New York City FC secured their first road win of 2021 by beating the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Subaru Park on Saturday evening.
Here’s Five Points from a comfortable victory, presented by Etihad Airways…
Get it Wide
If you read our Keys to the Match earlier this week, you’ll remember we talked about the benefit of getting the ball wide against a Philadelphia team that utilized a diamond in midfield.
Ronny Deila decided to switch things up for Saturday and set NYCFC up in a 3-4-2-1 formation by adding Alfredo Morales into midfield for his first start in MLS and pushing Anton Tinnerholm & Gudi Thorarinsson further up as wing-backs.
It took only five minutes for this change to pay off, with Tinnerholm creating an overload down the right before squaring it to Jesús Medina for the opener. The subsequent dismissal of Jose Martinez in the 16th minute only reinforced the need for NYCFC to keep the pitch wide.
In that same piece, we also noted how crosses could be a way to get at the Union after they conceded two goals from that source against Inter Miami.
Sure enough, Taty Castellanos had several very good opportunities via crosses, and his eventual goal came from the Union’s inability to clear a delivery from Thorarinsson. Credit must go to Deila and his staff, they identified a potential weakness in their opponent and adapted their plan to expose it.
For the second week running Jesús Medina opened the scoring for NYCFC, and it’s clear the Paraguayan has started his fourth MLS season with the bit between his teeth.
Talent has never been an issue for Medina, and when that is combined with confidence and hard work on both sides of the ball he becomes a formidable attacking piece. Asked what changes he’s seen in his teammate of late, Sean Johnson said after the game:
“I spoke to it, he’s obviously added goals this year for us,” he said. “The work rate, for me, the games, the mileage, the aggression, pressing when we’re losing the ball in the attacking third. Those are the things people won’t necessarily talk about. Last game, he made a run 35-40 yards to track a player and make a block in the box those are the plays that win us games.”
The captain is right. Medina managed ten ball recoveries against Cincinnati, and six against the Union. He’s proving a difference-maker for NYCFC so far this season, and here’s to more goals and heart-shaped celebrations.
There was certainly some raised intrigue on social media when Ronny Deila named his team on Saturday.
Not only was there a change in formation, but there was also a first start for Alfredo Morales. The experienced midfielder arrived from German football earlier this year, and he brings a passion and intensity that is infectious.
What quickly became important on Saturday, however, was the need for composure. An early red card added a bit of spice to proceedings, and two minutes later Morales found himself in Ismail Elfath’s notebook.
The moment called for composure from Morales and that is what he delivered. The U.S. international used his experience to patrol the pitch horizontally and sweep up any loose balls before recycling possession.
He managed to clock up a solid 66 minutes before being subbed off, but it was important in the 10-15 minutes after Martinez’s red card that the team remained calm and started to establish a rhythm with the ball. Morales was central to doing both those things.
Try, Try, Try Again
Like his teammates Castellanos started the game at a quick pace and had his first shot inside a minute.
The striker will have expected to be on the scoresheet a lot earlier than the 65th minute after being presented several good opportunities to score. Credit to Castellanos, however, he would not be deterred and that’s the sign of a good striker.
Castellanos didn’t hide and when his goal eventually came it showed the instincts of a poacher. The fact he also decided to rabona the ball into the empty net proved he was not short of confidence on Saturday night.
The striker had some nice moments on Saturday, bringing teammates into play, and proving a threat throughout. His goal was important in putting the contest to bed and showed a strength of character in the process. Vamos Taty.
It may feel difficult to draw strong conclusions from Saturday’s game given the Union were down a man for a long stretch of the game.
That said, one thing that was impressive about NYCFC’s performance was how well this team can shift gears. You saw it in week one against D.C. United with Castellanos’ opener, and again at times on Saturday.
Ronny Deila is slowly cultivating a side that can play direct soccer at a quick tempo that catches their opponent on the back foot.
It was best seen late in the second half when a quick interchange of passes almost allowed Malte Amundsen in on goal, but for Medina’s slightly over hit pass. While it’s easy to get frustrated at the fact there was at times a final touch missing from several attacks on Saturday, it’s worth remembering this is a long season.
If NYCFC can keep tweaking things and iron out those small issues they should have an exciting attacking unit as we move through the season.
New York City FC return to action on the road again next Saturday when Orlando City SC are the hosts. ESPN is the spot for live coverage, with the pregame kicking off at 5:30PM ET.