I know, I know. It was just one game. And as Jason Hernandez rightly said, good teams get a point even when they don’t play their best. And yes, I would have gladly taken a point in San Jose last season. Hell, I would have taken one earlier this season. So I get it – you think I’m over-reacting. Fine. So ignore me and my reasons why you should worry about NYCFC.
Reason 1: Opposing teams are no longer surprised by Jack Harrison
Remember when Jack came on during the May Mauling? Blew everyone away with his fight, speed, skill. Remember his goals against Real Salt Lake, the New York Red Bulls, and the Impact de Montreal? Yeah. So does everyone else in MLS. Marvel Wynne shut down our Jack (partly because Marvel is a beast who could probably start for the 49ers…). And he was also rather quiet against Colorado Rapids and the Red Bulls before that. And if teams have figured out how to neutralize Harrison, then that means fewer chances for David Villa and Tommy McNamara. And that means a lack of goals.
Reason 2: Oh for crying out loud, the San Jose Earthquakes are an 8th place team.
If the season ended tonight, Chris Wondolowski would be experiencing the post season about the same way I would be – from a barstool at a favorite local. And yet, San Jose should have won that game. Honestly, there were some shots that even I could have put away and I was sitting in New Jersey. But here’s a better reason to worry about NYCFC; they failed to dominate the midfield against a team that is, as we discussed last week, almost genetically incapable of dominating the midfield, 83 touches to 210 according to WhoScored.com. Are. You. Kidding. Me?
Reason 3: NYCFC have played at least as many games as everyone in their conference
With the exception of the Red Bulls, every other team in the East has at least one game in hand on NYCFC. Most importantly, Montreal has two, as do DC United (more on them later) and Orlando City SC, while the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire have three. So while one can exult over NYCFC’s terrific points-per-game average (tied for fourth in the league), and the fact that they have finally managed to get to a zero goal differential, if Montreal wins its two games, NYCFC are in second. And if Toronto FC wins its one, the Citizens are in third. And that’s without City even stepping onto the pitch.
Reason 4: Philadelphia and DC are loaded for bear.
D.C. United have picked up Lloyd Sam, Kennedy Igboananike, and NYCFC’s own Patrick Mullins in the past few months. That makes their attack, um, interesting (“interesting” = “potentially terrifying”). Philadelphia Union, who already had a nice attack with Chris Pontius, CJ Sapong and Roland Alberg, have added Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies. During that same time, NYCFC added, um, nobody to their attack. Of course, NYCFC have league leader David Villa (oh, wait, sorry, he’s two behind Sebastian Giovinco), and Tommy McNamara and Jack Harrison. Should that make me worry about NYCFC? I dunno – do you think can you ever have too much attack? Philly and D.C. clearly don’t.
Reason 5: Seven games against conference rivals
Some might look at this as a reason not to worry about NYCFC. But conference rivals are a double-edged sword. Win, and you do twice the damage, sending those below you further down and bringing those above you closer. But lose and the boot is on the other foot. Teams fall very quickly when they play a heap of games in their division. NYCFC drop some games they should win – and we’ve all seen them do this in the past – and they could suddenly find themselves teetering on whatever we’re calling the MLS equivalent of the Mendoza line.
Reason 6: An old team and a lot of late season travel.
As Blue City Radio’s Jon Sauerschell never fails to remind us, the NYCFC midfield is 109 years old. And with late season trips to Orlando, Houston and Columbus, that’s gonna put some serious wear and tear on bodies not used to more than a four hour trip up the M1. Plus you’ve got a match in D.C. in October and we all know how that turned out last year.
And a couple reasons NOT to worry about NYCFC
Sure, it’s not all doom and gloom. Two of NYCFC ten matches are against the worst teams in the league. Seven of their matches are against teams not currently in playoff contention. None of the teams they play on the road are better at home than NYCFC are on the road (as insane as that sounds). Four of their remaining five home matches are against teams who are have a COMBINED two wins on the road, including (and I swear I’m not beating up on your team, Jeff Krause), the Chicago Fire, who have not won on the road since 2014. You remember 2014, don’t you? The year Latvia adopted the euro as its currency? Or how about this – a full year before NYCFC ever played a match (fun fact: NYCFC have won 10 road games in that time)
But for someone who listened to David Villa and Frank Lampard stand at second base last October and apologize for the preceding season, and for someone who interviewed Andrew Jacobson and Tommy McNamara in the locker room of RFK Stadium after their team had just given up the second half goals that would keep NYCFC out of the playoffs, I take nothing for granted. Last year Toronto squeaked into the sixth playoff spot with 49 points and the Red Bulls won the conference (and the supporter’s shield) with 60. Heading into Mapfre Stadium, NYCFC are sitting 37. That means they need four wins – at least – out of their remaining 10 fixtures to make the playoffs.
And that’s why I worry about NYCFC