By Michael Schwartz
So close yet so far never rang more true for New York City in a match where everything seemed to be going their way. As Thomas McNamara deftly controlled a ball in the air before slotting it into the back of the net in the 6th minute, everything felt like NYCFC was on the verge of making a bold statement. However, reality set in as Coach Jason Kreis’ side reminded everyone that they are an expansion side with many issues to solve.
On an overcast day, the atmosphere was simply electric from both sets of supporters. The Red Bull supporters, located in the cheap seats in the upper echelons of Yankee Stadium, formed a sea of red and white up in God’s country. The rest of the stadium, which was packed with over 48,000 supporters, consisted of NYCFC supporters who had reason to believe their novel new club was finally ready to take down their hated cross-town rival. While it will always be a day that NYCFC supporters will probably want to forget, the passion shown proved that football in New York is winning.
New York City’s supporters roared early on as Andrew Jacobson headed a corner behind him to McNamara who showed great composure in taking his chance. With an early lead, Kreis’ players looked energized by the crowd. They aggressively attacked the Red Bulls backline as Coach Jesse Marsch’s side was caught on the back foot. As a result, New York City had a series of chances to perhaps kill off the match early on but they were left to rue squandered opportunities.
McNamara failed to double to his personal tally as he just missed connecting on a cross by Mehdi Ballouchy that agonizingly sailed in front of the goal. A few minutes later, Chris Wingert failed to bury a potential goal that was served to him on a silver platter after being unable to finish off a cross right in front of the goal on the left.
Besides those few excruciating moments, the rest of the first half seemed to drift by as McNamara’s early strike was the only shot on target both sides mustered in the first third of the match. The other biggest cheer of the first half came when out on the jumbotron appeared Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard sitting together watching their new team. By the end of the match, there’s no doubt that the two legends fully realized they’re going to have their work cut out for them.
The second half started all too quickly for New York City as they were about to be trampled by the Red Bulls. The damage started swiftly two minutes into the half as Sacha Kljestan found Bradley Wright-Phillips who buried his shot. The Red Bulls’ first shot on target was the equalizer they so desperately needed.
As if caught in a state of shock, NYCFC looked helpless in stopping the Red Bulls who took complete control of the midfield battle. Chris Duvall’s goal in the 53rd minute highlighted how vulnerable the backline looked as they began to crumble under constant pressure.
R.J. Allen, fresh off a recent string of strong performances, got beat badly by Wright-Phillips whose shot ricocheted off the left post. The Red Bulls looked completely assured of themselves as NYCFC seemed uninspired and shell-shocked by how quickly everything was falling apart. One was left to wonder whether NYCFC had scored too early as they barely created any chances throughout the opening third of the second half.
With Josh Saunders frequently needed to keep New York City in the game, it only seemed like a matter of time before the Red Bulls would find the back of the net again. Sure enough, Marsch’s side took advantage of the small field on a free kick with Matt Miazga, the defender who had got himself sent off in the first Hudson River Derby, able to bury a header past Saunders.
It became obvious that New York City’s best opportunity to win sailed by with the wasted chances of the first half. They simply looked flat and beaten down in the second half as the Red Bulls continued to look more likely to score even after their third. The Red Bulls had another shot bounce off the post after Kljestan failed to put away an easy opportunity off a cross late in the match.
While the injury to Wingert didn’t help, it was no excuse for what must be considered the nadir of New York City’s difficult first season. After looking so spirited early on, their deplorable form in the second half afterwards was easily the worst half of football Kreis’ side has played all season.
Unsurprisingly, Kwadwo Poku showed the only signs of life for NYCFC after coming on in the second half. He forced a spectacular save from Luis Robles and showed plenty of effort trying to win the ball and get forward in the latter stages.
In all, NYCFC mustered a measly two shots on target in the whole match. The Red Bulls simply looked better organized and more assured with what they needed to do in order to win.
With the latest defeat to the Red Bulls, this marks the halfway point in what has been a bumpy road for NYCFC in their inaugural season. For the optimist, perhaps the loss was a blessing in disguise. The hiding NYCFC took in the second half showed the need for new players and that the winning streak Kreis’ side was on may have been a false dawn. Despite their recent positive form, this is still the same expansion side that has struggled mightily and the need for new players is worth the inevitable growing pains that come with throwing in different footballers.
The midfield lineup of Jacobson, Ballouchy, and Mix Diskerud lost control of the midfield battle. The manner in which the team was outplayed highlighted the need for more composed midfielders such as Pirlo and Lampard. In regards to Pirlo, there are still concerns in terms of whether he’s someone the team can build around due to his age and whether the Italian may be loaned out to Manchester City in January.
If Pirlo was the only player available for New York this summer, then it was worth adding him (though a recent report from Stefan Bondy of the Daily News would suggest otherwise). The encouraging aspect with New York City is that they have been able to sign multiple players such as Diskerud and Iraola that would have likely been Designated Players on other teams.
With things looking bleak, NYCFC will turn to big name superstars to change their fortunes and dazzle the crowd. There is no doubt that Pirlo and Lampard are proven (and very old) winners and they are going to need to have an instant impact in the Big Apple.