NYCFC continued their climb of the MLS table Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew. Always difficult to pin down on the narrow pitch of Yankee Stadium, the Pigeons had what coach Dome called “one of the best first halves of the season”, though not without having “one of the worse second halves of the season”.
Point is this is now a club that can win games despite circumstances.
“When the game calls for having to grind it out, it is an important lesson to learn.”
Keeper Sean Johnson spoke truth to the evolution that is happening in the Bronx. While the ugly display of the 2nd half cannot be ignored, it is this team’s willingness to be accountable and adjust no matter the situation that impresses. Research any championship club throughout the history of time and you will find the same quality in every single one of them. Wednesday night against an always gritty Crew, the Blues showed their willingness to be flexible.
“We knew that Columbus were a counter-attacking team.” said the winger Matarrita “so coach decided to have us work on staying back and pressing forward when the time is right.”
As a team they adhered to their coaches tactics and shelved their all out attack in favor of a more reserved display. With the team keeping their wingers back on defense behind the captain Ring, it allowed the front three to roam with just Maxi Morales to assist them. This kept the back line intact even if having to sacrifice a bit of offense.
This worried no one in the locker room because as Anton Tinnerholm put it, “we know we’re going to score.”
The confidence of this club is high and the belief is real. It even prompted the usually reserved coach Dome to proclaim “Very happy, I love this team and I love the players; they’re family.”
One could not ask for better momentum, not only for Saturdays Hudson River Derby but especially going into the final nine games of the season. NYCFC are growing an ever stingier defense week by week whilst the attack looks the real deal.
Boasting Heber and Castellanos who have both reached double digits in goals cannot not be overlooked, specifically after the exit of Bronx legend David Villa. But having Maxi Morales act as their guiding light with his MLS leading and career high 17 assists seems glutinous. Needless to say Saturday’s Derby could not come at a better moment for the Blues.
“The most important game now is Red Bulls” said Dome clearly shifting his gaze upon their rivals, the game now glaring on their schedule. But as has become a team habit, the team mentality has already adjusted as Tinnerholm attested to saying “Red Bulls will play the pressure high and will be a completely different game, we have to manage that”
There will be plenty to play for Saturday night, especially after the catastrophe that was the officiating the last time these teams met in New Jersey. But even with all that strategic focus and keeping their eyes on the prize, this team never forgets what it would mean to their supporters.
As Castellanos put simply, “Hopefully, we can get the three points for the fans” and the odds look ever likelier, with NYCFC now sitting 1 point off the conference lead with one game in hand.
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