New York City FC’s loss to Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals last night was bad. And when I say “bad”, I’m not strictly talking about performance — though that left something to be desired in and of itself. No, I’m talking about a different kind of “bad”; one that transcends a poor result.
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s OSOC match, NYCFC was very much running on fumes. A plethora of absences due to injury and international callups left City shorthanded during a stretch of 4 games over the course of 12 days. In a game so reliant upon constant motion, a game every three days or so will take a toll on the body. It’s this toll that we saw firsthand over the weekend when NYCFC looked largely lethargic and tired against the Portland Timbers in a game that resulted in a 1-0 loss.
It was noticed by manager Domé Torrent, too. In his post-game presser following the Timbers match, Torrent suggested that the team was tired — mentioning players like Maxi Moralez and Anton Tinnerholm by name — from the constant play and that they would rotate the squad during the midweek cup game.
As we saw last night, that didn’t happen.
Instead of biting the bullet and letting the team’s kids/backups go out there and try to earn a result, Torrent started Héber who was fresh off of a hamstring injury, Maxi who has hardly missed a minute this season, and chose mainstays like Alexander Ring and Ebenezer Ofori to shore up the midfield.
As a matter of fact, the only player of note that was given a rest was Tinnerholm.
On paper, that’s a great squad — far better than anything a team like Orlando should be able to compete with. But, as I’ve already mentioned several times (and further corroborated by the team’s manager), these are all tired or non-match fit players who were running on pure adrenaline throughout.
And not only did City lose this game, but they had to play 120+ minutes. THAT’S TWO HOURS!!! In Florida summer heat, no less. And four days before a derby!
That is a disaster.
Look, I understand one’s desire to achieve everything out there to achieve. After all, we are managed by a Pep Guardiola disciple, and everyone knows about Pep taking all contests seriously. But at the end of the day, the health and conditioning of players should take precedent in a congested schedule where the turnover rates are at break-neck speed. Pro sports are chess, not checkers.
And to be frank, this game was a perfect time to get new signing Gary Mackay-Steven a short shift to get him into the swing of things. This was a perfect chance to give Justin Haak a full 90 to improve the young man’s stock. Or maybe even let Daniel Bedoya get some minutes in. Anything.
Had NYCFC won this game, it might’ve been worth it. But they didn’t. And now, player fitness ahead of a very important league game with serious long-term implications is called into question.
I get a lot of flak for being “negative” from a small minority of our readers. And I’m sure I’ll get heat for this. But what transpired on Wednesday was beyond irresponsible from a long-term perspective.
Now, maybe NYCFC can find a way to recover in time to give the New York Red Bulls a run for their money. And maybe I’m overstating the adverse effect these past two weeks have had on the team.
But if I’m right, it could spell disaster for New York City as they move into the dog days of MLS summers.