Saturday afternoon, Yankee Soccer Stadium played host to a match that was stale, sloppy, and downright aggravating at times, as New York City FC failed to capitalize on countless chances in a 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was a missed opportunity for NYCFC, as the players were riding immense momentum following Wednesday’s win over Montreal, but failing to grab all three points could prove costly as the season ticks closer to its conclusion.
Despite numerous additions during the summer window, NYCFC was hindered by bad habits in both attack and defense, seemingly unable to penetrate Vancouver’s low block. the Boys in Blue left the stadium with little to show for their efforts.
NYCFC: 16 shots, 3 on target, 64% possession, 500 passes, 85% pass accuracy, 14 fouls
Whitecaps: 6 shots, 2 on target, 36% possession, 222 passes, 68% pass accuracy, 16 fouls
Lacking that clinical touch, again
There were ten fouls within the opening 20 minutes of Saturday’s match, as both sides seemed set on clattering each other rather than attacking the goal. In the end, both sides finished the match with over 12 fouls each, as NYCFC picked up 14 vs Vancouver’s 16. The physical nature of the Whitecaps managed to smother NYCFC’s usually fluid attack, as the hosts struggled to formulate attacks for a majority of the first half.
Yet, as the clock ticked on, NYCFC began to move the ball with more impunity and began formulating chances. But, as quickly as the chances were created, they were also extinguished. Whether it was a free over the bar or a driven shot blocked in the box, NYCFC failed to capitalize on a single chance in the first half.
The most glaring of misses was Andres Jasson, the hero of Wednesday’s match, skying a volley over the bar from less than six yards out, despite having an open staring him the in the face. It’s safe to say, fans in the stadium were less than pleased with the performance.
The second half saw a quick change, as James Sands was brought on at halftime in place of Keaton Parks, and made an instant difference upon entering the pitch. His presence in midfield gave NYCFC, for a moment, much more stability.
With this stability came opportunity, an opportunity in the shape of a loose ball picked up by Santi Rodriguez. The Uruguayan was able to pick up the ball in space in the midfield, before flying forward, and ultimately feeding Mounsef Bakrar in behind. The Algerian made no mistake inside the box, firing a shot through the keeper’s legs, giving NYCFC the lead. This was the one and only example of clinical finishing on display Sunday from the Boys in Blue.
NYCFC finished the match with 16 total shots, yet only three were on target. More than 80% of NYCFC’s shots were either blocked or off-target, a truly abysmal stat for a team desperately trying to make the playoffs. Yet, this has been the case all season. NYCFC was unable to be clinical in front of the goal, turning countless winnable games into draws and losses.
The addition of Mounsef Bakrar was thought to be a step away from this bad habit, yet it seems that even Bakrar, as prolific as he was in Croatia, has caught the “can’t finish” bug from his new surroundings.
Defense falters, again
A cheap penalty was the difference between one and three points for NYCFC.
Following the introduction of Sands into the game at halftime, his impact in midfield was felt immediately. His ball progression and overall presence allowed NYCFC to retain the ball better and create more chances. However, he would ultimately play a big role in the squad’s undoing when he was controversially called for a foul in the box.
As Vancouver players swarm the penalty area, Risa is brought down hard but what should have been a foul but the ball remains in play. It ultimately fell to Vancouver’s Ryan Gauld in front of the NYCFC goal, where he was grappled by Sands as they jockeyed for position. Though this sort of contact may not get called very often at midfield, it was called in the penalty area this afternoon. After feeling the contact Gauld went to ground, and was awarded a penalty. After gathering himself off the pitch, Gauld stepped up and slotted home the ball as NYCFC’s Matt Freese dove the other way.
This NYCFC has the habit of orchestrating their own demise. First, the midfield let Vancouver dictate the run of play inside of two minutes of NYCFC scoring, and then the disorganized defense was sloppy inside the box.
It was the first rough performance of his NYCFC career from center-back Birk Risa, who seemed a bit off the pace for most of the match, before being subbed off following the tackle in the buildup to Vancouver’s penalty. Braian Cufré also had a poor match, as he was beaten numerous times on the right wing, as well as being caught out of position following failed NYCFC attacks on multiple occasions.
Injuries paint a bleak picture
Head coach Nick Cushing was forced into a number of peculiar substitutions during Saturday’s match, many of which left fans shaking their heads.
The biggest of which was the decision to take off Mounsef Bakrar, the squad’s only goalscorer on the day, and replace him with Richy Ledezma in the 75th minute. Many in the stadium and online were baffled by the decision, as the match was still tied at 1-1 with 15 minutes left to play plus stoppage time.
Evidently, Cushing was forced into the change due to the Algerian picking up a hamstring injury. Post-game, Cushing said that initial assessments indicated that there was no serious damage, but the striker is scheduled for an official scan on Sunday.
Birk Risa and Thiago Martins sustained injuries of their own as well, as the center-back duo fought an immense physical battle all afternoon. Risa was subbed off in the 70th minute due to ankle pain following the rough challenge early in the second half. Thiago Martins, who had been recovering from a knee surgery done two months ago, seemed to lose mobility towards the end of the match, limping in the NYCFC defensive third during second-half stoppage time. Cushing stated that both players were okay and would be fine after a brief recovery.
But the biggest injury concern for NYCFC comes in the form of Maxi Moralez. The Argentine was brought down during second-half stoppage time, and was unable to walk off the field under his own power. Once off the field, NYCFC played the final minutes of stoppage time with ten men, as the 36-year-old received treatment on the sidelines.
Moralez had to be carted off the field and into the locker room, expressing immense emotion at what appeared to be a right leg injury. When asked about the status of NYCFC’s No 10, all Cushing knew was that Moralez was undergoing scans. It remains to be seen whether his injury was truly serious, but given the fact that the Argentine was unable to walk after full-time paints a worrying picture.
In the end, the Boys in Blue picked up a solitary point, but at a great cost.
NYCFC now have 30 points after 28 games, but at the time of writing remain three places outside of the Eastern Conference Playoff positions. The squad will have a 14-day lay-off for the international break, before hosting the New Jersey Red Bulls in the Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium on September 16th.
NYCFC Playoff Tracker
- NYCFC: Mounsef Bakrar 55′
- Vancouver: Ryan Gauld (P) 60′
- NYCFC: Andrés Perea, foul, yellow card, 20′
- Vancouver: Mathías Laborda, foul, yellow card, 28′
- NYCFC: James Sands, foul, yellow card, 57′
- Vanoucver: Sebastian Berhalter, foul, yellow card, 90+1′
- Referee: Pierre-Luc Lauziere
- Assistant Referees: Andrew Bigelow and Justin Howard
- Fourth official: Guido Gonzales Jr
- VAR: Daniel Radford
- Ast. VAR: Mike Kampmeinert