New York City FC made it a 2021 Home Opener to remember at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, defeating FC Cincinnati 5-0. Here’s Five Points from an emphatic victory, presented by Etihad Airways…
Five Star Performance
As a first home game of the season goes, yesterday was pretty special. Ronny Deila talked about wanting ‘gas motors’ in the week, and he got that early on when Medina put the team ahead in the 7th minute.
While FC Cincinnati had their moments, the hosts remained in control for large periods, and managed the task well. Jaap Stam’s side came with a very clear game plan. Predominantly, their aim was to remain compact, in a low block, and try to make the most of counter-attacking opportunities.
NYCFC were all too happy to take the lion’s share of possession, but it was vital they stayed patient. It would be very easy for the Boys in Blue to create their own problems by forcing a pass or holding onto the ball too long, and while we saw the occasional misplaced ball, it was overall, a strong showing.
After the third goal you saw the team settle into an attacking rhythm, and the visitors struggled to stem the tide. It was important the team produced a performance of this quality early on, if only to reinforce that last week was not about to become a regular occurrence.
Sean Johnson Sets the Standard
As captain, Sean Johnson knows his role in the team is important. It was crucial that New York City FC put together a good performance on Saturday and they did that in no small part to Johnson.
The 31-year-old came up big when his team needed him on Saturday, denying Calvin Harris on two different occasions in the first half with the game delicately poised at 1-0. His finest moment came in the second half, however, with NYCFC comfortably out in front.
Johnson’s double save – which denied first Brenner and then Nick Hagglund – was world-class shot-stopping, and evidence of why Johnson is a U.S. international.
As Tayvon Gray put it afterwards – big players make big plays.
Set Piece Menu
Did you spot it? All five of New York City FC’s goals at Yankee Stadium came as a consequence of set plays. The Boys in Blue caused chaos in the FC Cincinnati penalty box for Jesus Medina’s opener, and added to that with Hagglund’s own goal in the second half.
Any time a team scores multiple goals from set plays in a single game it is a testament to the hard work done on the training field and will have been most pleasing to coach Rob Vartughian, the man behind the routines.
What is equally as impressive is the variety of set-piece goals. Gudi Thorarinsson’s freekick, and Jesus Medina’s wonder-strike showed this team has a range of ways to threaten when they are presented with a dead ball, and that could be an incredibly useful tool this season for Deila and his men.
Boys’ Day Out
The NYCFC starting XI contained two academy graduates, and neither man looked out of place. James Sands continued to be a calming presence in midfield, (he had the highest pass completion percentage for NYCFC) while Andres Jasson looks like being a pain for opposition defenders.
The forward appears to attract fouls, and that was no different on Saturday – with Jasson leading NYCFC for fouls suffered (source: mlssoccer.com).
His ability to win freekicks in the final third is not a bad thing, especially given how handy the team looked from set plays.
Entering the field in the second half was defender Tayvon Gray. The right-back is up against Anton Tinnerholm for a starting spot this season, but he seems to be relishing the challenge, and certainly did not look intimidated on Saturday.
To see so many youngsters impacting the first team was a nice moment for everyone connected to the club, especially those working diligently in the academy, who will point to these graduates as inspirational figures for those coming up behind.
Funky Cold Medina
“I meant to shoot,” Jesus Medina said when asked after the game whether his second goal was intended to be a shot or cross.
The Paraguayan was a consistent threat during the game, and took both of his goals well. The first represented good positioning and composure in front of goal, while the second was a special glimpse at the winger’s potential.
In his postmatch, Deila was keen to stress that the forward had a good 2020 in a disrupted season for NYCFC, and he will be striving to do even better this time around in a more normal season.
He will know the key to reaching that goal is consistency, and if the 23-year-old can apply that he could be a deciding factor for the team in the final third.
Next up for New York City FC is a trip to face the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on Saturday, May 1 with kickoff taking place at 7:30PM ET (YES Network / NYCFC.com/Radio).