Newly signed Jefferson Mena started the game off on the bench but made his debut earlier than expected at Yankee Stadium after Chris Wingert suffered a hamstring injury around the 15th minute. Andrea Pirlo also made his debut.
In a 5-3 victory over Orlando City SC, Mena acted as the anchor of the defense after subbing on. He rarely crossed the halfway line and stayed back on defense, never really joining an attack. In a defender this is exactly what New York City FC, as their defense is relatively attacking. Both full backs Angelino and Andoni Iraola like to join the attack, while fellow center back Shay Facey does at times as well. It is good to have that rock in the middle dedicated to just defense.
Looking at his debut, NYCFC fans know that Mena is not a risk taker. He makes the easy pass and makes very few mistakes. The most notable mistake he committed was leaving his man, Carlos Rivas with a shot, which missed wide.
Mena is an attentive player, and is always in a good position to clear the ball. In the 25th minute, Mena had a critical clearance for NYCFC, that could have led to a Orlando City goal if not cleared.
The Colombian is not afraid of physicality, and wins most of his aerial battles. The issue with NYCFC’s defense this game was letting Orlando City play the ball out wide and then letting them cross it in.
During the postgame press conference, Jason Kreis had this to say about Mena and his performance.
He did a lot of good things, but it will take time to adjust… [Mena] wasn’t fit enough to play as many minutes as he did.
In the 61st minute, Mena slipped in the middle of the field, and that blunder nearly led to a goal for Orlando, mistakes happen.
The downside of not just Mena himself, but the whole defense is their height. Mena (6’0), Iraola (6’0), Facey (5’9) and Angelino (listed at 5’9, but look 5’7) is not all that intimidating of a defense, and a 6’4, 6’5 striker could wreak havoc on the NYCFC defense given the chance.
At 26-years-old, Mena is looking like a really solid player for NYCFC and their defense, and should be starting games alongside Shay Facey in the not so distant future.