That wasn’t the prettiest game, by any means; in fact, the first goal, scored by the San Jose Earthquakes, set the tone nicely, in that it came as the New York City FC’s winner would – e.g. pressure forcing an error, thereby creating a goal. Wow, is that a mess of words and punctuation.
For all that, New York deserved its 2-1 win, and, to swing back to a pre-game tweet, I don’t see much to fear from the specific iteration of San Jose that played today. Their defense held up admirably under, oh, 500 pounds’ of pressure from New York, even with San Jose’s midfield too separated, but with San Jose’s attack struggling to get going, they got overwhelmed in the end.
Now, some specifics on both teams.
New York City FC
- It’s been said countless times, but it bears repeating: David Villa (two assists) was one hell of a signing, both for NYCFC and MLS. He made something out of a mushy cross to set up NYCFC’s momentum-sucking equalizer.
- I have two notes on the “middle 3” of NYCFC’s 4-3-3. First, Alex Ring and Maxi Moralez bring enough to let the 37-year-old Andrea Pirlo play just about the only game he can, by way of aggression/eating ground and an ever-available passing combination outlet, respectively. Ring, in particular, gives two-way cover for the Italian legend, but, second, you really have to ask whether it’s worth it. Tommy McNamara scored NYCFC’s winner thanks to a run I’m not sure Pirlo would ever make. (And, I gotta say, Villa seems to LOVE playing with Wallace...see the celebration.)
- In spite of Alexander Callens (admittedly forced) error on San Jose’s lone goal (I'll lard up the links once I can get to them sans spoilers), between him, Maxime Chanot, and Frederic Brillant, NYCFC looks like it has a pretty damned solid CB rotation for 2017.
- Rodney Wallace gets deserved praise for his solid two-way play, but it’s having Roland Matarrita behind him that makes NYCFC’s left as strong as it is. San Jose couldn’t get a damn thing going down that side…which makes for a great segue.
San Jose Earthquakes
- The left-side pairing noted immediately above made it all but impossible for Nick Lima and Tommy Thompson, in particular, to get forward, but San Jose never found a reliable way of getting forward today, and that both starved their attack and lost them the game. Shaun Francis and Simon Dawkins found more space on San Jose’s right, but Dawkins, in particular, did jack with it. I imagine this had, like, a lot to do with how deep Shea Salinas dropped to find the ball after coming on as a sub.
- Pairing Fatai Alashe and Darwin Ceren in central midfield had a lot to do with that. Or, to flip that into the question that’s really on my mind: will Anibal Godoy mean that much to San Jose this season? They’ve looked better in earlier weeks, and that leaves Godoy’s absence, or NYCFC’s strengths, as reasonable theories for why San Jose sputtered so badly today.
- Dawkins, though, I don’t think that guy is the player he was a couple years back.
- Taken together, all that begs the question of what the plan really is for San Jose in 2017. Will Jahmir Hyka gradually gain minutes till he’s running the show? Will Danny Hoesen, who looked at least useful whenever the ball found him, gain a bigger role in the attack, and how to get the most out of Marcos Urena, who apart from scoring, has been a clear bright spot for the ‘Quakes. San Jose has good pieces, but I wonder whether they’re using them right.
- Finally, spare a thought for Victor Bernardez, who put in a heroic afternoon before his red card.
- I don’t know much about Bernardez’ counterpart, Florian Jungwirth, but he looks small-ish out there. He hasn’t looked great – not much like a TAM-level investment – but he’s one to watch, and for both reasons.
All for this one. I’ll post on Columbus Crew SC v. Orlando later…