Post-Match Thoughts – Game 3 – NYCFC 0, Colorado Rapids 0

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NEW YORK 0, COLORADO 0

For the second time this season, Josh Saunders was Man of the Match. Through three games Saunders has been the only constant for New York. He’s providing the club with the exact qualities Jason Kreis and Claudio Reyna were likely targeting when they acquired him – consistency and veteran leadership.

I’ve been trying to think of who Saunders reminds me of since the opener, and it’s just occurred to me – he’s NYCFC’s Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound. Saunders isn’t some big imposing presence like his fictional counterpart, but they both have the same presence.  The haggard look and labored movements. I’ve watched Saunders play for NYC on television twice now and both times he looked like he was going to just fall to pieces at the end of the game. His playing style is obviously detrimental to his physical well-being, but it’s effective and it’s bolstered New York so far. He’s been the club’s anchor and it’s difficult to see Kreis replacing him even when Ryan Meara returns.

The defense in general was better today than it’s been (Jason Hernandez would be my next pick for MOTM), but Saunders’ heroics were still required. The two flashiest moments came about ten minutes apart in the second half. He tipped away a long-range free kick from Marc Burch in the 52nd minute and denied Gabriel Torres from point-blank range in the 63rd. All told Saunders had seven saves and did more than anyone to help secure a point from the game. He’s confident coming off his line for the ball, cutting off crosses and set pieces, and just generally provides a feeling of stability. Although this shot chart tells the story more succinctly than I can.

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New York is lucky to have #12.  Just need to hope opponents don’t utilize fire. Or Brienne of Tarth.

There’s a growing rift between Adam Nemec and the fans. The Slovakian international is on the verge of securing a dubious honor – first player rejected by the fan base. It was obvious today sitting in a crowded bar as people groaned every time he touched the ball. There was a loud ovation when Nemec was subbed off for Khiry Shelton early in the second half, with the general sentiment being that Shelton should have started in the first place.

Nemec hasn’t been perfect through three games, but I think this treatment is unfair so early in the season. NYCFC is still very much a work in progress and plenty of players deserve blame for the offensive struggles. David Villa and Mix Diskerud should be right at the top of that list today. Shelton, for all his talents, didn’t have a major impact today either. I just think fans need to be patient as these players figure one another out and roles become more clearly defined. Nemec does provide a physical presence up front that nobody else can match aside from Shelton. He seems to win every ball in the air that’s anywhere near him which is significant. If anyone could use a goal in the next couple games though it’s him, if only to take the heat off for a little bit.

Quick Notes:

  • I tweeted this before the game but it bears repeating – I’m not a fan of the all-blue uniform that New York wore today. The Manchester City look isn’t ideal, but with white shorts and socks at least it looks decent. Today just felt like watching Man City v Aston Villa or something.
  • The bar was noticeably less crowded today for the second away game than it was for the opener against Orlando City. Still a solid turnout, but it felt like less of an event. The opener felt like a US World Cup game. I think it’s an indication that things will taper off a bit as the season progresses, but the foundation of fans still seems solid. If I were to translate this to attendance at Yankee Stadium, I’d say it felt like 30,000 or so people showed up, rather than the 43,000 we saw for the home opener. I’m not sure that’s a useful comparison but the point remains – it was a decline, but still a good turnout. Have to consider that it was a nice Saturday afternoon and the NCAA tournament is on – not everyone wants to sit in a bar watching soccer.
  • Villa looked sluggish and just off his game. Both road games have been iffy for him. Some flashes in the second half but he was off target all day and looked out of it. I wonder if the travel or altitude had any impact? Something to monitor in upcoming away games.

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