(NYC FC’s Thomas McNamara after his goal – Photo courtesy of NYC FC)
New York City Football Club had their Big 3 of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard together for the first time, but it was not enough for them to get by the Montreal Impact, who won it 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
This was kind of a transition game for NYC FC, as they worked in a lot of new players into the lineup. It was Pirlo’s second game, and the first time he played the full 90 minutes. Lampard made his long-anticipated debut and played the final 20 minutes. The defense comprised of Angelino and Andoni Iraola, both in their fourth games with the team; Jefferson Mena in just his second game, and Jason Hernandez, who made a rare start due to Chris Wingert being out due to a hamstring injury.
While the focus was on working in these new players, NYC FC is battling Montreal for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With the win, Montreal improved to 8-8-3, with 27 points, to NYC FC’s 24 points with a 6-10-6 record.
NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis on Lampard, Villa, and Pirlo, as well as new defenders playing together, and the balance assessing their performance with his feelings about the loss, “We’re all born competitors. Any time we lose a game we are going to be extremely disappointed. Looking past just the result, I was more disappointed with the first 45 minutes. The performance for me was poor. I know that it was hot out there and I know that these are difficult games to play in, but there was another team out there that had more energy and more effort and more commitment than we did for 45 minutes. I’m really pleased with the response we had in the second half. And I’m also pleased that our team is coming together. This is not an easy place to be in in the middle of the season and to have as many changes as we’ve had. We need to continue to move forward and make efforts to improve.”
McNamara said of the loss while taking into account the new faces out there, “It was a big game, it was a huge opportunity for us. We’re not happy with it, we’re not happy with the first half, we’re not happy with going down 2-0 and having to fight back into the game, that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
It didn’t take long for Montreal to get on the board, as Dominic Oduro took advantage of a breakdown in the NYC FC defense to score in the 5th minute and make it 1-0. They got another one in the 32nd minute when they sent a long ball into Ignacio Platini at the top of the box and he buried it to make it 2-0 Montreal.
NYC FC got only two shots, neither on target in the first half, as the Montreal defense was stifling. They prevented David Villa from getting open down the field to receive the long passes from Andrea Pirlo that worked to perfection last Sunday against Orlando City.
In the second half, NYC FC started to break through, drawing a couple of corner kicks and getting some space. Mix Diskerud and Kwadwo Poku were brought on in the 59th minute to give the offense a spark. The fans had one guy on their mind, as they had only one substitution left, and they started chanting “We Want Lampard!” in the 64th minute.
It was at that time that NYC FC midfielder Thomas McNamara came down the left side, and Montreal defender Ambroise Oyongo kicked the ball away. A penalty was called, as Oyongo clipped McNamara’s feet and knocked him down. David Villa took the penalty kick and NYC FC was back within a goal, at 2-1.
At this moment, what New York City FC fans have waited a long time for finally happened, as Frank Lampard was sent into the game in the 69th minute. Kreis said of Lampard’s debut, “We needed to limit Frank to under 30 minutes. 25 was the answer and I think it was good timing because we just scored the goal and we needed another emotional push. He had good moments and bad moments. It’s a transition period and he looked a bit rusty and that’s how it’s going to be. He hasn’t played a competitive match since May and he has had an injury that he’s been struggling with. We hope with a full week of training we will see an improved performance next week.”
This was the moment when Villa, Pirlo, and Lampard finally were united, and McNamara said of the 3 DP’s all being on the field at the same time, “It feels good. You can feel the buzz of the fans. You could see it last week with Pirlo coming on the pitch. You could see it today with Lampard coming on the pitch. You hear it every time David scores a ridiculous goal. I think the atmosphere that is created can filter into the rest of the team and can make a big difference over the course of the season.”
In the 84th minute, NYC FC goalie Josh Saunders was called for a penalty as he took down a Montreal player going by him on a shot attempt. Saunders, who was angered by the play, said afterwards,”Watch the replay, that’s all I can say. Just watch the replay.”
Piatti took the penalty kick and buried it for his second goal of the game to make it 3-1 Montreal.
A minute later, on a play set up by Angelino and Villa, McNamara got it back, cutting Montreal’s lead to 3-2 in the 85th minute.
Kreis said of Thomas McNamara being an underrated talent, “I think Tommy McNamara’s performances need to be spoken about more. He was the only player in the first half that was moving and really trying to make something happen when we had the ball. That effort was fantastic on his part and he was rewarded by scoring the goal in the second half. He’s a player I think is really showing some hunger to push things on to do well for himself and this team.”
McNamara said of the praise from Kreis, “That’s what I expect of myself. I expect to put an effort in every time I step on the field representing this club and this fan base and my family and my friends and this state. That’s what I expect out of myself.”
Villa kept firing away in the final minutes, including quality chances in the 90th and 92nd minutes that Montreal goalie Evan Bush made great saves on.
Andrea Pirlo said of the performance, “It wasn’t a great game. As I said last time, it takes time to build the team. Unfortunately we were scored on at the very beginning. But we did our best and we will keep on improving.”
Pirlo said of earning his teammates’ trust, “It takes time to create a closeness and to find the right mechanism as a team altogether.”
The NYC FC backline was an issue in this one, and Kreis said of their performance, “We’re trying to be more coordinated. Both goals came in very similar fashion – long balls over the top. And then the connection between the goalkeeper and the back four. With a little bit clearer communication and quicker decision making – I don’t think both of those are goals.”
NYC FC goalie Josh Saunders said of the performance of the back four, “Communication needs to be better. Spacing needs to be better. We need to be a little bit more aware of where everyone is. It takes time. We will get better.”
On team chemistry with new players, Saunders said, “We need to be winning games and getting shutouts. It’s going to take time – but we don’t have time right now. We don’t have that luxury. We need points. We need to work harder and we need to be better. We will move forward and get better – including myself.”
Saunders said of the team missing Chris Wingert, who is basically the captain of the defense, “He’s obviously a big character in our group, speaks a lot, has great communication. You know, with whatever group we put out there, we should be able to win games.”
Saunders said of the goals, “It was frustrating for me because today I was not consistent. I made two bad decisions and they lead to two goals. I need to get back to being consistent with my play and making better decisions. We need to win some games.”
On four home games in a row giving up 3 goals, Saunders said, “It’s frustrating to not do it in front of the home fans. You look at the quality we have in the team – we’re going to start winning. The fans believe. We believe in ourselves. We just have to put the effort out on the field.”