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Instant Reaction: Give credit to the defense

Goals from Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno won the game, but the solidity of the backline was just as key.

NYCFC defender Birk Risa is adjusting nicely to MLS |

Games are won by scoring goals, but they’re lost by giving them up. Too often this season, this New York City FC buckled under pressure and let a win become a draw, or a draw become a loss. Not tonight. The defense held fast, and because Matt FreeseBirk Risa, and Thiago Martins did their jobs, Mounsef Bakrar, Andres Jasson, Santiago Rodríguez, and Talles Magno, could leave the field as heroes. 

To be clear, the defense is still a work in progress. This was just the sixth game Risa and Thiago Martins started together, and they’re still developing the chemistry that any center-back pairing needs. But the early results are promising. After a rocky start in which NYCFC gave up five goals in two games against Minnesota United and FC Cincinnati, the team have now just allowed one goal in four matches. 

The goalkeeper for those four matches was Freese, who surely established himself as the team’s starter after posting his third clean sheet in four games. Freese is still green – his decision to collect a high ball at chest height deep in the second half when surrounded by Orlando attackers was suspect, and his passing (58%) and accurate long balls (24%) in this game won’t get him carved into the side of the goalkeeping Mount Crushmore. 

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