It was another day of sun in the Bronx on St. Patrick’s Day as the boys in blue took on LAFC hailing from the city of stars and it truly was a star studded affair which ended in a 2-2 stalemate. The luck of the Irish wasn’t with NYCFC however as once again they drew at home and blew a lead in the process.
City looked very good at times in the attacking third with key finishes from Alex Ring and Alex Mitriță but all it took was a couple of defensive lapses and LAFC made the Pigeons pay for it. The mistakes on the defensive side of things are very concerning, blowing leads in multiple matches early on in the campaign. Especially since the mistakes are so avoidable at a times and are almost an amateur display of defending from players that are clearly better than that.
The pace of the match was electric from the start as both squads each had flurries of chances in the first half. First blood was drawn by NYCFC when Alex Mitriță opened his MLS scoring account in the 39th minute. Mitriță had a magnificent run up the left wing and flew by multiple LAFC defenders and once inside the penalty area, cut back and curled a ball to the far post past LA keeper Tyler Miller. It was truly a highlight reel goal which showed off all of the great qualities Mitriță brings to the pitch, pace, technique, and clinical finishing. Mitriță nearly scored a second as he had a free kick ring off of the crossbar shortly after his first goal. As disappointing as these draws have been, one silver lining is that it is very clear that Mitriță is the real deal and is an excellent attacking option for the boys in blue going forward.
That joy was short lived however as in the 43rd minute, LAFC star Carlos Vela scored the equalizer after an absolutely horrendous turnover by stalwart Maxime Chanot. Chanot headed the ball forwards directly at LA attacker Latif Blessing who sprung Vela in on net alone against Sean Johnson and easily put it away. The turnover couldn’t have come at a worse time as everyone on the back line besides Chanot was pushed higher up the field including left back Ronald Matarrita, who was nowhere near Vela when he revieved the service from Blessing. The closest defender was actually Mitriță who was sprinting back from the left wing position to try to put pressure on Vela to no avail. A turnover in that position simply can’t happen in that area of the field and Chanot needs to make a better play there. You do also have to question why the back line was so high up which made them so vulnerable once the ball was turned over.
City struck back in the 62nd minute as captain Alex Ring scored his second of the season from a really nice pass by fullback Ben Sweat. Sweat received the ball on a throw in, took a heavy touch and as the ball was inching towards the end line, Sweat never gave up and got to it right before it went out of play and delivered an excellent pass to Ring who smashed it home to retake the lead. Ring has now scored as many goals this season as he has in the past two seasons combined for City, it’s an exciting new element to his game now that he has free reign to roam offensively due to James Sands’s emergence as a quality holding midfielder. Ring’s contributions offensively is a major asset going forward especially with City’s lack of a true striker so the goals will have to come by committee. The goal was all because of Ben Sweat’s hustle to keep the play however and was a big step for Sweat, who didn’t start and came on as a substitute in the beginning of the second half.
Ben Sweat gives, Ben Sweat takes away however as in the 76th minute while City was clinging to their lead, Sweat wildly swings his foot at Latif Blessing in the box and makes contact which led to a penalty kick which was easily converted by Vela. The way in which Blessing went to ground was very theatrical but there was clear contact and at the end of the day it was the right call to award a penalty. The frustrating thing is that he was in a decent position to defend properly without throwing his leg at Blessing’s boot but Sweat has never been known for solid defending.
Once again City won the possession battle and looked a lot better than the week before and even the week before that. The results aren’t coming which is concerning, you can’t win the title or make the playoffs in March but you can certainly lose it and draws aren’t going to cut it down the line. The schedule has been difficult as LAFC and DC United are two of the best teams in MLS but to be the best you have to beat the best and so far this season NYCFC haven’t beaten anybody. It’s not the end of the world however, City aren’t the only team struggling, they’ve actually had a better start then defending champions Atlanta United so there is time to fix things. But wins need to come soon, and their schedule isn’t getting any easier as they play Toronto FC next Friday on March 29th at BMO Park.
There is an international break in the meantime and ten City players have been called up to their international club squads to play in friendlies and European qualifiers. This gives City some time to take a step back and evaluate and hopefully try to bring in a striker into the team. Maxi Moralez played that role last week and it is clearly not working out and it;s a disservice to both him and the team to play him there any longer. He thrives playing in the attacking midfielder number 10 role, where he can sit behind the front three and can provide creative passing and killing the other team’s defense with his quality. As dynamic as Alex Mitriță has been, Domenec Torrent hasn’t even tried to play him as a striker, but as the left wing where he’s thrived. City need to bring in a bonafide, number 9 striker if they are gonna go anywhere this season.
The offense has so much potential they just need that one target man in the middle of the attack that can score goals and open up opportunities for players like Mitriță and Moralez. At the end of the day, if City doesn’t bring in a striker very soon, any playoff or title aspirations will just be one more dream, that they cannot make true.
Featured Image: @scott_bednar on twitter.com