Patrick Vieira’s New York City FC crashed out of the US Open Cup for a third consecutive year.
After being eliminated in the past two years by the second division Cosmos in the fourth round of the US Open Cup, Patrick Vieira came into this week hinting that he would play a stronger side. “This is a competition we want to do well in, do well for the football club, do well for the fans,” he told NYCFC.com earlier in the week.
Coach Vieira was put in an unenviable position. Most MLS managers like to play a “b team” for the cup, that being a team full of reserves and backup players. Vieira knew that following New York City’s burnouts in the past two tournaments that anything short of his best would not be acceptable to club brass or to fans.
The NYCFC supporters who made the trek across the Hudson into a mostly empty Red Bull Arena, no doubt mostly empty due to outrageously priced $65 tickets, were not disappointed when the lineup was announced. A predominately first team side, limited only by the US Open Cups rules against no more than 5 non-green card holding players. Credit to Vieira for putting out his best possible starting eleven and looking for NYCFC’s first win in the Garden State.
Early on the game started slowly with both teams struggling to find their rhythm. With lots of turnover in midfield for both teams, the action was limited until Tommy McNamara struck the crossbar, had the ball ricochet onto the ground and back up to the crossbar before being cleared. Unfortunately for New York City, the lack of Video Assisted Review in the US Open Cup meant the no goal call would stand.
McNamara’s shot was the first of many chances for NYCFC in the first half. The Red Bulls did their best to play their usual high press, but Sean Johnson and the NYC defense were able to communicate well and prevent Red Bulls from getting too comfortable in the final third.
In the 40th minute, David Villa found himself on the far side of the box and fired a shot which ricocheted off the post into the hands of former NYCFC loanee Ryan Meara. Bradley Wright-Phillips was quick to counter, with a shot from inside the box just three minutes later but Johnson came up with a big save.
Maxi Moralez went down right before the end of the first half and gingerly walked away, but he was unable to continue and was substituted off for John Stertzer.
Assistant Coach Chris Armas seemed to have fired up his squad at the half, substituting Daniel Royer for Mike Grella and his side dominated at the start of the half as a result.
Maxi Moralez’ absence was noted as Vieira’s side was unable to link together enough passes to get an attack going. Eventually, Red Bulls consistent pressure was enough as second half substitute Daniel Royer put one past Sean Johnson in the 67th minute.
Following the goal, Patrick Vieira had seen enough from John Stertzer and pulled the midfielder after only 22 minutes in favor of Jonathan Lewis. A few minutes later he brought on Sean Okoli for Ethan White as his defense switched to three in the back in search of an equalizer.
Vieira’s side did all it could do, but the clear lack of a playmaking midfielder made it evident that without Moralez, the chances for NYCFC were limited to individual moments of brilliance. Jonathan Lewis had a chance in the 85th which was saved by Meara but otherwise, the midfield of Mikey Lopez and Alex Ring were unable to connect with NYCFC’s attackers.
New York City’s failure to capitalize on their chances in the first half meant they had to try and find a goal in the second half without their Argentine talisman. Unfortunately for NYCFC and Patrick Vieira, the story was an all too familiar one, while the team did create more chances than they conceded, they failed to capitalize on every single one of those chances. The game was over as soon as Moralez left the pitch.
Despite Vieira’s hopes that he would finally bring silverware to the club, NYCFC was one and done in the US Open Cup for the third consecutive year and are still winless in New Jersey.