KANSAS CITY, MO – New York City FC started the season off with a bang Sunday night against Sporting Kansas City. Let’s take a look:
The New Guys: Both Anton Tinnerholm and Jesus Medina played very, very well. After a lackluster offseason in which the latter was still finding his feet, the Paraguayan seemed to flip a switch Sunday night. Medina’s runs were intelligent, his positioning was mostly spot-on, and his efforts were rewarded when Ben Sweat made a brilliant run to serve up the second and final goal of the match. On the other side of the ball, Tinnerholm was aggressive and intelligent in his positioning – never getting himself in a disadvantageous position while also showing a poise NYCFC had been lacking at Right Back.
Sean Johnson: What a fantastic performance from the second-year starter. Johnson had only one notable misplay – a shanked drop-kick early in the match that ultimately led to nothing. He stopped everything that came at him, including a free kick that resulted from a Maxime Chanot red card late in the second half. The City ‘keeper deserves just as much credit as the rest of his line for the clean sheet.
The Back Line: In addition to Tinnerholm, Chanot, Alexander Callens and Ben Sweat all had a standout performance. Patrick Vieira’s inclusion of Sweat may have seemed a bit surprising – to this writer as well – but Sweat has never given reason for doubt, and may have even boosted his stature after a solid performance on both ends of the field. Callens was calm on the ball and distributed out of some tight spots with relative ease, despite increasingly desperate pressure from Sporting. Chanot was perhaps the most out-of-sorts of the bunch, but he still didn’t play particularly poorly. The late red card on Gerso Fernandes was of questionable necessity, but it was the single blemish on an otherwise clean performance.
Yangel Herrera: Herrera looked a little aimless at times last night. The young Venezuelan looked to be doing a little too much – trying just a bit too hard to make something happen – and getting caught out of position or making poor decisions throughout. If he can harness that aggression and utilize it more intelligently, he’ll be a force in the midfield. Until then, though, Ebenezer Ofori looms large over his shoulder.
Rodney Wallace: Wallace seemed to gum up the works more often than he helped his line-mates. Too often he looked like he hadn’t thought ahead when receiving the ball – like he was processing the game as it unfolded instead of thinking two steps ahead. It could be rust – I hope it’s rust as long as Vieira continues to choose him for the team – but Wallace was decidedly unimpressive.
Discipline: The Boys in Blue were the 7th-most disciplined in 2017 and that appears to be continuing. Committing 14 fouls, accumulating three yellow cards and a straight red to top it off – City has accrued 30 Disciplinary Points after one match (they had 699 at the conclusion of 2017). Discipline is the fourth tie-breaker in the MLS table behind Wins, Goal Differential and Goals For. It’s obviously early in the season, but these points are cumulative and never go away (unless an appeal is won). The defense’s aggressive play is part of what makes them effective, but that aggression will have to be carefully measured going forward.
NYCFC’s Home Opener will take place next Sunday, March 11th at 5pm against the LA Galaxy. Remember to look out for the Nation Podcast that will be released later this week where we’ll recap Kansas City in further detail and look ahead to the Galaxy match.