The mission for NYCFC is finding a way to score goals, a lapse that has been attributed to their slide as they battle for a top playoff position in the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Goals were much easier to find when Valentin Castellanos did that often.
The complexion, though, of the defending MLS Cup champions changed when Castellanos took an offer and his golden foot on loan to Girona FC in Spain and is now scoring goals thousands of miles away from New York. It’s not difficult to say that NYCFC has been lacking in finding ways to find the net.
The void of not having Castellanos, the league leader in goals last year, was reflected with a 1-6-2 record since his departure. Interim coach Nick Cushing has utilized different formations in the pitch with attempts to get his team in position for a top playoff seed.
Wednesday evening at Citi Field, home again in New York after a long road swing, there were some good signs and perhaps a 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati is what Cushing and his team needed as they have closed the door of no longer having Castellanos.
Basically, it’s simple. NYCFC needs to score goals and compile the points so they can make a move in the standings, and this could have been a start, despite failing to get three points and a decisive win.
Cushing has been frustrated about the lack of scoring and defending goals going into the opposite net. Saturday, after a 3-0 loss at New England, the frustration was etched with his comments to turn this around.
The coach changed the lines against a Cincinnati team that is also fighting for a playoff seed, but there was some relief as NYCFC remained in fourth place one point behind the rival Red Bulls, and both teams meet for an important match at Yankee Stadium next Saturday in the Bronx.
Cushing said his team played better, though the goals were still hard to find, and he hopes for more improvement Saturday on the road with another important match at Charlotte FC.
“I think we did a lot better tonight,” he said. “We created a lot of opportunities, and we came up against a goalkeeper who made two really good saves. Of course, we need to be more clinical when we get the ball in the box, and we had those moments tonight.”
He reiterated, “Of course, we will work harder and focus more to make sure we put this right.”
But costly mistakes have also been an issue. Thiago Martins scored the lone goal in the first half to give Cincinnati the lead. He also drew a red card in the 76th minute that denied NYCFC a possible scoring opportunity and eventually left them one man short in the match,
And, in the 41st minute, Gabriel Pereira was issued a yellow card after scoring his seventh goal of the season because he took off his shirt, a violation of MLS league rules. Cushing would defend his player like any coach would, despite the technicality that came with emotion of the moment.
“Of course, it is a cheap yellow card, but these guys play with so much passion and so much emotion that it is just a decision in the moment,” he said.
Regardless, the emphasis is to score more often in a league that thrives on offense. NYCFC had some opportunities and again they failed to see the net after a first half of a 17-1 advantage in shots that included eight to the target.
In Charlotte, NYCFC will also face another obstacle due to yellow cards that prevent Thiago Martins, Maxime Chanot, and Nicolas Acevedo from being in the pitch, and they comprise many of the different formations the coach has been using to get those goals that have been hard to find.
Call this adversity, the mix of a tough schedule, or recite any number of excuses, regardless the coach is optimistic after this draw despite NYCFC not recording a win in their last four matches.
“It’s massive, in a tough time like this I think it’s massive to get a point,” said defender Tayvon Gray who had a role with the Pereira game tying goal. “Even when we did get the red (card), I still think we dominated the game for the most part. I guess I’m happy with the point. We go again at the weekend.”
An important stretch for NYCFC and, yes, a point in the standings with this draw. But they need three points and the way to do that is find those goals that have been difficult to get.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network