Martin Tomszak is back with yet another look at New York City FC. The Fire defeated NYCFC 1-0 on April 24 at Toyota Park.
What Are They All About? NYCFC (Away) Preview
“We've hit rock bottom”. Those are the words that David Villa used to describe the situation that NYCFC finds themselves in after their fourth loss in a row extended their winless streak to eight matches. The fact that the loss came in the first ever “Hudson Bay Derby” against the New York Red Bulls only exacerbated the situation. The Fire are looking to bounce back from their own loss last week after falling at home to RSL for the second straight year. The two teams will meet for the second time in a matter of weeks with Friday’s match at Yankee Stadium and one thing is sure, both sides will be desperate for a win.
NYCFC Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): L-L-L-L-D
Previous match: A 2-1 Away loss to NY Red Bull
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1: Saunders; Allen, Wingert, Hernandez, Williams; Jacobson, Grabavoy; Villa, Diskerud, Alvarez; Shelton
Strengths: There is no need to be redundant by repeating the strengths mentioned in the first preview a few weeks ago (Jason Kreis, rich parent club, DPs, etc.), and in fact it could be argued that some of these aren't really “strengths” anymore. Instead, it can simply be stated that a team which has only won one match this season, losing six and tying the remaining three, has absolutely nothing to lose.
While this may seem like a very twisted strength, the reality of the situation is that NYCFC needs this win, possibly even more than the Fire do. There was so much expectation surrounding NYCFC’s expansion year and it is no secret that they have fallen flat on their face so far. The squad that NYC has put together has some talent but typical of an expansion side there are some questions. With NYCFC playing in front of their home support those questions will only be asked louder and more often. While they may not be as bad as Montreal or Philly, NYCFC cannot afford to fall too far behind the pack in the East.
Another advantage that NYCFC may be able to utilize against the Fire is something they didn’t have in the first game, the playing field in their makeshift home at Yankee Stadium.
While FIFA regulations state that a field must be at least 110 yards long and 70 yards wide, no one aside from NYCFC is convinced that the pitch at Yankee Stadium meets these requirements. SKC coach Peter Vermes’ sly post match comments a few weeks ago that the pitch is in fact only 106 yards by 68 yards threw more doubt on the actual dimensions.
Even if it does meet the minimum requirement, the size of the field could pose a challenge for the Fire. At their best this season, Chicago has utilized the full length and width of the pitch allowing David Accam and Joevin Jones to run down balls played into space. While this strategy worked in the teams’ previous meeting, the Fire might very well run out of room before they even get their legs going at Yankee stadium. Frank Yallop will have to find a different approach this time around, even admitting so himself during Monday’s media conference call. The Fire have found it hard to string together consistent performances without changes in their style of play, so the small field could very well be their undoing. Players like Accam, Shaun Maloney, and Harry Shipp may have to be more tactful with the ball at their feet in lieu of trying to find space over the top.
Weaknesses: Luckily for Chicago, the same weaknesses that plagued NYCFC in April are still there in May. In fact, one could just copy and paste the weakness section from the last preview here. Failure to implement a distinct system, a lack of cohesion, injuries, and schedule congestion were the highlights last time around so let’s start there.
4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-2. No, those are not power ball numbers or Morse code, they are the formations that Jason Kreis has implemented in NYCFC’s last five matches. Every single match has seen a different set of tactics, a slightly tweaked line up and a drastically different formation. Even the 4-4-2 formations differed slightly with the match against Red Bull utilizing a flat midfield while the match against Philly alternated between a diamond and a block midfield. It seems that after 10 weeks NYCFC is still desperately searching for an identity and nothing they do seems to be working.
Lack of cohesion is still a problem when it comes to this New York team and it is exhibited perfectly by their last two matches since playing the Fire. In their match against Seattle, a 3-1 loss at home, NYCFC’s back line looked like they had decided early on not to mark either Clint Dempsey or Obafemi Martins and they paid for it. Balls in behind the defenders, one v. one situations, two v. two situations, crosses into the box, you name it and NYCFC’s defenders showed they were incapable of handling it. Granted, the Fire are not Seattle, but NYC continues to struggle at the back. The Fire may be able to hurt them in transition/counter and from the wide positions, where they have also been weak in defending if NYCFC crowds Accam and Shipp as they are expected to do. Lovel Palmer and Jones stand a chance to play big parts in this one.
The derby loss to the Red Bulls also highlighted the poor backline with NYCFC electing to leave Bradley Wright Phillips, one of the most prolific strikers in MLS, completely unmarked on two occasions (three if you count Saunders’ great save on what would have been BWP’s hat trick). More importantly the match at Red Bull Arena showed that their midfield lacks a sense of urgency and belief, barely making an impression against a Red Bulls team that was down a man for nearly 60 minutes. When you add the fact that David Villa, a man who is supposed to be the talisman of this team, was hauled off in the 68th minute while shaking his head in disbelief, you have a NYCFC team that seems to be spiraling toward the bottom of the East. While they are no longer playing multiple matches just days apart, their schedule isn’t getting easier. With a trip to RSL up after the Fire and a visit from Houston the following week, Jason Kreis could find himself looking up at the rest of the conference when NYCFC play fellow bottom dwellers Philadelphia in the first week of June.
Injuries: Javier Calle and Adam Nemec joined the short term injury list last week while George John and Tony Taylor remain on the long term injury list.
Prediction: NYCFC is too much of a mess to get anything out of this match, and whether or not that remains the case later in the season has no bearing on Friday. The Fire will go into Yankee Stadium with a compact game plan and come out with three points. Chicago 2-0 NYCFC. Unfortunately the forwards will still be missing from the score sheet, Maloney and Palmer with the goals.