There’s no shame in playing out a boring win.
Last June, New York City FC beat DC United thanks to an injury-time solo run by Thiago that had the young Brazilian carrying the ball the length of the field then cutting through the defense and beating goalkeeper Bill Hamid. It was an operatic win sealed with one of the greatest goals in NYCFCF history—and it was completely unnecessary. NYCFC were on the front foot for most of that game and should have gone ahead earlier, and then protected that lead. Instead, the match was decided by Thiago’s last-minute heroics.
Last night, when New York City were back at Audi Field in Washington DC, they went ahead early, then protected that lead. There was little drama. Instead, New York City were playing like the champions they are, controlling the game and doing what was necessary to beat a tough if inconsistent opponent on the road.
It was another professional win for NYCFC, who are now undefeated in their last six league games. New York City have put up stunning performances in that stretch, with numbers to match: Five wins and one draw, 18 goals scored and four goals allowed, five clean sheets. New York City haven’t allowed a shot on goal since May 1.
This run of form that Liverpool or Manchester City would envy dates to April 17 — three days after NYCFC were knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s probably just a coincidence.
NYCFC: 12 shots, 6 on goal, 55.7% possession, 457 passes, 79.2% pass accuracy
DC United: 8 shots, 0 on goal, 44.3% possession, 356 passes, 73.6% pass accuracy
The defense is gelling
It might seem foolish to still question a defense that has shut out the opposition five times in six games, but the team has looked wobbly against a few weaker opponents who are not exactly known for scoring goals. But a question is exactly that: It’s an inquisition that asks what went well, and what needs to improve.
The good news is that many things went well. Alexander Callens and Thiago Martins are starting to create the chemistry that they will need when facing stronger teams, and when Maxime Chanot came on in the 56th minute for Thiago to bolster the backline you were given a peek into a future where manager Ronny Delia could change games by making tactical substitutions instead off exchanging like-for-like players.
Nevertheless, the defense needs improving. The best defender on the field was the woodwork that kept out two goals, and Callens and Martins still get caught out of position. To their credit, they did enough to disorient DC’s potent strike team of Taxi Fountas and Ole Kamara, but they need to continue to improve before facing teams with stronger attacks such as New England Revolution and New Jersey Red Bulls.
NYCFC’s best defense is their offense
About Deila subbing on Chanot: It was the right move, and we applaud making the change early, but the shift made it clear that NYCFC aren’t yet a team that can comfortably bunker down and shut out the opposition. DC controlled possession for the final 15 minutes of regulation time, and threatened to snatch back at least one goal—it was their strongest run of the game.
g+ GameFlow: MLS Regular Season @dcunited v @NYCFC on May 18, 2022. #LetsFly #VamosUnited #NYCFC #VamosNYC #DCUvNYC pic.twitter.com/mJ3eDfNeUo— GameFlow (@GameFlowxPG) May 19, 2022
That’s because NYCFC’s best defense is their offense, and the relentless, hard-running, hyper-aggressive attackers who pin back the opposition and don’t allow them the time or space to regain their composure. The runs that Castellanos, Keaton Parks, Santi Rodríguez, Talles Magno, and Thiago make do as much to protect the box as any clearances by Callens, Thiago Martins, and Alfredo Morales.
Taty gonna Taty
Let’s lift a glass this evening to Castellanos, who not only scored a lovely Panenka from the spot in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, but who earned a yellow card in the 64th minute and will have to sit out the game against Chicago Fire this coming Sunday. (OK, maybe there was a little drama last night.) The player who not only won the Golden Boot in 2021, but who also lead the league in fouls committed, continues to be true to his nature.
Firstly, we’re going to miss him on Sunday: New York City’s attack didn’t do much of anything when the team was without him against Sporting Kansas City two weeks ago and were held scoreless.
Secondly, we’re going to miss him when he leaves: A new report claims that West Ham United are going to try to sign the striker in the summer transfer window. It’s not the first time Castellanos has been linked with the Hammers, but summer transfers are always more likely to play out than the desperate rumors floated in January.
Let’s enjoy the time we still have together.
NYCFC, Alexander Callens 6’
NYCFC, Taty Castellanos 45 + 4’ (P)
Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referee: CJ Morgante, Gianni Facchini
Fourth Official: Silviu Petrescu
VAR Referees: Victor Rivas
Assistant VAR Referee: Fabio Tovar