Skip to content

Instant Reaction: NYCFC's season ended tonight

NYCFC lost 3-0 to FC Cincinnati
Courtesy NYCFC.com

This was never going to be an easy game. New York City FC have one of the worst records in MLS, and league-leading FC Cincinnati have the best. So what if NYCFC last played six days ago, and Cincinnati slogged through 120 minutes of soccer on a steamy Wednesday night in a loss to Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami? The advantage was always going to belong to Cincinnati, a team that went from punching bag to glamour club in a little less than two years.

But NYCFC were supposed to put up a fight, maybe even threaten to beat the odds and steal a win. That fantasy was shattered just six minutes into the game, when Cincinnati forward Aaron Boupendza scored after a sloppy giveaway by NYCFC talisman Maxi Moralez.

Boupendeza joined Cincinnati in the summer transfer window, and now has two goals in three MLS games. He was brought in to replace Brenner, a prolific if unhappy goal-scorer who now plays for Udinese in Serie A — it looks like Cincinnati found their man. On the other side of the field, NYCFC striker Mounsef Bakrar looked disconnected from the rest of the attack. He managed to take one shot in his 57 minutes on the field, and has yet to score a goal – or really make much of an impact – in his two MLS games. He was brought in to replace Taty Castellanos, a prolific and hard-working goal-scorer who now plays for Lazio — it could be that NYCFC found their man in the long term, but we won’t know until next year.

That’s because NYCFC’s 2023 season ended tonight.

NYCFC Results by Season

Year

GP

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

PTS

Place

2023

26

5

11

10

25

35

-10

26

#13

2022

34

16

7

11

57

41

+16

55

#3

2021

34

14

9

11

56

36

+20

51

#4

2020

23

12

3

8

37

25

+12

39

#5

2019

34

18

10

6

63

42

+21

64

#1

2018

34

16

8

10

59

45

+14

56

#3

2017

34

16

9

9

56

43

+13

57

#2

2016

34

15

9

10

57

57

+5

54

#2

2015

34

10

7

17

58

58

-9

37

#8

FC Cincinnati 3 – 0 NYCFC: Rate the Players

A tale of two New York Cities

This NYCFC team takes two forms. One is a technical, skilled side that creates chances but can’t finish them: That’s the NYCFC we saw lose to Minnesota United on Sunday. That NYCFC is often the better team on the field but they can’t handle the physicality of the opposition, or they’re undone by officiating, or they’re unlucky in front of goal. It’s heartbreaking to watch that NYCFC lose games they deserve to win.

The other NYCFC is insipid and disconnected, a team that’s well-drilled enough to keep possession but that looks to be utterly without ideas. That NYCFC barely bothers to attack, either sending one forward up at a time on a suicide mission, or bringing up all the midfielders and forwards in an even line at the top of the box — there’s no movement, no depth, no late runner, no creativity.

That’s the NYCFC we saw tonight.

The first NYCFC is agonizing to watch when things don’t go their way, but you want them to break the spell — either through a moment of individual brilliance, or by a collective performance that reminds both the players and the fans what this team are capable of doing. It’s

The second NYCFC is harder to support. You still want the players to snap out of it, but you can tell from what you see on the Apple TV – from the body language, the slow passes, the runs that stop short – that it isn’t going to happen. If there’s no belief on the field, there’s no way to overcome a team like Cincinnati.

Most valuable players in MLS: Talles Magno is #5

Consistently poor performances

It’s time to face the facts, and accept that this NYCFC team are consistently poor. The reasons behind those performances are complicated: Head coach Nick Cushing lost the team’s leading goal scorer midway through last year, then opened this season with a laughably incomplete squad. Sporting director David Lee added six players in the summer transfer window, but only after sending away the team’s leading goal scorer for the second year in a row. This team simply haven’t had the personnel to compete in MLS.

NYCFC fans might not like to hear it, but this is a budget-minded club. As we explained in these pages earlier this year, New York City’s then-payroll of about $12.5 million put it in the lower half of the league. This is an organization that asks its coaching staff to do more with less.

It doesn’t help that two of the team’s best-paid players are now benchwarmers. Talles Magno might be the fifth-most-valuable player in MLS according to Transfermarkt, but he has yet to make an impact on the team despite his $1.2 million salary. Matías Pellegrini makes $1.1 million and has just one goal and one assist in 20 games.

NYCFC’s highest-paid player is the center-back Thiago Martins. He’s a regular starter, and a solid defender. But he can’t grab hold of a game like Luciano Acosta, Cincinnati’s highest-paid player. You can watch both of them in action here:

That’s Acosta who carries the ball into the box and takes a tumble while laying off a perfect assist to Júnior Moreno; that’s Thiago Martins who doesn’t break up the play, doesn’t hold his position in the box, and takes a tumble while trying to stop a ball that looked destined to hit the back of the net the moment it left Acosta’s foot.

This isn’t to put the blame on Thiago Martins, or Talles Magno, or Pellegrini, or Cushing, or Lee. But it is to say that this is a team that spent the first 26 games of this season short of key players, that has a relatively small payroll, and that isn’t getting enough out of its best-paid players.

This is a team that can’t compete.

2023 NYCFC player salaries: 7 takeaways

The fifth stage of grief

That leaves the question: What now?

There are eight games left in NYCFC’s season, and while the team could theoretically make playoffs, that would mean winning games — something this team haven’t done in MLS play since July 1.

Does Cushing turn the rest of the season into a nine-week soccer clinic, a preseason before the 2024 preseason? Young players such as Mitja Ilenič and Julián Fernández are in it for the long haul, and could gain valuable experience this year.

Where does that leave the team’s fans? Who are also our readers — are you content to treat the rest of the season like a series of friendlies? Never mind that the results count and will be added to the team’s permanent record.

There’s a lot to be said for rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic slips into the sea. There is champagne to be uncorked, and Chicken Bucket chants to be shouted. We already experienced the joy of watching Justin Haak and Andres Jasson score their first goals in MLS — we could pull for Kevin O’Toole to join them, and celebrate if Ilenič and Fernández also find the back of the next. When we watch games it’s to catch glimpses of this club’s future, not to follow that night’s result.

Acceptance is the fifth and final stage of grief – first there is denial, anger, bargaining, and depression – and maybe it’s too much to ask that we move ahead so quickly. Every stage deserves its moment.

Unless, of course, you already experienced denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. If that’s the case, you’re ready to accept that NYCFC’s season ended tonight.

Is this the best NYCFC apparel collaboration yet?

Comments

Latest