(NYC FC goaltender Josh Saunders – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
New York City Football Club lost another tough one at Yankee Stadium, this one a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon.
August has been a tough month for NYC FC, as they have just one win, four losses and a draw this month.
This one left NYC FC with a 7-14-7 record, for 28 points, on the cusp of a playoff spot, as they are tied with Montreal for the sixth and final playoff spot, but Montreal has four games in hand.
This was only the second this this season, the other being August 9th at the Red Bulls, when NYC FC midfielder Frank Lampard was in the starting lineup alongside his fellow European imports David Villa and Andrea Pirlo.
It was a similar story for NYC’s three designated players, as Villa got plenty of chances, most of which from the left side of the field; Pirlo was bottled up in the midfield, and Lampard looked very rusty and played satisfactorily.
Lampard said of how he felt physically today, “All right. I can’t be at my best if I’ve only trained days rather than weeks. This is a perfect break actually to get some training in – two weeks. That [60 minutes] was the max. I’ve had problems with injuries here. I’ve had muscle injuries and I’ve been pushing to try and get back. These next two weeks will be a godsend to get match fit because it’s not easy after days of training, really. I need a bit of base fitness. Fortunately, I’ll get that and hopefully after I’ll contribute more myself.”
NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis said of Lampard’s performance, “It was very good to see him out there. I think he was connecting on runs pretty darn well. Had a lot of positive play. I would say he’s definitely not match fit, but gave us 60 quality minutes.”
Lampard was pulled in the 60th minute for Kwadwo Poku, who got a huge ovation from the crowd. That says a lot about the New York fans, and this is true for all sports; they latch on to the underdog, in this case a player who has been here all season.
Pirlo said of this team meshing together, “Unfortunately, we play well for 15 or 20 minutes, then we don’t for 30 minutes, then we play well for another 30 minutes. Unfortunately, we don’t do very good team play because we don’t know each other very well. It’s a very young team. We need a bit of time to get to know each other better and to work better together.”
Columbus got on the board early, as Federico Higuain headed one in off a feed from a corner kick by Wil Trapp to make it 1-0 in the 10th minute.
Pirlo said of what he saw during Columbus’ opening goal, “Unfortunately, I saw that there was one guy that was not being watched by anybody, so I left my position and I went there to take care of it. And, you know, that’s it.”
NYC FC did not take too long to respond, and it came from an unexpected source. In the 29th minute, NYC FC defender Jason Hernandez sent a long pass ahead to Patrick Mullins, who used his chest to knock it down. He then passed it off to Andrew Jacobson, who fired a rocket from 25 yards out, at the left side of the top of the box, to tie the score at 1-1.
It was Jacobson’s sixth goal in Major League soccer competition in his career and first since June 22nd 2013.
Despite pouring in 12 shots, NYC FC could not get another one in the first half and the game remained tied at 1.
The second half was largely quiet until the 80th minute when NYC got some pressure on the net. Pirlo got a shot off from the top of the box, which was blocked, and the ball found its way to Villa, who missed from the left side.
In the 82nd, it looked like Columbus had a goal. The play began with NYC FC goalie Josh Saunders making a great save, but the rebound went to Harrison Afful, who found Kei Kamara on the left side, and he put it in the net. Two problems: Kamara was offsides and it was a handball, for which he was given a yellow card.
A minute later, NYC FC was sloppy at midfield, giving it away to Columbus, and Higuain found Justin Meram coming down the left side. Meram blew it by Saunders to make it 2-1 Columbus in the 83rd minute.
Kreis said of the cost of turnovers in the defensive end, “Obviously, it’s going to be difficult when you lose the ball close to your goal. There’s not much distance for the other team to cover, to get at it, and then obviously make too many passes before striking near your goal. The reactions from the players when things go wrong need to be more positive. They need to be quicker.”
NYC FC was stunned and they did not get all that many chances in the final ten minutes. They got a corner kick in the 93rd minute, right at the end of extra time. Pirlo took it, and it was controlled by the Columbus defense, and the referee blew the whistle to end the game as they took it up the field.
Kreis said of what Columbus did well in this one, “I think Columbus did a lot of things well. I think that they were overloading the right side to get us down the right side a ton in the first half. I think it’s a team that has a very good idea of how and when and where they want to attack. And I think they also, in the second half, didn’t allow us—after they gained the lead – to enter their half as is typical. They kept pressing, kept a positive mindset, kept an aggressive mindset. I think they deserved the three points.”
NYC FC forward Patrick Mullins said of the key to getting a complete, 90-minute performance out of the team, “It’s concentration and taking it personally. A level of commitment and character. I think most players in the League can do it for short spans at a time. It’ something I individually want to put together a full 90 minutes. I think those are the things that will help us and me do that.”
Mullins said of evaluating his performance from today’s match, which was his first start since July 18th at New England, “I thought I was pretty sharp at times. I thought I did well creating a goal. I’d like to put a couple more of my chances on frame. Other than that, like I said, the game is won in the final third and didn’t help us win that as much as I should’ve.”