NYCFC left the state of Minnesota without a win but split the points with Minnesota United FC in the grand opening of Allianz Field in a shocking, high scoring affair this past Saturday in a 3-3 draw.
After 20 minutes there were already four goals scored between both clubs and then in the 32nd minute Sean Johnson went viral for all the wrong reasons when he simply missed a back pass from an NYCFC teammate and gave up an embarrassingly bad own goal the likes of which won’t be seen in MLS in a long time. It’s something you can’t account for but that’s life something sometimes unexpected crazy things happen and all Sean Johnson can do is move forward and continue to be the quality goalkeeper he is. Thankfully for him, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi tied the game in the second half with a seeing eye free kick from a dangerous area that went through a multitude of players and nestled into the back of the net and that was that. Given the circumstances of the opening match in a new stadium, City played fairly well and getting a point was big, but the first win of the season remains ever so elusive.
NYCFC dominated possession as they controlled the ball 66% of the match compared to Minnesota’s measly 33% but yet again it came down to a couple of sloppy defensive breakdowns and it cost City dearly yet again, but there was a significant improvement after the disaster in Toronto and the scoreless mess in the Bronx. Minnesota scored first when Osvaldo Alonso found himself all alone in the penalty area and fired home a sweet volley for the first goal in Allianz Field history.
From then on it was the Ismael Tajouri Shradi and Taty Castellanos show as they scored two minutes apart, assisting each other on each goal. Tajouri had a beautiful flick sending Castellanos in with just the goalkeeper to beat and then shortly after Castellanos returned the favor with a very nifty back-heel pass which was then deflected off of Tajouri found it and finished it home with a volley to take a 2-1 lead. City proceeded to fail defensively in spectacular fashion when they were torn apart on the counter of Minnesota and Angelo Rodriguez was left all alone for an easy finish.
After that, you had the howler from Johnson, the equalizer from Tajouri and that’s all she wrote, aside from a disallowed goal from Castellanos where he circled around Minnesota keeper Vito Mannone and finished but played the ball with his arm and VAR took that goal away.
With the performances of both Tajouri and Castellanos it’s a wonder that Tajouri hasn’t been in the starting XI very often this season and has even found himself out of the lineup completely but his inclusion was massive for City. They needed it desperately as City entered the match banged up especially up front as both Alexandru Mitriță and new striker Héber started the match on the substitute’s bench as they were both banged up with minor injuries. Mitriță came on at the start of the second half and Héber was only able to play for the last ten minutes roughly including stoppage time so the goals were going to come from different sources.
Fortunately, Maxi Moralez was able to return and it was made very clear how big his absence was the past two matches as having someone who can play that attacking creative midfield role is an absolute necessity. With three matches in a seven-day stretch coming up for the boys in blue, it’s important to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
City was also without center back Alexander Callens the past two matches as he dealt with a hamstring injury leading to some shifts in the back as well, recently playing journeyman Tony Rocha in that role and that proved to be costly as he was far from par and was subbed off after the first half. His return is huge and another week for Héber and Mitriță to rest and recover from their injuries are going to be much-needed reinforcements for an intense stretch of the schedule where they play D.C. United at Audi Field on Easter Sunday the 21st, then return to the Bronx for a pair of home matches, a Wednesday night midweek matchup against the Chicago Fire led by German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger and then a Saturday afternoon match with Orlando City SC.
NYCFC released their injury report earlier today and there was only one name on that list, Taty Castellanos who was listed as questionable with a concussion that happened last week and head injury are always tricky and whenever City lists a player as questionable they usually end up not playing. Hopefully, there aren’t any phantom injuries that come out when the starting XI comes out in D.C. on Easter.
It was a much-improved performance for City but the wins need to come, it feels like a broken record stating this every week, but the longer they go without a win, the more difficult the task is to climb into the playoff race.
It’s certainly not impossible, look at D.C United, for example, last year they sat at the bottom of the Eastern Conference until Wayne Rooney signed with them in late June. His entrance, coupled with the opening of Audi Field sparked D.C. on a tear that took them from the bottom of the table to hosting an MLS playoff game against the Columbus Crew. It’s not an ideal way to go about things but it can be done for sure, and with a fully loaded lineup including an actual striker, hopefully, the wins start coming for the boys in blue.
The next week will be a huge litmus test to see if City has what it takes to climb back into some sort of race and it’s unclear whether they’ll pass or not. D.C. sits atop the eastern conference, but when they last played on March 10th, they held D.C. scoreless at Yankee Stadium. Playing at Audi Field will be a bigger challenge especially since both teams will be wearing special parley kits that Adidas made from debris from the oceans in an effort to raise awareness for Earth Day.
City have lost every time they’ve worn the parley kits and that doesn’t strike much optimism into the very superstitious City supporters, maybe they’re due perhaps. But it will be a tall order for sure, and following it up with two more games with very little rest will test the heart and reserve of the Pigeons. Hopefully, they can pass, and that includes the coaching staff, specifically head coach Domenec Torrent. Time will tell.
Featured Image: Brian Curski, Zone Coverage