring was once again effervescent in midfield on Saturday. His ability to cover ground, win 50/50 balls, and deliver tackle after bone crunching tackle has made him the definitive engine that makes NYCFC go, go, go. Ring currently sits as the league leader in tackles per game, coming in at an imposing 4.3 tackles per WhoScored.com. He only connected well with his teammates, completing 82% of his passes in the match. When Vieira talks about ruthlessness, Alexander Ring appears to be the picture in Vieira’s dictionary next to the word. He’s brought bite, steel, and quality to a NYCFC side that sorely needed it. No complaints with his rating here.
Andrea Pirlo (6.6 rating) - I was all set to sound like a broke record this week talking about Pirlo again, but then Sam Dunn said everything that could be said on the matter. It was clear from early on in the match that Pirlo was not going to be able to work within the pace of the game. His back pass to Johnson on the Quakes’ opening goal was horrific to say the least, as was his effort on defense once San Jose regained possession. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the team was able to impose it’s will more once he was subbed off for McNamara. The rating here is a generous one in my opinion, and I’d probably swap his and Callens ratings on this match.
Maxi Moralez (6.9 rating) - Mighty Max was not able to get on the score sheet once again in this match, but he had a solid performance all the same. He was subbed off in the 84th minute for defensive reinforcements, but it was definitely not an indication of a poor performance on the day. Outside of the club’s outburst against D.C. United, they have only scored 3 goals combined in their other 3 matches. It’s still early on, but the club will need him to start showing up the boxscore with more frequency as the season progresses.
Rodney Wallace (7.0 rating) - Wallace put in a full 90 minutes of yeoman’s work on Saturday, and his value to the club becomes more and more paramount with each passing week. Wallace feels like the missing link we didn’t even know we were missing, if that makes any sense to you. With McNamara and Harrison, you wouldn’t have thought we had a winger deficiency. But now that you see Wallace on the pitch, and the raw physical athleticism he brings to the flanks - along with the high energy pressure and defensive work from the attacking third - and it just kind of clicks that “yeah we needed someone like this on the club”. Wallace didn’t record a goal or assist in this one, but effort level made things easier for all the players around him, once again. He’s quickly become a fan favorite an indispensable player in the Starting XI. Spot on rating for me.
David Villa (6.9 rating) - Disclaimer on this rating: WhoScored.com only credits Villa with one assist on the day, that being his backheel to Harrison. However, MLS has credited him with 2 assists in this game, giving him the hockey assist on his back heel to Matarrita which he crossed into McNamara’s path for the winning goal. Villa has struggled to score goals in the early going this season, so far only being able to tally the brace in the team’s drubbing of D.C. United. But what we have seen more of this season is Villa’s willingness to be a playmaker for his teammates. He simply dazzled in a different way for the Boys in Blue on Saturday, and his creativity proved pivotal in both goals that were scored. Villa is already up to 3 assists on the season, after having recorded just 4 assists all of last season. Villa was masterful with his passing and I would’ve given him a higher rating for this match.
Jack Harrison (7.8 rating) - After some tough misses, and some chances he probably should’ve put away, Harrison finally got his first goal of the season, and it had dare I say a dash of ruthlessness to it. Outside of the goal itself, Harrison once again did well to create chances for himself and others, and really opened up the field with his play on the right flank. Just like Wallace on the left, Harrison has done nothing short of solidify his hold on his spot in the Starting XI in the early part of this season. WhoScored.com rated Harrison the man of the match, which is fair given his overall performance. But I think we all know who the man of the match really is...
Tommy McNamara (7.0 rating) - The first sub off the bench for NYCFC, McNamara came on for Pirlo in the 62nd minute. And from that point on, the tide turned back in NYCFC’s favor, culminating in the game winning goal, scored by none other than Tommy Mac himself. Once again, McNamara showed off his ability to move into space and dangerous attacking position simply by utilizing his tactical awareness. Once Mata put the low cross in his path, he knew he just needed to gently guide the ball into the net, as Bingham had no chance to recover. The results are the team went up 2-1 and took away 3 vital points at home. McNamara has been nothing short of professional having to fall back into a reserve role after being a regular fixture in the Starting XI all of last season. He’s done well in his new role as Super Sub/ Vice Captain and it will sure lead to even more playing time in the near future. Could he earn some starts over Andrea Pirlo moving forward? That remains to be seen.
Frederic Brillant (6.1 rating) & Khiry Shelton (6.2 rating) - Brillant and Shelton came on in the 84th and 89th minutes respectively, and at that point it was just to bring in fresh legs and solidify the defense. With so little time on the pitch, there isn’t much to say other than they did their job as neither committed any late minute gaffes to cause the team the victory. I thought this could be a big season for Shelton, but so far it seems like he’s fallen behind several other players on what’s become clear is the most talented team New York City FC has put together in its brief history.
Summary: Although it was frustrating to see the team concede such a sloppy goal in the early going - perhaps evoking feelings from last season when Josh Saunders was in goal - it was good to see the club’s resiliency and willingness to fight back and not just tie the game, but push for the 3 points as well. This is nothing short of what we should expect from a Patrick Vieira team at this point, and while there were many questions last season about his approach, this season has brought much of it into clearer focus. Not only that, but NYCFC has only allowed 3 goals in 4 matches so far this season - a vast improvement over last season where they allowed 3 goals in their very first game against the Chicago Fire. Things are definitely looking up for the club on both sides of the ball and this season has got to have fans excited for a potential playoff run.
Next up: NYCFC travel down to RFK Stadium for an early rematch against D.C. Unite, who will surely be looking for revenge after the 4-0 domination they experience a few weeks ago. The game will be this Saturday at 4pm, on Univision and Facebook Live.