Nobody was complaining about New York City FC’s 5-0 win over FC Cincinnati last week. But nobody really took notice either. It’s not a reach to predict NYCFC — a team that has had little roster turnover in three years — will manhandle a club like Cincinnati that has been bottom dwellers since entering the league.
Against the Philadelphia Union, however, a true test was ahead. The Union have been one of MLS’s better sides over the past few seasons and are expected to have another quality year in 2021 after winning a Supporters Shield in 2020. For City, the question was could they match Philly’s intensity and pull out an upset while being overwhelming underdogs.
The answer: yes. NYCFC not only pulled out a tidy 2-0 victory over Philadelphia, but they did so in convincing fashion. At halftime, City enjoyed a 70-30 spilt in possession and a 1-0 advantage while being up a man after a Union red card in the 16th minute. Jesus Medina was responsible for the first goal, whilst Taty Castellanos buried the dagger in the second half after capitalizing on a defensive howler.
A thorough victory indeed. But despite the fact that NYCFC overcame Philly on the road, there are still some doubters out there who are undermining this achievement. Some are blaming the red card Philadelphia sustained early on, while others point to match congestion due to the CONCACAF Champions League for Philadelphia’s underwhelming performance.
To that, I say: BOO HOO!
Let’s address the red card first.
An essential part in executing an effective game plan is being disciplined when things aren’t going your way. Flying off the handle is a surefire way to handicap your team. And in the 16th minute, Union midfielder José Martinez did just that.
After getting tangled up with NYCFC’s notorious agitator Taty Castellanos, Martinez fired two hammer fists at the Argentinian, one of which caught him square in the temple. Referee Ismail Elfaith initially punished Martinez with a yellow for the scuffle. But upon consulting with the VAR, Elfaith rescinded the caution and sent Martinez off.
This is not a trivial red card where technicalities such as DOGSO or a second caution are the deciding factors. Martinez flat out assaulted Castellanos. At this point in the game, NYCFC were already up a goal and were dominating the run of play. And in the heat of the moment, Martinez couldn’t keep his cool.
This is poor play, plain and simple. It was a self-inflicted wound and Philly paid the price. And the result should not be tainted or undermined because of this. A team’s win shouldn’t be scoffed at because the opposition shot themselves in the foot. Good teams — or good plans — don’t involve shooting yourself in the foot. Duh!
And lastly, match congestion. I’m sorry, but Philadelphia had known their schedule for a while and had ample time to prepare for a quick turnover period. Many great clubs around the world deal with match congestion and are still able to pick up results because of good planning and tactical minute allocation. Hell, the New York Red Bulls have played their youth players in the past while competing in CCL and it’s worked well. The Union didn’t have a backup plan for tired legs. And it cost them.
As a lifelong sports fan, I hear it all the time.
“If our team didn’t miss that field goal...”
“If we didn’t commit that obvious holding penalty while in our own red zone...”
“If Giancarlo Stanton was a better hitter with runners in scoring position...”
It’s all excuses. And it’s all equal nonsense. Good teams don’t make excuses for shortcomings. And honest fans don’t cover for them either.
No matter how you slice it, NYCFC didn’t walk out victors because of an imposed handicap. They won because, on that particular night, they were the better team. End of story. See you next weekend.