Editorial (September 19, 2017) – New York City FC played Colorado Rapids to a draw at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night. Thomas McNamara and Dominque Badji scored the goals. This match was a tale of two halves with second half attacking subs drawing the ire.
NYCFC Draw Colorado Rapids: Three Things I Noticed
McNamara and Badji both had good performances even without their goals. NYCFC dominated the first half, as the Rapids defense settled down as the match went on. Both coaches where disappointed to not get a win. With that, here’s three key takeaways from the match.
A Tale Of Two Halves: Rapids Defense And NYCFC Midfield:
New York City FC dominated the first thirty minutes of this game, if not the entire first half. They were very comfortable on the ball. Maximiliano Moralez and Tommy McNamara owned the middle channel, which helped score the goal. The Rapids didn’t have many ideas going forward, save for Joshua Gatt going at RJ Allen.
“We had a pretty slow start and one of those starts where it seems like we didn’t have the energy, even though we were in decent shape. We were looking a bit passive, after the first 25 minutes, we picked up the pace of the game. The second half I was really pleased with the energy and the commitment. I think the players got on the front foot and worked very hard for each other. We created those moments and I think at the end of the game, all three substitutes came on and made a fantastic impact,” said Rapids Interim Head Coach Steve Cooke after the match.
Colorado settled in as the game went on. The defense got comfortable. Jared Watts and Michael Azira adjusted well and were able to negate what NYCFC’s midfield was doing so well. As the second half wore on, they were more comfortable on the ball. The Rapids have a bad history this year of slow starts, but good half time adjustments. On the other side, NYCFC was probably starting to feel the affects of the altitude.
“When we play here, in Colorado, there are some players who get a bit more tired and we need to change players around,” said NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira after the match, visibly upset with the result. “We have to be more ruthless in front of goal and be more ruthless in the last thirty to forty yards. I think as a team, we give away goals that we shouldn’t if we want to compete in a higher level. We make too many mistakes as a team and we have to resolve those problems if we want to keep second place.”
Overall, neither team put in a 90 minute performance. NYCFC were playing without their best players. For Colorado, it was (not good enough) business as usual.
McNamara And Badji Coming Into Their Own:
Badji and McNamara scored the goals for their teams. McNamara worked that central channel for much of the game and combined well with his teammates. He’s worn the Captain’s Armband with David Villa out due to injury. With that he’s relished in the opportunity and made it count.
Vieira was very complementary of him after the game: “The beginning of the season was really tough for Thomas, he didn’t play a lot but he kept his head up and worked really hard in training. Every time he had the opportunity to play, he always gave it for the team. Today, he scored a fantastic goal, but we are starting to get used to that kind of goal [from] Thomas. The way he is working for the team and how smart his is on the field, he was fantastic again today.”
On the other side, Badji worked hard all match. Everytime he got the ball, he went forward and tried to make something happen. That’s exactly what he did in the 88th minute, and it led to a goal. “As soon as I won that ball, I knew I was going to goal. I wasn’t looking to pass, I want looking to do anything else but get the ball in the back of the net,” the forward said after the match.
“Badji works so hard, every day he comes into work, he is a top professional. He puts his time in before training and he stays late. He works on everything he needs to work on to become a good player and a good professional. As always, if you hit the target you got a great opportunity to score a goal. Badji keeps doing that and now he is a real threat in this league,” said Cooke about the goalscorer.
Veteran Attackers On The Mend:
Three key veterans came off the bench in this game: David Villa for NYCFC and Stefan Aigner and Shkelzen Gashi. All three are working their way back to fitness. Villa made his first appearance since an injury with the Spanish National Team. Gashi has been troubled with an Achilles injury for much of the season. Aigner is still getting fit after not having a proper off-season in Germany.
“Tonight, when [Stefan Aigner] came on I thought he made a great impact, as did all three substitutes. Stefan has real quality and you see moments today where he shows the ability of a top level player,” Cooke said after the match.
Villa didn’t do much in the 18 minutes he played, but his team was already running out of gas at that point. Gashi provided some good service from the run of play and on set pieces. This was Aigner’s first match at altitude in MLS. He made some good runs and had a decent chance on a set piece from Gashi in the final stages.
All three had good enough performances for their supporters to be encouraged. Villa’s health will be key to New York City getting ready for the playoffs. Gashi and Aigner showed that if they start together, they can do good things for the Rapids. That might have to wait till 2018 though.
There were a few noteworthy things for NYCFC in this game. For the third straight game, Pirlo. He might be starting out of necessity with the injuries. He had an assist and hit the post in this game. Overall, he’s been ok in this stretch. Given his age and reduced role this year, I doubt he’ll be back this season.
Because they had the lead in the 87th minute, one could argue this was a draw that felt like a loss for NYCFC. Toronto FC won their game this weekend, extending their lead in the Easter Conference and the Supporter’s Shield. They are now 11 points clear of NYCFC with five games to go. This weekend probably ended what reasonable hope Head Coach Patrick Vieira’s team had at the Shield. He was visibly disappointed after the match in the media scrum and understandably so.