The more I study that 2-2 draw between New York City FC and Orlando City this past weekend, the more infuriated I become. And it’s not just because of the Blues blowing a two-goal lead in the second half. Yes, that’s a huge part of it, but certainly not my only issue with it.
My biggest issue with that match was City’s complete inability to control the game. From the opening whistle to full time, NYCFC was on the back foot. The stereotypical style of controlling possession and building play from the back wasn’t just lacking, it was nonexistent. Had it not been for some individual brilliance from Ebenezer Ofori and an inch-perfect pass from Alexandru Mitrita to Alex Ring, it’s very possible that New York City would have failed to collect any points in their 2019 season opener.
Elsewhere, D.C. United showed no such issues.
In a tough opening match against the defending MLS Champions Atlanta United, the Black-and-Reds were absolutely dominant. From the onset, they applied extreme pressure on the Five Stripes and were constantly the aggressor in what would ultimately be a decisive 2-0 win.
Oh yeah, and Luciano Acosta is a beast!
LUCHOOOOOO 2-0!#DCU | #DCvATL pic.twitter.com/rQDJM6BO1G— D.C. United (@dcunited) March 4, 2019
Since the arrival of Wayne Rooney last summer, DCU has quietly become on of MLS’s best teams. After starting 2018 off as easily one of the league’s worst teams (largely due to the sheer amount of time spent on the road while awaiting the completion of Audi Field), DC made a huge comeback in the second half of the season winning 13 of their last 20 games (grabbing points in 17 of those last 20) starting with Rooney’s first game on July 14, securing a playoff spot in the process. And though they would eventually lose on penalties to the Columbus Crew in the first round, the seeds for a successful 2019 had been sewn.
By all means, DCU is a team that poises a big threat to NYCFC in the latter’s home opener this Sunday.
One of the most frustrating elements of their first game against Orlando was NYCFC’s inability to stop the counter-attack, giving up a ton of high-percentage chances in the process. Giving players like Rooney and Acosta (or even Paul Arriola for that matter) good looks all game is a surefire way to lose badly in their first game at Yankee Stadium in 2019.
In order for me personally to become comfortable with Domé Torrent managing this club, NYCFC has to find their form and become more tactically sound. This game against DCU should be the litmus test to see if the team is capable of defying the low expectations from onlookers and proving that Pep’s former bestie is the right man for the job moving forward.