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New York City FC kicked off the 2021 MLS regular season with a disappointing result against D.C. United, losing 2-1 at Audi Field.

Here are Five Points from a tough evening in the capital.

Fast Breaks and Fast Starts

One of the central themes of NYCFC’s preseason was how they consistently caged their opponent in the opening stages of games.

NYCFC’s early performance wasn’t quite as pronounced, but it did produce a goal after 15 minutes. The Boys in Blue produced an impressive move that moved from left to right and gave weight to the idea that his team is an effective counter-attacking unit. 

We often talk about tempo in soccer, and having the ability to shift it quickly can be incredibly important.

Take, for example, Taty Castellanos’ goal. Maxi’s awareness and confidence to hit the pass first time puts Anton Tinnerholm through on goal. Against a team like D.C. that wanted to compact the pitch, this was vitally important.

NYCFC managed a similar breakaway goal during their preseason meeting with United, with both Castellanos and Moralez also involved in that move.

While Ronny Deila wasn’t pleased with the result or large sections of the performance, he should take some comfort from this moment as it showed a fluency and quality from his attackers that bodes well for the future.

Don't forget to shoot

A study of the stats sheet from last night will show you two very important things; NYCFC dominated possession, but they did not dominate the shot column.

Deila’s side enjoyed 61.9% of the ball at Audi Field, but they only produced one more shot than D.C. United across the 90 minutes. The Boys in Blue started the second half with an improved sense of urgency, but their first shot at Chris Seitz’s goal didn’t arrive until the 68th minute.

Before that, NYCFC managed to engineer some solid avenues of attack, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi twice picking up the ball in dangerous areas either side of the box, but the boys will hope to fashion more attempts back in the Bronx next week vs. FCC.

Unstoppable from Hines-Ike

There’s not a lot to say here. Brendan Hines-Ike didn’t manage a single regular-season goal while playing in Belgium with KV Kortrijk.

That didn’t stop him from producing a fantastic strike. Any paid-up member of the goalkeepers’ union would tell you that Sean Johnson was not to blame. The speed alone was enough to beat most goalkeepers, but the fact Edison Flores appeared to be obstructing Johnson’s view only served to make it harder.

Simply put, hats off to Mr. Hines-Ike.

Set Piece Frustration

If D.C. United’s first goal conceded felt unstoppable, the same can’t be said for their second.

Hernan Losada deserves credit for engineering such a well-choreographed set-play, as does Julian Gressel and Russell Canouse for their respective contributions. From an NYCFC perspective, it’s a lapse in concentration that allows Canouse to be free at the top of the box, and that’s all it takes to find yourself 2-1 down.

There’s no need to pour over this. Both skipper Sean Johnson and Head Coach Ronny Deila acknowledged the performance wasn’t good enough.

Versatility is key

Making a triple substitution is always a bold play, and that was no different on Saturday night.

Ronny Deila’s decision to introduce Alfredo Morales for Alex Callens and shift James Sands into centre-back was a smart tactical move and highlighted the team’s versatility and depth. The second half saw D.C. United employ a more withdrawn approach as they looked to sit compact and engineer counter-attacking opportunities.

Deila’s substitutions may not have seen NYCFC score a second goal, but it did afford them greater control on the ball. On a tough night, Maxime Chanot was strong defensively and looked assured alongside Sands. It didn’t pan out on Saturday, but it could prove important during the campaign.

New York City FC are back in action at Yankee Stadium taking on FC Cincinnati next Saturday, April 24 in the Home Opener presented by Etihad Airways. Get your tickets now by hitting the link below.

Five Points | A Tough Start to the Campaign  - NYCFC Home Opener