Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to start being concerned.
When NYCFC played Colorado to a scoreless draw, there were some who sounded the alarm. The Rapids were a last place team, they said. They were playing without defenders Marc Burch and Drew Moor and still NYCFC couldn’t score.
But no, many said, don’t panic. It was their first western road trip. They were playing a mile high. They got a point. That’s what matters.
And when the boys in blue lost in the freakish cold of Yankee Stadium to Sporting KC, another bottom-of-the-division team, there were many who began to suspect that all was not right in the Bronx.
But again many fans disagreed, pointing out both how strongly the team finished the game and the fact that they were missing so many attacking players, either through injury or international call up. And if the subs didn’t quite step up as one would have liked, well, it’s early days yet.
Flirting With Disaster: NYCFC 1 – Union 2
But on Saturday, on the banks of the Delaware River, where NYCFC met the Philadelphia Union, yet ANOTHER bottom dwelling team (a point that the NYCFC fans repeatedly shouted at the Sons of Ben during the game, God love them), NYCFC not only failed to win, not only failed to take a point, not only gave up a heartbreaking extra-time goal, but showed so little of the form and connection that had filled the home opener with promise, that one really has to wonder if this team is not really as good as fans – or players – think they are.
Which is why it is time to become concerned.
Sure, Conor Casey leveled Josh Saunders in a non-call that could easily have been a yellow card for interference – which would have ended the game in a draw, which would have given NYCFC a point on the road.
Sure Adam Nemec got snakebit with a goal that was called back in the 28th minute after a late “out of bounds” that many in the stadium thought was a phantom call – and that would have leveled the game moments after Philadelphia’s first goal.
But the truth is, the game never should have been close enough for those two incidents to be important.
Because, by rights, Philadelphia should have come out flat after a heartbreaking defeat to Sporting KC only six days earlier. Thus hats off to them that they didn’t. Indeed, in the first half, not only were they not flat, they were by far the more passionate, aggressive and organized team.
The potential KC hangover aside, the game shouldn’t have been close because again NYCFC was playing a team hobbled by key vacancies. Just as they played Colorado without Burch and Moor, just as they played New England without Jones, NYCFC faced a Union whose big off-season acquisition, Fernando Aristeguieta, was a last minute scratch.
Plus, this week the Citizens had what one must assume is their preferred starting 11, including Villa, Mix, Velazquez, Nemec, Williams and even the subs like Khiry Shelton that Kreis likes to bring in.
In short, they were bringing their best 11 against a depleted team that was shell-shocked and in transition.
And yet in the first half the team that looked lost was NYCFC. The passes consistently lacked pace, dying before they got to their target, and were often intercepted by anticipating Union players who immediately went on the counter. And because the attacks kept coming, Diskerud kept drifting deeper and deeper into the defensive half – that is when he wasn’t just roaming all over the pitch – to such an extant that at one point David Villa started shouting at him to get in form.
And speaking of David Villa, even his goal, as happy as one was to see it, was problematic. Because for all practical purposes, this was not a play, was not an execution of passing and attacking and teamwork like, say, the goal he set up for Mix Diskerud in Orlando, or the one that he scored in Yankee Stadium. This was simply one very frustrated football genius taking the game on his back and bulldogging the ball through traffic and into the Union net by sheer force of will.
And while one must admire him for it, one can only be disappointed in the team effort that brought it about.
After the loss to Kansas City, we suggested that NYCFC had to take four points out of these back-to-back, home-and-home games against the Union. Fans thought they were being overly conservative. They were wrong. They were being overly optimistic.
Here’s hoping NYCFC show the kind of grit and determination that Philadelphia showed on Saturday. Here’s hoping they bounce back as admirably on Thursday’s return match against the Union as the Union did against them on Saturday. Here’s hoping that Karma is indeed a bitch.
Main Photo by Bill Kostroun