Not the same inter borough rivalry across town with the Yankees and Mets but Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium NYCFC had their MLS Eastern division clash again with Atlanta United. Two teams near each other for the top spot and meeting for the last time this season.
And with the mid-season point of their schedule, NYCFC wanted this one. They got the 1-1 tie, good enough for the point but not that commanding win after their first meeting ended in a 2-2 draw back in April.
This is a team that wants the cup when all is said in done in late October. They have come to realize that the postseason means going further than two straight Eastern Conference semi-final defeats. They have the nucleus on this roster to go further and expect that as players come and go.
But as they left Yankee Stadium for their two week hiatus, in this portion of a season because of World Cup competition, NYCFC is confident with a 8-3-4 mark. But this team has a prevailing attitude to improve before resuming their schedule with their next match at Yankee Stadium in two weeks against Toronto FC.
“I think what we need to improve is our defensive side of the game,” said coach Patrick Vieira. “I think we gave a lot of goals away. I would like to improve my team character wise. I think especially this year away from home. We have to fight to work a little bit harder, be a little bit more ourselves. But I think if we improve that side of the game, I think we will have a good chance to win trophies at the end of the season.”
This does not mean that the coach is dissatisfied. There is always room for improvement and with an Atlanta team that came in leading the league in points, 30 goals scored, and with 9 wins at home and four on the road, getting one point in the standings instead of three can’t be all that bad.
However this NYCFC team always leaves room for improvement. The coach strives for that mentality to always improve and has since the beginning of the season. They attacked Saturday afternoon and gave up a goal early in the second half.
Alex Callens scored his first goal of the season in the 77th minute. That tying goal off a feed from David Villa, and with a roar from 25,628, certainly showed that mentality of a team that may not need improvement when controlling the ball. But there is always need for improvement as one of the top teams in the MLS.
“Collectively. I think we’re the best team,” he said. “ I don’t think there is another team that pressures quite like we do and we win our second chance opportunities. I think we did that today against a team who is in first and who offensively is one of the best in the league.”
Again, at the mid point of their season it will take more on the defensive side to stop a team like Atlanta. Four ties can be a win, but three points is the way to win in this league, With their lone goal scored, NYCFC has 30 on the season,, allowed 20, and Villa leads with eight.
“Finally we have identity,” said Villa. “You can win, you can lose, you can draw in a good game like today but we have identity. You see the team, it’s only three and a half years old. We’ve become strong.”
NYCFC had possession over 60 percent of the time, so there continues to be minimal issues there, and took 25 shots.
Villa, the reigning league MVP and international star has the support. Yes, overall this is a good soccer team and the results are showing at the mid point. He said it has been like ten years of progress and Atlanta had their All-Star in goal, Brad Guzan who also stopped five of ten shots from Villa. Guzan gets respect, a career high 10- saves.
NYCFC is two points behind Atlanta for the top spot in the conference. They can get to the top and a hiatus may do them good. And they expect to be at the top because the goal is that cup that has eluded them in this short period of their existence.
“Wanted to go into the break in first place,” said their goal keeper Sean Johnson. “Expectation is always to be the number one team. He failed to stop a goal this time but there is always room for improvement.
Because as Johnson said, “Happy with mentality. But won’t be satisfied till we are hosting some silverware.”
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitetr@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso