It has now been 5 road matches since NYCFC has been able to grab all 3 points, after a disappointing loss in Philadelphia last night.
It’s a trend that is growing problematic for the Boys in Blue as we move later into the season and closer to playoff matches that will need to be won on the road should the club win it’s first title.
There have been several matches in which the result felt harsh against NYCFC this season, but this wasn’t one of them. While they did have the majority of the possession, clear cut chances are difficult to recall. Malte Amundsen completely fell asleep at the back post on Alejandro Bedoya’s goal, the match winner for the Philadelphia Union. The Dane was expected to win the starting job this season at left back, but was poor tonight and has opened the door for Gudmundur Thorarinsson to make the left back position his own.
From the start, the tactics seemed odd. To be fair, NYCFC played their 6th match in 19 days, which will lead to inevitable squad rotation and tired legs. James Sands and Cacha Acevedo both had good games, with Sands returning to the midfield after primarily playing along the back line in recent matches. However, the team missed Keaton Parks occupying one of those roles, as Sands and Acevedo both similarly prefer to drop deeper to distribute rather than make the forward runs that Parks has thrived with this season. This lack of a run from deep showed, as the team struggled to create chances.
The most glaring issue was Jesus Medina starting as a No. 10. Medina has probably had his best season for the club this year, and has largely been a bright spot more often than not. However, he looked lost playing centrally and lost possession frequently. His best moment came in the second half, when he drifted to his more familiar right wing and set up Taty Castellanos for a chance. The experiment with him playing centrally has failed in past seasons, and I would expect that we will see him back on the right side in the next match after a disappointing match tonight.
This made it even more surprising when it was Santi Rodriguez who was subbed off, rather than Medina after City went behind. Santi had a decent game on the left, but appears to be more impactful playing directly behind Taty. When Maxi Moralez is out, as he was tonight, there should be no doubt that Santi fills in at the 10 moving forward. Thiago may not have been fit to play the full 90 tonight after a long run of matches, and with Talles Magno working his way back to full fitness, that likely explains this choice in a starting lineup. But if Maxi does not play again in Saturday’s derby, I fully expect one of the two Brazilians to return to the left wing to allow Santi back into the middle.
Beyond the struggles of Amundsen, the rest of the back line played well. There were not many chances for the Union, but they took their biggest one well. This has been an issue for NYCFC this season, as in games where they may not be at their best, they have not been able to clinically finish that one chance that comes their way. Title-winning teams find a way to win on an off night, and for all of the great soccer that they have played this season, taking advantage of big moments has not been a strong suit. This is key to getting points on the road.
Playing in Philadelphia midweek, against a strong Union team, was always going to be difficult. Credit Union midfielder Jose Andres Martinez, who seemed to be everywhere when NYCFC tried to start an attack. However, the lack of points on the road for City is becoming more and more of a concerning trend. Last night’s match was underwhelming, but will be quickly forgotten should the team deliver a win Saturday night in the Hudson River Derby.