NYCFC were held to a 0-0 tie in Chicago on Wednesday night.
Here’s Five Points from the meeting in Chi-Town, presented by Etihad Airways…
Welcome Back Captain
Luis Barraza has been a big plus during the three game winning streak, and there was certainly a case to be made for him keeping his position between the posts.
That said, it was great to welcome back Sean Johnson on Wednesday night as he faced off against his former club. The shot-stopper is a veteran presence and brings a wealth of experience to the table. That was best seen in the second half when his booming voice could be heard organizing his teammates.
Johnson wasn’t really tested during the 90 minutes, but it was nice to have him back as the team prepares for a big run of games.
Change It Up
One of NYCFC’s real strengths is their tactical versatility.
The Boys in Blue started the game operating with a back four, and then switched to a back three with wingbacks midway through the second half.
The benefits of this are two-fold. From an attacking perspective, it allows NYCFC to change up how they challenge their opponents in the final third. At the other end, changing to a back three allowed Ronny Deila’s side to shut off space and soak up pressure in the wake of Keaton Parks’ red card.
When it came to attacking the introduction of Malte Amundsen meant NYCFC had a genuine outlet down both wings and while the team had to be patient, they did still keep Chicago on their toes.
10 Men Tested
The Boys in Blue had the better of the possession battle when it was 11v11, but their dominance of the ball changed after Parks’ dismissal.
Chicago understandably pressed forward due to their man advantage, and that forced NYCFC to be more pragmatic. At the heart of the back five was Maxime Chanot and Alex Callens, two players that personified the team’s grit and determination. Backed by a vocal Sean Johnson, Chicago failed to find any strong looks on goal, and the clean sheet was well deserved in the end.
The dedication and determination to defend was perhaps best personified by Callens in the 86th minute, who after stumbling, threw his body head first towards the ball and blocked a shot with his back.
The Streak Ends
Wednesday night represented an opportunity for NYCFC to extend their streak of scoring at least one goal in consecutive games to 26.
That run is tied for third-longest in MLS history, and highlights the attacking quality this team possesses. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, but we should appreciate the consistency this team has found during that run.
One of the reasons Chicago are a difficult team to play against is their use of a back-five formation.
The Fire packed the middle of the field when they didn’t have the ball, but when they did they tried to draw NYCFC over to one side of the field before quickly and aggressively switching play to the opposite wingback.
This meant that NYCFC’s fullbacks and wingers had to be diligent defensively. Jesús Medina and Maxi Moralez swapped roles on Wednesday night, and that was likely due to Medina’s ability to press and cover ground. Elsewhere, Thiago Andrade showed a willingness to help out Gudi Thórarinsson, and satisfy Ronny Deila’s demand that the team operate on a foundation of hard work.