Post-Match Thoughts – Game 6 – NYCFC 1, Philadelphia Union 1



Going into the back-to-back games with Philadelphia – widely considered the worst team in MLS heading into last weekend – most agreed that New York had a good chance of picking up six points, four if you were being conservative. Instead they came away with one. Jason Kreis’ side controlled large chunks of both games, but missed chances and late defensive lapses proved costly.

This one was harder to take. I thought New York was the better team at PPL Park last Saturday and fully expected an inspired performance at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. They dominated first two-thirds or so of the second half, but as the game wore on you could feel things starting to slip. It was one of those situations where the chances were coming pretty frequently but the urgency wasn’t really there – New York already had a goal and it felt like they were in control. I just assume they’d get another. Without about 15-20 minutes to go the sustained attacking pressure started to fade and gradually the mood changed – it started to feel like one goal wouldn’t be enough. C.J. Sapong confirmed made sure of that in the 86th minute.

It was a draw that felt like a loss. New York has only secured two points from the last four games.

It’s not all bad though. One of the unique things about watching a team come together from scratch is that through six games we still don’t really know who the best 11 are. Neither does Kreis. But after watching the two youngsters in extended appearances on Thursday night, it’s clear that Kwadwo Poku and Khiry Shelton need to play as much as possible. We can ignore the fact that both players seem to have more composure and superior technical ability than many of their veteran counterparts. What really stands out is how physically imposing both players are on the field. They’re huge, they’re fast and both are capable of overwhelming the opposition’s defenders.

It’s amazing to me that Poku hasn’t gotten more time on the field so far this season. Both times we’ve seen him it’s because other players were absent. Against Kansas City the team was missing multiple attacking players either through injury or absence for national team duty. On Thursday Mix Diskerud was unavailable because he’d played for USA in San Antonio the night before (and played pretty damn well).

Based on his two appearances I hope Kreis decides to work Poku into the rotation more frequently. He looked so comfortable on the ball Thursday night, controlling play in central midfield. It’s amazing to say but Poku coming on for Villa really sparked the attack – just goes to show how much more influential midfielders are than strikers. Villa – due to the nature of his position – needs service, whereas Poku can drive things forward himself. Ideally both will be on the field tomorrow.

The most surprising thing about the starting roster was seeing Javier Calle at left back. It was a new approach from Kreis and I thought it went well enough to warrant another look tomorrow evening. Calle’s decision making isn’t the best – the guy thinks he can score from anywhere – but he’s more skillful than either Jeb Brovsky or Josh Williams. Calle didn’t have any obvious issues from a defensive standpoint and he’s a lot more capable bringing the ball forward. While Calle was brought in to play a more attacking role, this assignment allows Kreis to maximize the talent on the field. If they can just reel him in a little bit and minimize the speculative shots from a mile out, it could be a good long-term fit.

Quick Thoughts: 

  • I mentioned this on Twitter after the game, but it’s worth mentioning again – great performance by the supporter’s section on Thursday night. It was certainly the loudest and most organized showing in the three home games to date. Especially nice to see after all the online infighting after the SKC game. The setup of Yankee Stadium doesn’t exactly help the supporter’s groups from an acoustic standpoint. The only thing I can really compare it to is Red Bull Arena, where the chants really reverberate around the building nicely. At NYCFC games the supporters have to be really loud for me to hear anything in my seats on the opposite side of the field, and I definitely noticed them on Thursday night so that’s a great sign.  Also nice work by whoever brought the smoke bomb in – I know virtually everything is banned by Yankees ownership but you have to try anyway.
  • Did Jason Kreis used to take players off at the half frequently at Real Salt Lake? It’s something I’ve noticed this season – both Villa and Jason Hernandez were subbed off at the half on Thursday. I think Sebastian Velasquez was pulled off at halftime on Saturday. It’s not something you often see in soccer, although I guess with three games in eight days Kreis might just be trying to conserve players’ energy.
  • It’s going to be a hell of a lot more enjoyable going to these games now that it’s warmed up. Thursday night was a much nicer experience than the first two games. Should be a fun summer.

Ticket holders get to head back to the stadium tomorrow evening for another game. It’s a quick turnaround but I like it – two games in four days really makes you feel like a season ticket holder if that makes any sense. The games are starting to feel like a regular occurrence, not a novelty. Portland is supposedly bringing along a pretty sizable number of fans, which should create a great atmosphere. Hope to have a lengthier recap of that game up tomorrow night.


*Photo from Cyndy Sims Parr’s flickr

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