New York City Football Club continued their winning run with a 2-0 success against D.C. United on Wednesday.
Here are Five Points from a great night at Audi Field.
In our Key’s to the Match piece, we talked about the need to catch D.C. United early and to their credit NYCFC did just that.
D.C. United may look back and feel frustrated that they did not take the lead after only two minutes when Brad Smith hit the post, but NYCFC took that let-off and punished their opponents just minutes later.
Another well-worked set-piece afforded Chris Gloster the chance to cross and his expert delivery found Alexander Callens free inside the penalty area to power a header home. The most notable consequence of that goal saw United change their approach and forced them to come out in search of an equalizer.
The visitors built on that with a goal just before halftime to further cement their position of control. The second half saw flickers of danger from D.C. United, but all in all, the Boys in Blue maintained control and saw out the game to claim a big win.
An important moment, and hopefully the start of a strong season on the road, it was largely down to a bright start that shifted the complexion of the game.
Four No Score
To borrow an old sporting adage – defence wins championships.
Wednesday night represented the team’s fourth clean sheet in a row in MLS. The team overall have managed five clean sheets in their last six games, and it’s a testament to the strong defensive options the team possesses, as evidenced by Maxime Chanot checking into the game in the second half so NYCFC could switch systems.
While stats about clean sheets will give the back five, including Club Captain Sean Johnson, tremendous pride, it is the foundation for the team to find greater success. Here’s to more clean sheets for the Boys in Blue as they pursue those much-coveted trophies.
Push The Button
The intensity of the two teams pressing was best encapsulated in the 19th minute.
At one end, D.C.’s high line of engagement saw Sean Johnson pressured and a turnover almost grant D.C. a great look at goal. No sooner had that half-chance presented itself NYCFC were springing the other way, and leading the charge was Taty Castellanos.
His willingness to close down Rafael Romo down caught the shot-stopper out and he conceded a dangerous freekick. D.C. United’s strategy involves disrupting the opponent’s rhythm, and against a team keen to maintain possession like NYCFC that can be catastrophic.
NYCFC’s ability to not only match that intensity but take advantage of it played a considerable role in swinging the game in their favor. Battling against the pressure wasn’t easy, but it was rewarded.
As expected in the buildup to the game D.C. United interim head coach Chad Ashton has stayed consistent with their use of a back-three system with wingbacks.
In the early exchanges, D.C. appeared to favor the left side and Brad Smith when building up possession and trying to cause overload compared to right wingback Brendan Hines-Ike. Smith is a more natural fit for that wingback role when compared to Hines-Ike - the American traditionally operating as a central defender.
This put considerable pressure on Thiago Andrade and Nicolás Acevedo on NYCFC's right hand side. In the case of Acevedo, he too was adjusting to a somewhat new role as a right-back in the absence of Tayvon Gray and Anton Tinnerholm.
To their credit, the pair remained diligent in their effort and that forced Ashton into a halftime switch that saw Julian Gressel enter the field to give D.C. more balance when trying to attack. That switch was a testament to the hard work and quality the right side produced, and the fact D.C. failed to find the net was in no small part to the hard work of those out wide in Bronx Blue.
Set Piece Danger
It’s well-established that NYCFC carries a considerable threat from set-pieces.
Against D.C. United that took only five minutes to present itself with a short corner finding Chris Gloster in space. His cross to Alex Callens opened the scoring, and the lead was almost doubled when Santiago Rodríguez found Alfredo Morales at the near post,
When the team’s second goal did arrive, it was once again via a corner. Keaton Parks may be disappointed to have missed the headed chance that came his way, but following VAR review a penalty was awarded and dispatched by Taty Castellanos.
Speaking afterward, Ronny Deila confirmed the team had not been able to dedicate time to set plays in the build-up to the game, but the work put in previously was enough to prove influential.
“Now this week we didn't train set pieces,” Deila said. “We were a little bit stressed about that because we knew they were good at it, but Rob [Vartughian] again, as I have said many times was prepared. We talked about what we had to do and everyone executed their tasks and we won the set play battle.”