New York City FC did not have the best start to the Major League Soccer season when they lost to Nashville SC last weekend. Despite a better second half, the goal scoring ability was clearly lacking, mostly from the lack of a completed roster.
Thankfully, the club announced this week the returns of both James Sands and Santiago Rodríguez. Both players are vital pieces for the midfield, for Sands improves the defense and Rodríguez acts as an attacking facilitator and option. Both players also enhance the roster significantly.
Still, there are remaining holes for the Starting XI, with the most obvious being a striker. While it was expected the team could perform better in the match against Chicago Fire FC, there was still the question regarding the goals.
As such, this Saturday’s fixture saw the Pigeons find some success on the pitch, drawing against the Fire, 1-1. In general, it was a better match compared to the one in Nashville, and the club scored the first goal of the season thanks to a beauty from Gabriel Pereira. But a poorer second half saw the team only leave with a point.
New York City FC plays better, but draws Chicago, 1-1
This time around, New York City FC had a better first half. They led with the possession and shots, and they had an 87% passing accuracy. The passing decisions were brilliant in the first 45 minutes, and one could only wonder if they would have gotten a second goal if that continued for the entire game.
Sadly, that second goal never arrived, and due to a more sluggish second half, Chicago was able to level the fixture. NYCFC was on the defensive way too often, and poor giveaways gave the Fire too many chances. Plus, when Sands came off, the defense looked shakier. As a result, the Pigeons gave up the tying goal to Fabian Herbers in the 75th minute, and barely made it out with the lone point.
In a surprising move, Sands was the only returnee who started, but perhaps Nick Cushing felt that Rodríguez needed some more time. While he has been training, he has not played in too many games and did not have a similar preseason to the rest of NYCFC. He did come on in the 73rd minute, and had an okay first appearance.
In the end, it worked out for the guy from Rye. Not only did it feel like Sands never left, but he was predominantly smooth with his passes. His ability to intervene and block passes was also welcoming. More impressively, he moved into the attack quite often, but easily moved back into the defensive midfield when Chicago had the ball. Unfortunately, he was substituted out due to cramping. Hopefully that was all, and he will be okay for the home opener.
The moment of the match for NYCFC was of course the Pereira goal in the first half, which occurred in the 39th minute. There were a few back and forth giveaways by both teams, but eventually the ball fell to the young Brazilian’s feet on the right side of the box. Immediately, he curled the ball on the ground toward the goal, it hit the bottom left post, and went right into the back of the net. It was another brilliant goal by Pereira, who tends to score highlight reel goals.
Overall, Pereira had a fantastic game. He was a threat in the attack, and his runs up the right side of the pitch were near perfect. He seemed to already have a connection with the new right-back, Mitja Ilenič, for the passes between the two were mostly spot on when on the attack, especially during the first 45 minutes. They understood each other and recognized where they were on the pitch.
Next, New York City FC heads home for the first time this season. They will take on Inter Miami CF in the fortress that is Yankee Stadium. Despite being a different team this year with some questions attached to the roster, there is no doubt the home advantage in the Bronx should help next weekend. But Miami has won both of their matches so far; anything can happen in the beautiful game.