New York City Football Club faced Sporting Kansas City club who were looking for their first win since last year. Nearly 28,000 fans packed Yankee Stadium for their second home appearance. Despite applying significant pressure in the second half, New York City suffered their first loss of the year with the final score being 1-0.
New York played a close game despite missing key forward David Villa who was benched as a precaution as he has been nursing a groin injury since Week 1 according to MLS sources. Other Key players missing from action due to international obligations were forward Adam Nemec (Playing for Slovakia) and Khiry Shelton (playing for the under 23 US Men’s National Team.
Coach Jason Kreis’ decision to start midfielders Mehdi Ballouchy, Andrew Jacobson, and forward Javier Calle was an interesting choice that seemed to be the wrong one as the game went on. The concern with Calle was that throughout his appearance before being substituted for forward Tony Taylor in the 59’ he often times took himself out of the play. His contemporary Patrick Mullins was often times seen making a run against three defenders with little to no support from Calle.
Through out the game Calle was almost non-existent, either giving up battles for possession to the opposition, or being completely out of sync with midfielders tying to coax him into a run up field. Before going too much into performance it must be said the strategy of the first half was somewhat frustrating whether New York City were executing a game plan, or not. New York goalkeeper Josh Saunders was visibly frustrated at his team as they gingerly walked forward as he attempted to organize them into possession.
It tuned out that more often than not the majority of the game saw the midfield battle initially won by Kansas City, while New York attempted to get in passing lanes, and disrupt their play. It didn’t always work, and unfortunately chewed up a significant amount of time. A momentary lapse in defense saw Kansas City score off of a throw in that was headed home by defender Ike Opara.
The first half from a live spectators perspective was drastically lack luster, as New York City seemed to have little jump, or desperation in their game. Paramount to the disappointment was the play of Mehdi Ballouchy whose start left many spectators left scratching their heads. Ballouchy in his short time with New York City has struggled to get in a rhythm with teammates, either making inaccurate passes, or incorrectly timing a run which then gets picked off by the defense.
Additionally, and possibly even more frustrating, is his tendency to whine, or throw a tantrum when anyone touches him, or if he is dispossessed while dribbling, which sadly is far more often then it should be. Thankfully he was subbed out for midfielder Kwadwo Poku in the 75’. Poku probably should have gotten the start considering Ballouchy’s Hollow Man impersonation during the first three games, but hindsight is 20/20.
The substitutions seemed as if Jason Kreis could read the home crowd’s collective mind, and graciously the final substitution was for Andrew Jacobson who was pulled for Thomas McNamara in the 84’ in an attempt to apply some late pressure. Jacobson himself played a decent game, but too many miscues including whiffing while attempting to strike a ball towards an open net left many wanting him subbed.
Kreis did well in choosing his replacement personnel especially in the case of Kwadwo Poku who played a more forward central midfield position once on the pitch. Kwadwo’s role used either by design, or necessity worked well as New York gained much of the possession, and offensive chances in the second half. The late push was a mix of desperation and skill that pinned Kansas City in their defensive end as the majority of late attempts came in crosses off the left wing.
Possibly the greatest opportunity for New York City came off the head of Ned Grabavoy late in the game. The missed opportunity, which may have been better executed with a boot, went well wide of the net. The game was exciting to say the least if not generally frustrating.
Despite the at times lacking play, many poor officiating decisions led to a significantly more difficult task for New York. From my vantage point (I attended the game) I could see at the very least three handballs committed by Sporting K.C. that were completely missed. The most egregious of these errors was a penalty kick that somehow turned into a drop ball inside the box, after a line judge shared his opinion.
The evening was wholly frustrating and such a feeling was evident on the player’s faces as they thanked the supporter’s section at the end of the game. The supporters and season ticket holders at times were willing their team to apply pressure and it seamed that the players acknowledged it at the end.
The loss told us some important things.
Firstly that execution and teamwork are key, to winning a match, and more specifically New York City Football Club have a solid foundation that shouldn’t be taken lightly. NYCFC went into a fight with naught, but their knuckles, and managed to get some good ones in after being knocked on their rear. This loss was an important one; it let them know they could compete with any team. Look to see the frustration of this loss motivate them April 11th against the Philadelphia Union.