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Hot Goal Summer

New York City FC have just 7 goals as the away team this year — and are about to head out on an extended road trip for the 6th time in club history.

Gimme some of that | Courtesy

July was never going to be easy for New York City FC.

When Major League Soccer announced the schedule at the start of the 2024 season, it was clear that this would be the most difficult run of fixtures for the club: Four away matches in a row, three on short rest. It isn't make-or-break – the team's ten wins in their last 15 played put them on solid footing in the Eastern Conference – but this road trip will go a long way to determine if this edition of New York City merely represent a step forward after last year's poor season, or if they belong among the elite teams of MLS.

That comes down to goals. At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to score in order to win. And New York City in 2024 aren't that good at scoring as the away side: Just six of the team's 32 goals came on the road — that works out to just 19% of the team's total.

Even more concerning, New York City were held scoreless in all five of their away losses, including shutouts last month against LA Galaxy and Nashville SC. The last time NYCFC scored an away goal? That was on May 25, against New England Revolution.

New York City FC 2024 Season Through MD 21

Home 12 8 1 3 25 13 12
Away 9 3 1 5 7 11 -4

Still, the club have a decent away record, with three wins and one draw out of nine played — that's good enough for ten points out of a possible 27. But if New York City are to announce themselves as a contender in 2024, they need a Hot Goal Summer.

Could it be as simple as the evolution of Alonso Martínez from third-choice striker into El Clínico? The 25-year-old might lead the league with 1.11 goals per 90 minutes, but just two of his six goals were scored on the road: He can do it in the Five Boroughs, but it remains to be seen if he can do it in Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, and Orlando.

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A winnable run of games

The fact is, this is a winnable run of games: Austin FC tomorrow, Chicago Fire the following Saturday, then Atlanta United and Orlando City.

To go by the table, New York City are in a good spot. They're the #4 team in the Eastern Conference, and they will first play the #10 team in the Western Conference, then the #13, #9, and #10 teams in the East.

And the travel schedule isn't horrible. The trip to Austin is the longest and will demand the most adjustment, especially after New York City's Wednesday night win over CF Montréal. Austin was quiet this week: Not only are they playing at home, they will have a full week's rest between games. But Austin are struggling offensively, and their fortunes are tied to the performances of 32-year-old striker Gyasi Zardes.

If New York City quiet Zardes, then they can worry about things like finding a way to score on the road.

After Austin, New York City have a week back home before flying to Chicago and facing a Fire that lost five of the 11 games they played at home.

The games against Atlanta and Orlando will happen in short succession, but both flights are short. Atlanta will likely be without Thiago Almada, who is set to break the MLS transfer record when he joins Brazil's Botafogo for a reported $30 million. Even with Almada, Atlanta's home record is 4W-2D-5L (which is the same as Chicago's). This year, United are beatable at the Benz.

Then New York City will play Orlando in the tropical heat of central Florida. And the setting doesn't seem to agree with Orlando: The club have won at home just twice this season, the second-fewest of any team in MLS.

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Short Rest = No Bueno

This is very different from the two road games NYCFC had last month, when they played LA Galaxy in a Wednesday night game on June 19, and then played Nashville SC four days later. New York City played both games on short rest while living out of suitcases for a solid six days, and it showed.

Coaches and players will tell you that away games might always be tough, but they feel fully fit and prepared when they travel. They have their charter flights and sleep regimens, and the recovery plans assembled by their trainers and nutritionists will get everybody match-fit on time.

It's hard to square that with how flat New York City looked when facing a Galaxy missing Riqui Puig. LA's first goal came after an uncharacteristically sloppy giveaway by James Sands at the top of the box that allowed the Galax's Gabriel Pec to make an unchallenged run on the goal before laying it off to Dejan Joveljić.

While that lack of sharpness could be chalked up to any of a number of factors, the strain of traveling across the country and sleeping in hotels all week – to say nothing of playing at 10:30 pm ET – surely are among them. It would get worse a few days later, when New York City didn't manage a single shot against a Nashville that lost at home to lowly New England Revolution earlier that month.

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Record-breaking road trip?

This is only the sixth time in club history that New York City play four away games or more in a row, and the second time under Head Coach Nick Cushing. Historically, the team stumble on extended road trips.

Last year, NYCFC managed just one draw during their four-game road trip, taking one point out of a possible 12. The team fared slightly better in 2021, winning one and drawing two in five games, taking 5 points out of a possible 15. But it still frustrated fans who were deep into a #RonnyOut campaign that would carry through until the team's 1-1 draw with Atlanta in late October.

New York City FC Extended Road Trips

• 2023: 4 games in April and May (3 on short rest); 0W-1D-3L, 1 pt; 3GF, 6GA

• 2021: 5 games in September (3 on short rest); 1W-2D-2L, 5 pts; 9GF, 10 GA

• 2019: 4 games in May and June (0 on short rest); 2W-2D-0L; 8 pts, 7GF, 3GA

• 2016: 4 games in July (2 on short rest); 2W-0D- 2L; 6 pts; 6GF, 8GA

• 2015: 4 games in September and October (0 on short rest); 1W-0D-3L; 3 pts; 5GF, 8GA

The club's best extended road trip was under Domé Torrent in 2019, when a white-hot New York City went undefeated in four games, logging shutout wins over LA Galaxy and Montréal and drawing Chicago and Colorado. They took eight out of a possible 12 points, for an impressive 2.0 PPG. Notably, none of those games were on short rest.

That might be a lot to ask of this team. But it's not out of the question — they just need to start scoring on the road.

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