Bronx, NY – After scoring six goals in its first two games of the season, New York was unable to breach Orlando’s back line despite dominating possession.
Lining-up once again in an unusual 3223 formation, City was able to build from the back throughout the game. With Federico Bravo supplying the brawn in the defensive midfield, Andrea Pirlo was able to pull the strings, often spraying the ball to the wings, since Adrian Heath’s men went into the game determined to clog up the middle of the field. By the end of the half, the Italian had touched the ball 70 times and had completed 54 passes.
However, as the cliché goes, possession only matters if a team is able to make it count, and as much as New York was able to pin Orlando back, the numerous scoring opportunities never translated into goals.
Tony Taylor, David Villa, as well as Steven Mendoza, later on, were regularly able to get into dangerous positions, but a combination of misjudged final passes and lack of understanding between the players resulted in wastefulness. No moment was more evident of this than the shot Mendoza pinged off of Joe Bendik’s left post, after Orlando’s players had fallen asleep for the second time during a quick free-kick.
A slow and sloppy start to the game ultimately cost New York the three points, since conceding an early goal allowed Orlando to batten down the hatches and only threaten on rare counterattacks. Nevertheless, as far as losses go, this was the kind that still leaves room for a lot of optimism.
The Hits, Misses and Maybes
Jason Hernandez – At the end of last season, much was made about the need to rebuild New York’s defense, and no one, including Hernandez, was immune to scathing criticism. However, if yesterday’s game was of any indication, the league veteran still has a lot to offer. Hernandez read the game well, seldom allowed Cyle Larin much room to operate, and put in a few crucial tackles, including one in the 60th minute when his block may have prevented an Adrian Winter goal.
Ronald Matarrita – You would be forgiven for forgetting that the Costa Rican is playing in an unfamiliar position. At Alajuelense, Matarrita split his time between left defense and left wing, and now he finds himself in a back three that has evidenced his instinct for the game and an impressive maturity for a twenty-one year old. Patrick Vieira probably will not get the most out of the Tico in his new position, but there’s no doubt that the Frenchman has a real talent on his hands.
Finishing – During his post-game press conference, Patrick Vieira stated that the most important thing in soccer is creating chances. It is hard to argue with that assessment – although, the same can be said about preventing opponents from doing so, as well. Still, the lack of composure in the penalty box was pretty telling of a team that can only count on David Villa as a true coldblooded goal-scorer. NYCFC’s new manager has his work cut out in the finishing department.
Back three – Much has been made about New York’s new formation. One would have to search long and hard to find another professional team employing a 3223. Apart from a few situations, the back three efficiently staved off Orlando’s attack, but that was in part as a result of the visitor’s strategy, which seldom looked to test City’s defense with any vigor. Iraola, Hernandez, and Matarrita tended to look stretched during defensive transitions, and it’s hard to imagine that Bravo and Pirlo will provide enough cover when playing against better attacking teams. Common sense would have it that Vieira will tinker with his formation according to the opposition, but it may take a defensive disaster to force the Frenchman’s hand.
What They Said
“We have to give credit to Orlando. They came here and worked hard. But I think we played better than we did against Toronto. I was really pleased with the way we tried to play, and obviously we created some chances. I was pleased with the way we moved the ball around the pitch. I think we managed to play well, especially in the second half.”
“We went into the game without enough desire. I’m really frustrated because we gave away the game. It was easy for them to defend and counter attack.”
Khiry Shelton on being substituted:
“To be honest, it’s on me. I think I didn’t put Brek Shea under enough pressure, driving at him, and I think that’s the reason, but I will talk to coach about that and figure it out.”
New York supporters regularly called for Kwandwo Poku to be introduced into the game. Their request fell on deaf ears as Vieira chose to throw Mendoza, Medhi Bellouchy, and Patrick Mullins into the game. Only the Colombian influenced proceedings.
There are now some doubts about where Poku figures in Vieira’s plans.
Follow Eric Krakauer on Twitter @bigsoccerheadny
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