Many of the names and faces have changed this summer, but two season-long problems have remained the same for New York City FC: Finishing chances in front of goal and protecting leads have both been recurring issues, and they again cost NYCFC a chance to claim three valuable points against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The 1-1 draw at Yankee Stadium was a familiar performance from the hosts, not just because it was a club-record-setting 12th tie of the season.
NYCFC again created golden scoring opportunities they failed to capitalize on, misses that ultimately made it impossible to earn a second straight win for the first time since late April.
One miss in the first half, when Andres Jasson overhit a volley after Maxi Moralez found him unmarked at the back post, was particularly glaring. Jasson was alone and had lots of open goal in front of him, yet made a mess of the opportunity.
That came not long after Mounsef Bakrar, the team’s promising new No 9, also failed to put an effective first-time shot on frame when picked out in a pocket of space inside the Vancouver 18-yard box by Santiago Rodríguez. It wasn’t as clear and easy of a look as Jasson’s, but it was still a chance gone begging.
Those were the two clearest-cut looks in front of goal in a foul-heavy, stop-and-start, ugly-to-watch first 45 minutes at Yankee Soccer Stadium, and New York City’s failure to capitalize let the Whitecaps hang around and remain confident they’d be able to earn a third straight positive road result.
NYCFC looked more lively early in the second half, and Bakrar did break the deadlock in the 55th minute after a nice move in transition, powering a shot through the legs of Whitecaps goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka. Were the good vibes of the midweek win set to roll on with a second victory over a visiting Canadian side?
The answer turned out to be a resounding “no,” because NYCFC conceded almost immediately after scoring their goal, on a penalty awarded to the Whitecaps due to James Sands wrapping his arm around Ryan Gauld. Gauld converted the spot kick, and that ended the afternoon’s scoring, leaving NYCFC to rue opportunities lost in another draw that felt like a loss.
The meeting with the Whitecaps was a chance for NYCFC to build momentum heading into a two-week break between matches. Instead, the conversation is much the same as it was following disappointing draws like the ones away to Chicago Fire, Atlanta United, and Columbus Crew SC, or after the 1-3 home loss to Philadelphia Union.
Those games, like this latest draw with Vancouver, were all ones in which NYCFC led and looked capable of claiming the full points. The team’s consistent inability to get that vital, killer goal, and its recurring failure to protect precious leads in the rare instances they’ve had them, feel like two major reasons why NYCFC are staring down the barrel of a first season missing the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2015.
Bringing in six new faces in the summer transfer window hasn’t solved those season-long problems. Against the Whitecaps, Nick Cushing tried to ride the proverbial “hot hand” to a first NYCFC winning streak since April by trotting out a Starting XI that was nearly identical to the one that beat Montréal.
Instead, Cushing’s new-look squad put together a disappointingly familiar performance, and it now has to deal with what looks like something of an injury crisis.
Playoff qualification was a longshot coming out of Leagues Cup, but all the new talent NYCFC imported offered a glimmer of hope that the stars might align and another late-year playoff run might materialize. The ugly loss last Saturday in Cincinnati may have been the (un)official death knell for this year’s team, but this draw at home against Vancouver felt like it encapsulated two big issues that have held back NYCFC all season long.