There is more than one sports franchise in the Bronx defying odds, as NYCFC wiped out the Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. They extend their unbeaten streak in all competitions to 14 straight, moving to 5-3-0 against those occupying the top of the table.
“I am very happy because we are in good form” said coach Torrent “but the most important thing is to improve every single game.”
That has been a tall ask of late, as the Pigeons saw their roster stripped of regulars only to be thrown into a blender of a schedule. But like their landlord the Yankees, the ‘next man up’ mantra is proving fortuitous, not only because of the obvious talent but by maintaining a steeled mentality.
“The mentality of the guys in the locker room is to step up when called upon.” said reserve Blues keeper Brad Stuver “The coaching staff train every player from 1-28 to be ready when their name is called.”
Coach Torrent and his staff have worked wonders as of late after a sluggish start to their time in the Bronx. But setting his players free to hunt in packs up field, feasting on any and all turnovers is paying significant dividends. Look no further than the difference between the 1st and 2nd half for evidence.
Starting with a conservative 4-4-1 instead their more natural 4-3-3, they seemed content so retain a strong defensive shape only to burst forward when stealing possession. It yielded them 68% of the possession but did little to produce in the final third, cue the 2nd half changes.
“We started soft and slow.” lamented Torrent “It doesn’t matter if it’s at Yankee Stadium or away, if you start to play soft, you will be punished.”
Switching to their free flowing 4-3-3, the Blues immediately sprang to life. Ravenous for space and goals, they were clearly the team more motivated to track down mistakes and turn them into goals.
“It seemed like after that first goal our guys dropped dead a little bit.” said Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer
Dropped dead then proceeded to be buried, as New York’s style of high press tore the Seattle to ribbons. Looking clustered and confused for the majority of the evening, they did not experience a shot on goal until the 67th minute, which came on a questionable foul call for a free kick.
“We had the mindset of if we lost the ball to press right away” Stuver observed “we got in the face of the Sounders players, not making it easy for them to play.”
But it was not a flawless performance, as some careless passes could have been converted to goals. But when taking stock of what has been happening with that “other” franchise in the Bronx, one cannot help but walk away impressed.
With the only loss of the season coming at the hands of a now stumbling Toronto team, NYCFC have a strong case for best in the league. It is a sentiment felt throughout the locker room, even if the league has yet to take notice.
“This league likes to focus on individual players rather than teams performing sometimes and that’s fine” said defender Ben Sweat “but we’re playing really good football right now and don’t need to complicate it, we just bring the energy and intensity.
Energy and intensity are sentiments not missed when taking in the rhythm of this team, no matter who is in the starting eleven. But if you are going to talk about a Bronx club with sights on shiny things, make room for the Pigeons.
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