New York City Football Club fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Amine Bassi’s second half penalty secured the win for the hosts.
Here are Five Points from the clash at the Shell Energy Stadium…
The Boys in Blue headed into the clash with sights set on a first away win of 2023, eager to build on the momentum of two successive home victories and a three-game unbeaten run.
Head Coach Nick Cushing had called on his side to take their fine home form on the road, but the City Boys struggled to gain a foothold in the game, and carve clear-cut chances in Texas.
A late flurry put the home side under pressure, but Cushing and co. lamented a lack of composure in the key moments in the final third – a lesson the players will learn from, and be keen to correct come next week’s trip to New England Revolution.
Break The Barrier
The pre-match analysis had anticipated an intriguing contest with two possession-based teams locking horns.
Houston had recorded the highest average so far in 2023, while Cushing’s side of course always strive to dominate the ball.
Neither team were able to enjoy lengthy spells of control, and though City just shaded the stats (55%-45%) Houston triumphed – not only by netting the decisive spot-kick, but also by showcasing the defensive side of their game, throwing men behind the ball, and making it difficult for the visitors to break through.
While it can be seen as a compliment that teams feel the need to deploy so many men to defend against NYCFC’s attack, Cushing says his side must figure out how to overcome the block, asserting his players possess the quality to do so.
Match Highlights | Houston Dynamo 1-0 NYCFC
Soccer: a game that can be determined by one kick, one tackle, one save, one decision...
And in a game with such few clear opportunities, it was no surprise this one ended up decided by a set-piece: in this case, a penalty.
Awarded following a VAR check as Héctor Herrera went to ground under pressure from Tayvon Gray, replays suggested it could have gone either way.
Still, the decision was made, and Houston made it count, as Bassi stepped up for his second successful spot-kick in as many games.
City came within inches of drawing level just two minutes later – only for Santiago Rodriguez's looping effort to bounce agonizingly wide of the far post. A rare chance on the night, and an example of the frustratingly fine margins of the sometimes-not-so-beautiful game.
One bright note for the Boys in Blue was the introduction of Richy Ledezma.
The new recruit, signed on loan from PSV Eindhoven, was brought on for his debut in the second half, and produced a positive cameo display.
Lively and threatening down the right flank, eager to whip in dangerous deliveries as City pressed for a late leveler, he made a notable impact, showing flashes of his quality.
Given he only arrived at the Club a matter of days ago, and is yet to adapt to his new squad, new surroundings, and a new style, it was all the more impressive. An encouraging start.
Turning The Page
Onwards and upwards… Despite the disappointment, the Boys in Blue must not dwell, but instead use the experience as an opportunity for growth.
Speaking after the game, Matías Pellegrini asserted the squad are already looking ahead to the next game, eager to get back on track, and use the setback to aid improvement.
“It was a tough game,” he reflected. “It was a battle throughout the entire match.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult match. They are a very good team that holds the possession of the ball. It looks like they played a little better than us, even though we had a couple of good opportunities.
“Obviously, the game was decided on the penalty kick, and it took the points away. After that goal, we definitely were attacking a lot more. They were giving us the ball, but they sat back and defended. They defended well.
“We had a couple of opportunities from crosses, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It was not the result we wanted, but now we turn the page, and we focus on Monday: go back to training, and look forward to the next week.”
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