New York City Football Club lost its first game ever on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, a 1-0 nailbiter to Sporting Kansas City. NYC FC opened the season with a win and two ties going into this one.
The deciding goal came very early, as Ike Opara scored in the 12th minute off a sideline throw-in by Matt Besler, something you don’t see often. NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis said of that goal, “Yeah, Matt Besler has a very long throwing arm and Kansas City loves to take advantage of that at every opportunity. It was not a surprise to us, we talked about it yesterday in the preparation meeting. We showed lots of video about it and it’s also very clear that Opara is the target for them, and we put our tallest guy on him to mark him, but unfortunately, Opara just beat him to the ball.”
NYC FC was without their star forward David Villa, who was out with an abductor strain injury. Kreis said of when he knew Villa would miss this game, “Yesterday, we took him out early from the training session to do some work on his own, hopefully it would build into an ability to get involved with the rest of the team. We tried to do that with the very last activity and he quickly said that it wasn’t going to work.”
On how the team has managed Villa’s injury, “We’ve been managing it actually since before the Orlando City match (on March 8th), and every single game we’ve kind of gotten to a point where we were very questionable about whether he was going to be available for that match. He’s managed through the pain and swelling, and we’ve been doing treatments with him pretty much nonstop to give him the best opportunity to play. Every time, the prior three weeks, the day before the game he would say ‘yeah, it feels good,’ and yesterday was the first time where it’s just like, ‘no, the pain is too unbearable this time,’ so we believe strongly that with now a week off, where he will do nothing but strengthening and physiotherapy. He won’t get involved with the team at all and, in training sessions, that we believe that we can get him in the right place to build up the following week to be ready for the Philadelphia match (on April 11th).”
The NYC offense, with Javier Calle in place of Villa, was slow to get going in the first half, only getting two shots on target.
In the second half, Kreis pulled Calle for Tony Taylor, and that sparked the offense. NYC spaced out more than they had all game and that led to many chances and a couple of corner kicks. Kreis said of his substitutes, Taylor and Kwadwo Poku, ”
One of NYC’s biggest chances came in the 75th minute when it appeared it was a foul on Kansas City and NYC was awarded a kick in the box. Instead, the referees got together and the foul was overturned.
NYC FC defender Chris Wingert said of that, “I have no idea, you’d have to ask him (the referee), I’ve never seen that before, where you call a penalty and it turns into a drop ball right inside the penalty area. I’ve never seen that before, I’m not sure what the call was…I don’t really know what to say. I’ve never seen that before, I’m not sure what the final call was.”
I asked Wingert if he thought it was a handball, and he said, “I don’t know, I just saw him point to the spot, I assumed that it was a hand ball. I saw him point to the spot, he went over, had about a five-minute conversation, I don’t know what said about obviously, then it turned into a drop ball inside the penalty area…I don’t know.”
NYC FC midfielder Mix Diskerud said of the play, “I didn’t really see it, if it wasn’t a penalty, then it wasn’t a penalty, then I’m happy it wasn’t called a penalty if it wasn’t supposed to be one.”
NYC FC had a golden opportunity in extra time, when they got a corner kick, and Diskerud took the kick and got it right into the middle of the box to Andrew Jacobson, whose strike went wide.
Mix said of the loss, “It always stings, it’s not fun to lose, and at least not a home game, so just go right home right now, lie in bed for a long time and probably fall asleep at three o’clock in the morning, that’s what happens when you lose.”
Kreis said of what NYC FC did well tonight and what they can do better, “I was really pleased again with the second-half response. After going a goal down, and the effort that the guys put forth in the second half, and the commitment level that they showed trying to do anything that they could to get that tying goal I think is important. It’s important to show what these guys are made of; I’m pleased with that. But again, I’m a little bit perplexed as to why we seem to be taking an entire half to figure that out. I don’t know why in many of the games we’ve been good in the first half. I think you have to be when you’re at home. I think you have to come out incredibly sharp with a lot of enthusiasm and energy in order to pin the opponent back in the first half when you’re home, and so we need to improve on that. We still need to improve on creating possession to create attacking chances. We finished the first half with, I believe, 60-something percent of possession, but it wasn’t too many good goal-scoring chances. We’ve got to continue to make that possession meaningful and to create good chances.
“And I think, the honest truth is we need to improve in all phases. This is our fourth game ever, it’s a brand new team. There still are signs in every single game that I can walk away and say we’re going to be a good team,” said Kreis.
Defender Jason Hernandez said of any positives they can take from this game, “It’s a brand new team, we’re figuring it out as we go. The reality is, if you look at the stat sheet, I think we did pretty well in the possession and pretty well in the shots, all the categories that you want to do well in, so we’re doing something right. Unfortunately, it’s a cruel game and sometimes that doesn’t lead up to wins, so it’s back to the drawing board and we’ll get ready for our next match…I think right now everyone’s unhappy and everyone’s aggravated, but that’s just the sport right, you play to win and so, anytime you don’t get a result your way, you’re not going to feel good about it. At the end of the day, we did a lot of things that we were trying to do. I thought we were dangerous for most of the night; I thought they weren’t dangerous for most of the night, and if we do that more times than not, we’ll come out on the right side of it (the scoresheet).”
Mix said of taking positives from this game, “Yeah, I mean, we had two halves where we had the ball most of them and feel like we controlled the game, that’s what you want and it hasn’t happened yet this season. We’ve always played not so good the first half and better the second half, but we lost the game, so it’s not fun at all.”