Panic: NYCFC drop another Open Cup Match

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NYCFC Open Cup

I know, I know. I was there. I saw the whole thing. Me and ostensibly 11,000 New York soccer fans. And everyone who supports City and watched NYCFC drop another Open Cup Match are tearing their hair out. And with good reason. Or rather, with five good reasons.

Another Open Cup, another early NYCFC exit

It’s maddening, isn’t it? Even one lousy win would feel like progress. Yes, everyone knew that squaring off against the Red Bulls would be much trickier than, say the Cosmos or some USL side (no offense intended to those leagues). And sure, perhaps NYCFC should have won their first Open Cup match back in 2015. But they didn’t, and now every time NYCFC drop another Open Cup Match it feels like a thing.

Did it have to be the Red Bulls?

As the fans in the parking lot reminded me ad nauseum afterwards, NYCFC are 1-6 now against their bovine brethren. So as frustrating as an early exit from the tournament would have been under any circumstances, losing to these guys was particularly depressing. Not that Red Bulls fans would rub our noses in it. Much.

The goal that wasn’t a goal

How did that not go in? How did that not go in TWICE?

Maxi Moralaz is injured and I don’t feel so well myself

When Moralaz was slow to get up at the end of the first half, City fans held their breath. When the team started the second half without him, they became concerned. When what had been a relatively even match in the first half turned into one-way traffic headed down Sean Johnson’s throat, they began to worry. And when they read that he won’t be available for Saturday’s match, they began to freak out.

And now there are reports that Ronald Matarrita, who the team has been waiting to come off injury, pulled himself out of training. Good grief – guy makes it through another set of World Cup qualifiers but hits the pitch in Purchase and boom, injured? Terrific.

And speaking of Saturday’s match

Yeah, it’s against the defending MLS Cup champions. Now sure, the Seattle Sounders are not in Cup-winning form right now – they’re currently sitting sixth in the Western Conference. But they did beat the Portland Timbers this week to advance to the round of 16 in the Open Cup. And anyway any team that features Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, and Nicolas Lodeiro can not be ignored, no matter where they are in the table.

But hold on a second.

Yes, supporters have a right to be a bit disgruntled, worried, frustrated and even angry after watching NYCFC drop another Open Cup Match. But there are also a few things to be optimistic about. No, really.

This was NYCFC’s best Open Cup effort yet.

Of the three Open Cup matches, NYCFC looked best in this one. Yes, the 2015 match against the NY Cosmos was probably technically closer (NYCFC lost on penalty kicks). But the 2017 Red Bulls are a far superior team to the 2015 Cosmos, and losing to them by one goal – a goal that was a gift from NYCFC’s own defense – is frankly a net improvement.

As much as you hate to admit it, the Red Bulls are a good team

So losing to them 1-0 – when they essentially fielded their starting XI – is not an embarrassment. Had NYCFC lost to the Red Bulls B team, sure, hat would be different. But they didn’t. BradleyWright-Phillips was on the pitch – and did not score. Sascha Klestjan was on the pitch, and shot only once. The only person of note who didn’t suit up for the Red Bulls was Luis Robles, and while that’s a big deal, it’s not a game changer.

Maxime Chanot was not on the pitch – and he likely will be on Saturday

Chanot has been the rock the backline has been looking for since its inception. Smart, athletic, passionate, committed. And his communication with both Alexander Callens and with Alex Ring has created the defensive foundation that the team has been begging for. Because when you have a team that relies on the attack as much as this one does, every player must be confident that they can make a run without leaving a gaping hole behind them. Chanot has been central to that confidence – and it is no small thing that he was not a part of the side on Wednesday.

Ben Sweat keeps getting chances – and he’s a defender

Maybe you think that’s a bad thing. Maybe you think that should be something we just want David Villa to do. Or Jack Harrison. Or Tommy McNamara. But me, I’ll take goals where ever they come from (lest you forget, the last two goals NYCFC scored this season came from the defense). One would like to think that with each game, Sweat gets a little more comfortable in front of goal. Which means other teams have to pay attention to him. Which means they’re not paying attention to David Villa. Or Jack Harrison. Or Tommy McNamara. Which is just what we want.

Jon Lewis again looked really good. 

We knew the kid was fast. We learned he had a nice touch and good ball handling skills. On Wednesday he we saw him being fearless – running right at defenders, fighting for balls, and causing headaches for defenders who were fairly worn out by the time he showed up. How he fits into the starting XI I don’t know, but it’s a nice problem for Patrick Vieira to have.

Rodney Wallace is available

We talked a little bit in our last NYCFC piece about the noticeable difference in David Villa’s game when he does not have Rodney Wallace on the wing. Is it any coincidence that El Capitan has been sitting on 49 goals since the Costa Rican national went on international duty?

Also remember that Wallace spent four seasons with the Portland Timbers, and therefore has a familiarity with the Rose City’s Cascadia rivals that is unequalled by any one on NYCFC. Oh, and he also scores goals. Which NYCFC could really use on Saturday.

And so is Yangel Hererra

Sure, he’s 19. Sure, he’s probably still recovering from the U-20 World Cup. And sure, he probably doesn’t have the level of familiarity with his teammates that one would want. But this kid has some serious game – game which the Red Bulls did not get to see on Wednesday when they helped NYCFC drop another Open Cup Match. But which they may very well experience on June 24th. Which means that his sitting out the Open Cup match may not have been such a bad thing.

Oh and by the way, if you want to watch him, do it soon, because one has to believe he’ll be on his way to the Premiership in short order. But not before Saturday.

I think. Not that I’m panicking…

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