Since NYCFC first began playing at Yankee Stadium in their inaugural season, fans have grown accustomed to some of the quirks of calling a baseball stadium home. However, the 3-hour rain delay may be one of the few baseball-like experiences that could still have thrown us for a loop.
Regardless, if you want to play for the City that Never Sleeps, you have to be able to show up at all hours of the night, and a kickoff after 11PM will certainly put that to the test. To those that remained at the stadium, your patience was rewarded by, well… actually getting to watch the match.
Admittedly, this reaction does not have all of the facts as ESPN+ struggles with the feed to show us the game. From what I saw, NYCFC looked terrific. The passing was crisp, movement was good, and chances were there for the taking. Given the long weather delay, the field was playing much better than I initially feared. PUMAS may not be at it’s best and has had recent struggles, but there is not much to pick apart against that kind of performance against Liga MX opposition. Still, we go into the half with a scoreless draw.
It was not the best start for Taty Castellanos. He gave the ball away cheaply a couple of times and made a mess out of a great chance. He benefits the team in so many ways, but you have to think with Heber in the squad City takes an early lead. However, his ability to run in behind and create chances proved exactly why he will be difficult to displace. The set up for Parks’ almost goal had a lot to do with Taty. While I understand that VAR disallowed that goal for offsides, ESPN’s feed did not allow me to see it so in my personal record book, goal stands!
Let’s talk about Keaton Parks, who continues to look really strong in the midfield. He is playing like a man who took his omission from the USA Gold Cup squad personally. His passing has been terrific as of late, and good things happen when he finds Moralez and company further up the field with early, progressive balls. The late runs he has been making into the box, coinciding with improved finishing, have taken his game to the next level. While I think he should have been in the Gold Cup squad, NYCFC is lucky to have had him during this run of form instead. A quick shoutout to Cacha Acevedo as well, who has done the dirty work to let the rest of the attack do it’s thing.
Tayvon Gray looks like he belongs. While I would love to see him get minutes at Center Back with the departure of Sebastien Ibeagha, he has shown admirably at right back. Replacing Anton Tinnerholm is a tall task, but having Gray as cover is exciting for the future of the club. In ways, he reminds me of James Sands when he first came through. There was never a moment in which he looked out of place, and Gray seems to have the same calm demeanor.
Despite there being many positives to take away, this is a 0-0 game. For all of the possession and good opportunities, NYCFC still needs to find a breakthrough. I would expect that Ronny Deila will start the second half with the same players, but I would not be surprised to see any of Thiago, Talles Magno, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi before too long. Any of those players can create a spark with their pace, finishing, and skill, which just may be the thing that is needed to unlock the PUMAS defense.