Post-Match Thoughts – Game 7 – Portland Timbers 1, NYCFC 0

Wood Pile

PORTLAND 1, NEW YORK 0

It’s been a week to forget for New York City FC. After consecutive disappointing performances against Philadelphia, tonight’s game against Portland felt like an opportunity to turn things around. The Timbers began the night in last place in the Western Conference, fresh off a convincing defeat dealt out by Kaka and Orlando City FC last week. They also had to travel across the country for this game while NYCFC hasn’t had a real trip in nearly a month. Add it all up and this one felt like exactly the antidote New York needed. Instead it was more of the same.

New York dictated the flow of the game and lit up the stat sheet, but couldn’t deliver where it counted.

David Villa was unavailable for the second time this season and it’s officially time to worry about the fact that NYCFC can’t score without him. The numbers speak for themselves – New York’s scored five goals this season, Villa scored two of them and assisted on two others. Mehdi Ballouchy’s goal Thursday night against Philadelphia is the only one Villa wasn’t directly involved in. Both games he’s missed have been 1-0 defeats (tonight and SKC a few weeks ago). I know it’s early, but I think it’s fair to start being a little concerned.

They’re not even really creating great chances without Villa. It’s like there’s a force field arcing out from the goal to the penalty spot. Tonight it was an endless series of crosses (34 in total) that were either too long or broken up by Portland’s defense. Based on how thing played out it was actually a game that cried out for Adam Nemec, who was benched. I was hoping he’d be subbed on in the second half but Jason Kreis had other ideas.

Once again Patrick Mullins had a tough assignment. Kreis knows much more about soccer than I ever will, but I’m not sure why he’s opted to leave the young striker on an island twice now. New York’s played seven games so far this season; in five of them Villa and Nemec have started together up front. In the other two Mullins has started up front alone, and in both of those games New York has struggled to create real chances. I don’t think Mullins is to blame, there’s just not much he can do, particularly with poor service. New York had a high volume of crosses and half-chances tonight but nothing really made an impact. Nobody seemed capable of generating a great opportunity until the closing minutes, when debutant Pablo Alvarez sent Khiry Shelton through on goal; his close-range attempt was denied by keeper Adam Kwarasey.

In fact it was Shelton himself who had the hardest time tonight in what was his second career start. The young fan-favorite was heavily involved throughout, but he just couldn’t conjure up the maneuver required to beat the final man or make the final pass to set up a teammate. He seemed more hesitant than usual, like he was over-thinking things or maybe had just run out of ideas. Whatever it was, multiple promising sequences fizzled out with the ball at his feet. It’s only a minor blip but perhaps it’s a necessary reminder that Shelton is a rookie in the second month of his career, not a finished product.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Kwadwo Poku got a pretty huge ovation when he came on in the 74th minute, which was great to see. I don’t think it’ll be long now until he starts a game.
  • Portland fans were out in force and made a nice impression; they were super well coordinated throughout. I couldn’t make out any of their cheers, mostly because the NYCFC supporters were a lot louder, but you can see how strong their club culture is even away from home. Something for NYCFC fans to model.
  • Javier Calle was solid again at left back. As far as I’m concerned he should be first choice going forward. Great job by Kreis working that one out.
  • Tonight’s subway ride to the game was easily the worst so far. The 4 was delayed and people were jammed in from Grand Central on up to the stadium. Add in a few drunk soccer fans and a few prickly locals who couldn’t possibly have cared less that people were trying to get to a game and things turned testy, although it stopped short of becoming a full blown conflict. Might be time to start going up on the way early side.

The scheduling gods are smiling on New York right now. What better for an anemic offense than an opponent with scoring problems of its own? Chicago’s on deck and they’re tied with NYCFC for second-fewest goals scored so far this season (five). If you’re watching the game in Vegas take the under. If you’re watching anywhere else at least have a drink in advance because it’s unlikely to be an offensive clinic.

 

 

*Photo from Chris RubberDragon’s flickr

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