New York City Football Club maintained their unbeaten run of form on Saturday night against CF Montréal.
Here's Five Points from a close game at Stade Saputo.
Haak Steps In
The lineups told a story.
Justin Haak, in just his second start of the season, was going up against an experienced Canadian international in Samuel Piette and Victor Wanyama, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic. When two teams keen to maintain possession meet, the central midfield battle becomes increasingly important.
Haak not only held his own, but also helped build attacks. His calm and considered approach was vital and showed maturity beyond his years. The Brooklyn-native is still emerging as a professional, but each performance like this represents another example of what could be a promising career.
“I talked to Justin after the game and I told him that he had a great game and that he has to continue to grow and get better each game,” Alex Callens said. “I’m really proud of him because he had a tough competition with the midfielders that Montréal have, but for me he was the best player on our team. If he continues to go this way I see bright things for him in the future.”
One of the central themes of last season for NYCFC was their defensive strength.
During the off-season, the Club acquired Thiago Martins from Yokohama F. Marinos. The Brazilian defender took some time to acclimatize to MLS, but he has begun to forge an impressive partnership with teammate Alex Callens.
Last night, the pair kept CF Montréal scoreless. This was just the second time in 11 games that a visiting team has managed that at Stade Saputo. That foundation and consistency has been big this season and long may it continue.
Nick Cushing and his staff made the interesting decision to utilize Maxi Moralez in a slightly deeper role.
This is not the first time the veteran playmaker has done this, but his game came to an early end when he pulled up with an injury in the first half. While unfortunate, It also forced NYCFC into a reshuffle. The team made several changes throughout the night, both in terms of personnel, but also to a back three with wingbacks, in a bid to pose Montréal more challenges.
What remained impressive was how willing and able players were to take up perhaps unfamiliar roles. A testament to the staff’s ability to communicate ideas, and also the character of the group, it keeps NYCFC a versatile attacking threat.
The race to the top of the Eastern Conference is tightly contested.
At present, NYCFC sit three points behind Philadelphia Union with a game in hand. That means every point could prove vital come the end of the season, including Saturday’s gained at Montréal.
As Nick Cushing put it last night: “When you can’t play well, take points.”
Captain, MLS Cup Champion, now All-Star. The superlatives are trailing Sean Johnson, and on Saturday he became a record breaker.