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NYCFC lose 2022 season opener to LA Galaxy 1-0

Toothless attack, WrestleMania, late mistakes sink City

MLS: New York City FC at LA Galaxy
We know the feeling.
Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC were defeated in the 2022 season opener to LA Galaxy thanks to a 90th-minute Chicharito strike from inside the penalty box. It was the first NYCFC loss in a competitive match since October 17, 2021, and the first Galaxy win over City since 2015.

It wasn’t a pretty game for NYCFC. Costly mistakes, few chances, bad calls: City spent most of the day chasing the ball, and never fully controlled the run of play. City placed only one shot on target—despite a final scoreline of just 1-0, NYCFC were never really in it.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset

NYCFC were playing on short rest, having defeated Santos de Guápiles 4-0 in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 just last Wednesday. City weren't the only ones who stumbled over the weekend. Not a single MLS team that won in the Champions League managed to win their MLS season openers: Even New England Revolution, which advanced on a forfeit, had sympathy short rest and drew 2-2 against Portland Timbers.

Fair enough. But City are going to play on short rest twice this month under circumstances that are arguably even more taxing: NYCFC will travel to play Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, March 5; host Guatemalan side Comunicaciones FC in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals in East Hartford on Tuesday, March 8; host CF Montréal at Yankee Stadium for the home opener on Saturday, March 12; travel to Guatemala City to play Comunicaciones on Tuesday, March 15; and host Philadelphia Union at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, March 19.

That’s five games at four different stadiums in three countries in fifteen days.

You don’t get a mulligan in soccer. If NYCFC want to perform in MLS and win CONCACAF Champions League silverware, manager Ronny Deila will have to figure out how to rotate the squad and field competitive teams in this busy run of games.

About those calls

Complaining about the calls that a referee did or didn't make won't win games, but it can help you feel better.

In a game replete with poor officiating, one non-call by referee Joe Dickerson deserve special attention: The assault-in-the-alleyway neck grab by Galaxy defender Julián Araujo on Maxime Chanot. It was a brutal strangle-hold takedown from behind, and because it was ruled to have taken place after a different foul had been committed, no action was taken.

Still, a red card can be given for dangerous play, but a VAR check decided that the footage was inconclusive and there was no clear and obvious error. Watch for yourself:

You need to score goals to win

Schedule and officiating aside, this performance highlights serious questions about the coherence of the NYCFC attack. City have arguably the most potent lineup of goal-scorers in MLS: Taty Castellanos, Talles Magno, Héber, and Thiago are a Murderer’s Row of game-winners. All four saw minutes yesterday (Héber was subbed on in stoppage time), and all four combined for one shot on goal.

That single shot on target is the worst showing for NYCFC in more than two years. To find a performance that toothless you have to go all the way back to the 2019 MLS season, when NYCFC made just one shot on goal against Toronto FC on September 11, 2019—and even then City managed to tie the game 1-1.

Why the dismal performance? As discussed in the New York City FC 2022 MLS Season Preview, all of City’s attackers prefer to roam on the left and make runs into the box—it’s getting congested up there. Now that Jesús Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi are gone, there are no players on the right side of the field to stretch the defense and create space, and the NYCFC attack is in danger of becoming predictable and easy to disrupt.

Still, this is just one game. The 2022 MLS Season is a marathon, not a sprint, and Deila has time to address these and other questions.

At least the Bowie Kit looked sharp.