Post-Match Thoughts – Game 5 – Philadelphia Union 2, NYCFC 1

Liberty Bell

PHILADELPHIA 2, NEW YORK 1

I watched this game on tape delay.

My setup for watching the loss against Philadelphia was less than ideal. The delayed start meant the game conflicted with other Saturday evening plans. I knew it would be hard to watch “live” so I set the DVR and headed out hoping for the best. Things didn’t really work out. I spent the evening tracking the score on my phone and managed to catch some of the delayed broadcast in a crowded bar. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I had an opportunity to sit down and watch the game in full.

Based on the result I thought the performance would be a lot worse. It’s hard to point to the silver-lining after New York gave away the game and a valuable point in the closing minutes, but Jason Kreis should be encouraged by his team’s play overall. The final score in soccer isn’t always indicative of how things actually went. Yesterday was a good example; New York City was the better team, particularly in the second half. It wasn’t a flawless game from NYC – early on it wasn’t even good – but the team should head into Thursday’s rematch at Yankee Stadium with confidence, and should be expected to grab all three points.

New York was sloppy in the first half and it cost them. Philadelphia led 1-0 at the break and it could have been more if they’d capitalized on a few dumb turnovers by NYC. Josh Williams was the biggest culprit in the early going. He had two egregious giveaways in the first twenty minutes, careless passes into traffic that were immediately seized upon by the Union. In the 27th minute a Williams turnover (his fourth bad one by that point according to the running tally I had going) led directly to Philadelphia’s opening goal.

It was an ugly sequence for New York’s defense in general – Williams rushed a one-timer and briefly paused in frustration as the ball was headed back past him to Union attacker Andrew Wegner, who took off on the counter. Williams couldn’t recover before the ball was played along to Sebastien Le Toux, who was marked by Jason Hernandez. The NYC-born center back has been a rock in central defense so far this season but he made a bad decision this time around, sliding aggressively into Le Toux when he should have just tried to contain him. Philadelphia took advantage of the errors and grabbed an early lead.

New York had problems on the other end as well in the opening 45 minutes, consistently failing to link together passes in attack. Things turned around pretty dramatically in the second half so maybe it was just rust – remember, Villa and Adam Nemec hadn’t played for NYC in nearly three weeks.

I thought Mix Diskerud put in one of his best performances of the season yesterday, but his decision making going forward still needs work. As I’ve said before, Mix has shown an affinity for the Hail Mary pass and it’s not working so far. He tried to connect with Sebastian Velasquez on a long ball in the first half, ignoring the simple option to an open David Villa right in front of him. The attempt was well off the mark and the ball skipped harmlessly out of bounds. He tried one down the right wing later in the half with similar results. He had a much better second half and also contributed his best defensive effort of the season in my opinion. He had a few strong tackles, cleaning things up at least twice for Jeb Brovsky when the left back was beaten.

I think the fullbacks are the biggest problem area right now for New York. Brovsky and Williams both struggled against Philadelphia. To my eyes Brovsky doesn’t have the speed required to recover when he pushes forward which leaves a lot space behind for opponents to exploit on the counter. Williams is a liability because of his decision-making. He made up for it yesterday by assisting on Villa’s equalizer, but long term it’s not an ideal fit. It was nice to see Kwame Watson-Siriboe get a run at the end of the game, he might figure in as part of a solution. If Kwamekazi can settle in at center back it gives Kreis the option of moving Wingert to his natural spot out wide. Then he can rotate Williams and Brovsky or the other side, or work in an alternative like Shay Facey. It’s something to watch.

It’s getting harder to argue that Khiry Shelton shouldn’t start. He’s so obviously one of the most talented players on the team. The whole offense clicked in the second half after he came on – again. Some of the issues in the first 45 minutes might have been related to shaking off the cobwebs, but things picking up when Shelton comes on is starting to become a trend. It’s unfortunate that he’s getting subbed on for Velasquez because they’re both very useful players but there’s not a clear alternative. I guess you could pull Nemec off and play Velasquez in central midfield to get Shelton on, but I don’t think that’s a great idea. Villa needs a partner up front and I still think Nemec has a role to play. Taking off Ned Grabavoy is probably a complete non-starter for Kreis, as it should be. The old vet has played pretty well so far. The platoon situation is probably here to stay for a while unfortunately. Not to bring everything back to Frank Lampard, but it won’t be any easier to find space for both Shelton and Velasquez once the Englishman arrives this summer.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Those ad boards on the side of the field need some kind of padding. I know virtually every team has them and they’re preferable to any advertising alternative (more commercials or and ad taking up a large portion of the screen). But it’s also a dangerous setup for the players as Sebastien Le Toux showed us yesterday. Some minor pushing and shoving with Jason Hernandez resulted in a gashed arm for Le Toux after he stumbled into the board off the end line. Seems like an easy fix for the league. It’ll cost a couple bucks but it’s worth it for player safety.
  • Good effort by the Sons of Ben with their sign on the River End: “Hey Lampard, (oh wait never mind)”.  I laughed.
  • New York could have blown this game open in the second half. The final result was very misleading in my eyes, could have easily had two or three goals with slightly better execution. But that’s how it goes.
  • On that note, it should have been at least two for NYC, at least from what I saw. Villa connected with Nemec immediately after Philly’s opening goal for what should have been an equalizer, but the linesman ruled that the ball had crossed the end line before Villa made the final pass. Looked like a bad call to me.

Fortunately New York has a chance for immediate revenge at Yankee Stadium this Thursday night.  Without Mix Diskerud it seems – his name is on the USA roster list that was released just as I’m finalizing this post.  Unfortunate timing, coming off one of his better performances.

It’s the first weeknight game in NYCFC history and I’m looking forward to it. Although I’ll very likely be one of those assholes who shows up to the game in work attire.

 

*Photo from Stefan Ogrisek’s flickr

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Comments

  1. Nice recap and tough loss. I also LOL when I saw Sons of Ben sign. Clever!

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