By Michael Schwartz
Considering all of the things that NYCFC could afford, the only thing they can’t buy right now is a goal.
New York City suffered their third defeat of the season in a tough 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers. Like their previous game with the Union, New York City created more attempts on goal than their opponents but couldn’t make their chances count.
New York City had 21 attempts on goals compared to Portland’s 12, but they repeatedly lacked composure and the wherewithal to produce a final pass or shot needed to score. The team showed great potential and character but not enough execution as they are continuing to go through growing pains.
After the match Jason Kreis commented on the encouraging signs he’s seeing despite the desirable results not coming yet.
“I’m actually very encouraged with the performance in the last two matches, it shows me that we are moving in the right direction,” he told First Touch.
“I think we have the necessary qualities to be a very good team in this league, but for whatever reason I feel that we are getting quite unfortunate. I have to believe over a course of the season we’ll get some luck on our side and this will all level out.”
In what was an uneventful first half, New York City created a ton of pressure on Portland’s left side but lacked a final ball to break down the opposing defense. The crosses New York City produced often were too strong as they sailed over everyone or they were taken care of by Portland’s defenders.
New York City had their moments early like when Khiry Shelton in his second consecutive start won a turnover in the 16th minute which lead to a stinging shot by Patrick Mullins which forced a save. Disaster struck in the 35th minute when Tony Taylor, who was making his starting debut up top alongside Mullins, went down with a non-contact injury and had to be stretchered off. Kreis revealed after the game that Taylor had suffered potentially serious knee ligament damage.
Despite creating more attempts and having a ton of build-up play, New York City lacked any final product. They have now scored only one first half goal in their opening seven games this season.
In the second half, New York City didn’t really start to threaten Portland until the 58th minute when Mullins had another shot saved by Portland’s keeper Adam Kwarasey. It was an encouraging performance for the young striker from New England who looked dangerous but couldn’t convert his chances.
After the game, Mullins spoke about how the team is creating scoring chances but they are failing to capitalize on them right now.
“I know I can speak for every guy in here that we’re going to keep working hard until they do fall our way,” said Mullins.
“I thought it was one of our better performances of the year. There’s two stories to every game—who won the game and how it was won. Unfortunately, I thought we did enough to win the game, but that doesn’t mean you always win.”
The game slowly moved toward the latter stages of the second half with the only highlights being some fancy footwork by Sebastian Velasquez and Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Kwadwo Poku, who came on to a big ovation in the 74th minute as a sub, had an immediate effect as he nearly set up Shelton with a great through ball in the box. Mullins also had a free header from a Jeb Brovsky cross that he failed to take advantage of.
All of New York City’s momentum went for naught in the 79th minute when Darion Asprilla’s shot deflected off Watson-Siriboe into the back of the net. It was another late goal conceded by New York City which would prove costly.
After New York City conceded a crucial late goal in their fourth match already this season, questions were raised over the team’s mentality and fitness late in matches. While goalkeeper Josh Saunders finds that the late goals are “isolated incidents” with luck not going their way, Brovsky believes the team is physically and mentally strong enough to overcome these errors.
“Physically we are a very fit team,” said Brovsky.
“The goal today we’re going to have to go and look at it again. We’ll have mental lapses throughout the season but I think today it just shot down to one bounce here or there. I think every guy was mentally into it for 90 plus minutes today.”
Poku, Shelton, and Javier Calle all had their chances afterwards but it simply wasn’t New York City’s night as they fell to Portland. Credit has to be given to Portland’s defense especially in regards to the center back duo of Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell.
Before the last two games, New York City was struggling to create chances despite all of their possession. Now they are producing a ton of attempts on goal but they lack the refinement needed in the final third. Having 21 attempts on goal but only five shots needed to be saved by Portland’s keeper shows that New York City are not producing enough quality chances.
The team seems to lack understanding in the final third and will benefit from having playmakers like Frank Lampard once they come into the team. New York City played tonight without David Villa and Mix Diskerud who suffered an ankle injury in training before the match which isn’t considered too serious according to Kreis.
Despite missing three of their best players for most of the last two games, the team can take confidence from how well they have played. According to Shelton, the depth gives New York City a strong first and second team they can put out during matches. “We have two full teams,” said Shelton. “Coach can mix it up and still get that quality he wants. We all know that we are good players. Some people have been in the league longer than others but everybody is good here. We have two complete teams.”
After the match, Kreis felt that the performances have been strong and that the results will come. That sentiment is shared by New York City’s experienced players including Jeb Brovsky who believes in what the club is doing and that the players must keep their heads up.
“I think we still have a great philosophy here at this club,” said Brovsky. “I think every guy has bought into it, which is most important. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re going to keep plugging away because the results are going to come. We know that. Anyone who’s been in this league a long time has known that—that the results will come. But the worst thing that a team right now can do is get their head down.”
Saunders believes there are encouraging signs on both sides of the field and that the team must stay positive which is difficult during a rough stretch of results. “Obviously you take positives from every game,” said Saunders. “It’s too easy to be negative. There are a lot of negative people out there. For us, we’ve got to stay positive and stay together. That over the course of the year is going to help us. I thought this was our best performance possession wise. Maybe not final third shooting wise. You take that from there and we are not giving up many goals. We’re pretty stingy.”
Despite this only being his second season, Mullins talked about how he went through a similarly tough experience with the Revolution last year. Unlike New England though, Mullins regards his new team to be different and they will have to overcome issues through their own ways.
“This isn’t the first time these things have happened [to me],” said Mullins. ‘I would like to make a strong point that this team is very different and we need to figure out solutions the NYCFC way. I think the way we’ll do that is total belief in how we are doing things and that things will start going our way.”