In what was predicted to be a match that would test — if not foil — a yet proven New York City FC side, the Blues’ match with Supporter Shield contenders Los Angeles FC on Sunday ended in a 2-2 draw. Both squads share a lot of talent which had me looking forward to an exciting and skillful match up. There were plenty of goals and scoring opportunities to be had, both teams vying to prove their superiority in what ended in a deadlock. Taking one point from a possible three at home is never an easy thing to deal with. But at the beginning stages of the season, it hurts less. Let’s look at some positives to take away from match #3 in the 2019 MLS campaign.
New York City’s new Designated Player looked primed to score the last couple weeks, making this Sunday’s goal a seeming inevitability. In a really sequence of events that went up and through the entire left flank — from Tinnerholm to Ofori to Maxi and finally to Mitriță — the Romanian finished the run using his breakaway speed and an incredibly precise cutback to bag his first goal in MLS. The play really showed off Mitri’s skill and just how lethal he can be in attacking a defense. I believe that he will only continue to grow into an assertive player; so much that teams will have to decide whether it’s more prudent to take away him or Maxi.
In his new, more forward midfield position, new captain Alex Ring scored his second on the 2019 campaign. Substitute Ben Sweat did the hard work to get around LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman on the touchline and smartly found Ring just outside the 6-yard box. From there, Ring buried the chance. It was really a goal made from nothing. Precise execution and Sweat’s effort gave the Pigeons a brief 2-1 lead. Always play to the whistle, kids!
Emergence of the Sands-man
James Sands has been making Dome Torrent’s decision to give him first-team minutes look brilliant. He got stuck in often and was always more likely to win the challenge than not on Sunday. It’s his confident and commanding play which has allowed for Ring to move further up the pitch and flaunt his skillset. Sands has shown he can handle the pressure and that he’s more than up to the challenge of MLS play. His progression this season will be increasingly exciting to observe.
Maxi Creating from the False 9
Since the Boys in Blue remain absent of a true striker/scorer, Dome has employed Maxi Moralez in a “False 9” position which means that he is, at least for now, the target striker. He is the player who will need service in order to move the attack forward. On Sunday, Maxi was finally able to succeed in being an active part of the attack (more so than previously), using service to set up on-running teammates and put them into dangerous positions. Although it’s not ideal for the team, Maxi showed that he can fulfill that purpose while the FO works on acquiring a legit No. 9 (more on that in the near-future).
Mata’s First Start
Ronald Matarrita’s first start in 2019 showed that he is still the wing-back who got the league talking in 2017. With his pace and flair, Mata consistently won his challenges and was instrumental in moving the attack forward on Sunday. He made rampaging runs through the LA defense and looked more himself than I can recall in some time. An improving wing-back pair of Tinnerholm and Matarrita will bear great things for both observers and the league at large.
Speaking of... Anton Tinnerholm continues to show that he is one of the premier wing-backs in the league. Always smart on the ball and ruthless moving forward, he adds an element to forward moves that often catches defenses off guard and this game was a great example of that. Although it won’t show up on the highlights, Tinnerholm commanded his area of the outfield for the entirety of the match.
The team still remains well within striking distance of the top clubs D.C. United and the Columbus Crew, with a lot of soccer remaining — 31 games, in fact. I will admit it’s hard for me to put too much stock into early points as the season is quite long and almost every year a team makes a run in the summer where they are incredibly hot for precisely how long they need to be in order to make the playoffs. What I’ve taken away thus far is that Dome’s message has resonated with the players and the results show in highly-contested matches. Many are calling the Wayne Rooney-led DCU the top team in the league this year and they just drew at Yankee Stadium to this very team. Admittedly, you cannot draw your way into a playoff spot, so the team will need to find that killer instinct and fortitude to see out their leads. However, I’m not doubtful that this team as currently coached and rostered will make the playoffs.
What do you think? Is the positivity dripping with Etihad “City Blue” Kool-Aid? Are you positive that this team is disappointing you? Tell us in the comments!