Both teams are coming off road losses, the Revs 2-1 at the Red Bulls and NYCFC dropping a 3-1 decision at Atlanta. This week we chat with Jake Gofman of Hudson River Blue about the improvements Man City C have made this year defensively and whether or not the midfield improved via addition by subtraction.
As always check out HRB for my answer’s to other Jake’s questions. Listen to HRB editor and another great friend on SBN, Sam Dunn, on the latest Six States One Pod episode. If you’re traveling down to Yankee Stadium this week, I’ll be the one wearing the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball jersey. I swear it will make more sense when you see it.
TBM: It's a short week for everyone, but even shorter for NYCFC who lost at Atlanta 3-1 on Sunday. What went wrong in that first half that saw Atlanta score three times in under ten minutes?
JG: Yikes, that was rough. That went from bad to worse really quick, and unfortunately was reminiscent of some of our defensive disasters over the last two years. Usually when it's a three-goals-in-ten-minutes kind of thing, it's everyone's fault. In this case, that remains true, but I would specifically point out two things: One, Alexander Callens, our CB and new signing, a guy who's been really consistent and one of the reasons our defense has turned it around, was so bad in those 10 minutes. He inexplicably marked no one on the first goal and on the third one, went down fairly easily and gave Atlanta a 2-v-1.
The second thing: Our tactics were naive. We tried to take it to Atlanta offensively and that was not the smartest strategy against a team that talented, playing at home, and bitter after their loss in Yankee Stadium. We were noticeably caught out on the first goal, in a 0-0 game, and after that we let it happen again minutes later. Not our best 10 minutes.
TBM: I've never been much of a fan of NYC's defensive unit, but Sean Johnson and company might eventually change my mind. Discuss the changes and new players at the back of the formation for Viera this year and how they've performed.
JG: Well you mentioned Johnson, and he's where it starts. He's been a considerable improvement over Josh Saunders, who struggled at times with set pieces and crosses. He's a great organizer and vocal with our back four. We've swapped our CB for the aforementioned Callens, who has been great since game one (excluding the 10 minutes last week). Vieira also made the move to insert MLS journeyman Ethan White in at RB. He's solidified the defense, especially on aerial balls, and stays back to allow Ronald Matarrita to maraud down the left side.
Here's the issue, Matarrita broke his ankle a few weeks back (and is questionable for the match tomorrow), but his absence has definitely hurt the team. Few weeks back, Ethan White went down too and clearly we lost some of our cohesiveness. White is back, but he looked rusty. The hope is that when we get the gang back together, things will settle down. In all, NYC doesn't have to be the MLS's best defense, they just have to be good enough to keep games close against the MLS's best teams.
TBM: Is Andrea Pirlo even good at soccer anymore? Also I think NYC should start McNamara more, but that's me...but seriously, the midfield is infinitely better without Lamps and Pirlo right?
JG: Nope, not really. Pirlo is still an elite passer, with exceptional vision and a deft touch, but his other skills have deteriorated to such an extent that his presence on the field puts New York at a massive disadvantage. Specifically, he's limited in what he can do on defense, and he doesn't move very well, so it's almost like we're defending with 10 men.
Patrick Vieira has done the right thing and benched Il Maestro, replacing him with Yangel Herrera, a promising loaner from Man City. Yangel is an athletic, if not raw, defensive midfielder who covers up our back line and can spring the attack. So, in effect, the complete opposite of Pirlo.
Unfortunately, Yangel is on duty with Venezuela's U-20 team, so there's been a revolving door in our midfield since he left. In comes Tommy McNamara, who has gotten a chance to fill in but hasn't quite taken it well. Mikey Lopez had the last opportunity, but he may sit for Tommy or Miguel Camargo. You're putting me in a tough spot by making me choose against Tommy, but the reality is that the midfield is best with Yangel.
I do think the midfield is stronger than it was last season, but I will say that Pirlo was a better player last year, and Frank Lampard had an insane run where all he did was get buckets. This year we're more balanced and the addition of Alexander Ring and Maxi Moralez has made us dynamic. I think it puts us in a strong position as try to make a run at the MLS Cup.
Johnson; Sweat, Callens, Chanot, White; McNamara, Lopez, Moralez, Camargo, Villa, Harrison
Vieira learns his lesson from RSL and keeps the core intact for the most part. Meanwhile, we all sit and pray we don't run out of gas too soon.
Matarrita may make the bench, as well as Pirlo, while Khiry Shelton remains sidelined. Alexander Ring sits this one out for yellow accumulation.
NYC FC gets back on the horse, wins at home 2-1.