On Saturday, New York City FC played their second game of the week. After beating CF Montréal, the Pigeons looked to win their second in a row and last before the international break. But their opponent, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, has been having a decent season and won their last two matches.
Meanwhile, James Sands was officially back after being unavailable for the last couple of fixtures. He began the game on the bench before coming on in the second half. Then, Matt Freese received his second start in a row. It was good of Nick Cushing to give the goalkeeper another opportunity to try and steal the starting role from Luis Barraza.
In the end, the Pigeons and Vancouver battled to a 1-1 draw. It was another game where the attack was there, but goals were lacking. There was also controversy with the result as well.
Here are three things we learned from the game between NYCFC and the Whitecaps.
Three things we learned from the 1-1 draw
1. Another controversial result due to poor refereeing
New York City FC looked like they were on their way to a win when Mounsef Bakrar scored in the 55th minute. The striker scored his second goal in MLS thanks to a good through ball from Santiago Rodríguez.
However, just minutes later, a penalty was called against NYCFC. The referee, Pierre-Luc Lauziere, declared that James Sands pulled Ryan Gauld down in the box. When one reviews that call, there can be an argument for both sides. It was a soft call, though.
Yet, before the penalty foul, Birk Risa was pushed in the back to the ground. That looked like a foul, but the referee did not call it. The center-back was in distress too. It was clear he was in some pain due to his facial expressions. As good as football players are with embellishing, most of them cannot act at all.
Arguably, there was a foul on Risa. Therefore, the penalty should have been called off. Despite a VAR review, the penalty stood, and Gauld leveled the score for the Whitecaps. It was outrageous that once again the result of the game was due to poor refereeing.
2. It is a shame NYCFC and MLS do not play more afternoon matches
NYCFC played a rare afternoon match against Vancouver. Most of the season, teams throughout Major League Soccer played in the evening, usually at 7:30 PM local time. Very few sides have games during the day.
The 3:30 PM start time was a nice change of pace. It was early enough for young kids to attend the fixture, but not too early where supporters had to leave their homes early. This would especially be the case for those outside of the city. Moreover, it was a beautiful summer day to be outside.
Based on those in the seats, it was slightly shocking that more people did not attend the match. Perhaps Vancouver was not much of a draw. Maybe it was due to Labor Day weekend barbecues. Luckily, the next game will also be a 3:30 PM start, and that will be the Hudson River Derby. Likely, that will end with the highest attendance of the season.
Still, MLS and Apple TV should spread out the games next season. Have teams play more in the afternoon and not always at night. Different times and days would allow fans who often cannot attend at 7:30 PM on a Saturday the opportunity to go to others.
3. Nick Cushing makes poor substitution choices for NYCFC
In the CF Montréal fixture, Cushing made some good substitutions to help NYCFC secure a win. It helped the team was up 2-0 in the second half.
This time around, some of the head coach’s choices were questionable. It made sense to bring James Sands on at the half. Plus, replacing Andres Jasson with Julián Fernández was the correct call. It was the substitutions after that did not make sense.
He replaced Bakrar and Risa with Richard Ledezma and Alfredo Morales, respectively. Neither added to the attack, and it felt like Cushing was not trying to win the game but to preserve the draw. Notably, that was likely not the case. Alas, sometimes intentions do not matter.
The poor penalty call and Cushing’s inability to change the game after the fact resulted in points lost at home. New York City FC should have won. Instead, it is another disappointing result.