Unpacking a disappointing night for NYCFC on the road at Real Salt Lake…
An Off Night
It had all started so brightly.
Sean Okoli’s first MLS goal scored just three minutes in should have provided a platform for NYCFC to go on and take at least a point but it wasn’t to be.
Goals on either side of halftime from Albert Rusnak and Aaron Maund turned the game on its head and there was to be no great late cavalry charge from the visitors.
RSL were looking to snap a four-game losing streak and they managed to do just that as they fought for every second ball and defended diligently, even when David Villa and Jack Harrison were sent on to try and rescue the game.
Head Coach Patrick Vieira said that the hosts “wanted it more” – a fact that will have disappointed the Frenchman more than any other aspect of this third road defeat of the year.
That said, Patrick laid the blame for the loss squarely at his own door after the game.
He told reporters: “The defeat today is mine – it’s me who is responsible for selecting the team. The team selection wasn’t good enough to defeat Real Salt Lake. I was thinking about the three games and the team selection wasn’t good. I take full responsibility for the defeat.”
It’s often said that one of the secrets to great leadership is to accept that everything that goes wrong under your charge is your fault and Patrick has broader shoulders than most in this respect, rarely ever looking outside of himself and blaming external factors for a poor performance.
Besides, he’ll take this defeat knowing that it’s far from fatal for any of the team’s ambitions for the campaign and he’ll come away knowing more about his squad than he did earlier in the evening.
That, and there were, of course, mitigating circumstances to point to, such as the long flight from Texas, the high altitude in the mountains and the quick turnaround which all maybe suggest the coach is being a little hard on himself.
The goal will only go down as a footnote to the story now but Okoli’s opener was still an advertisement of what the reigning USL MVP can bring to this team.
When a misplaced RSL pass squirmed through to the striker, the odds were firmly stacked against him even getting a shot away, never mind beating Nick Rimando.
Sean had to be patient in waiting for the ball to break his way and then had to use all of his strength and pace to beat the final defender before he shot across the RSL goalkeeper with a clinical finish.
On a night where there were few standout performers in blue, Okoli did advance his cause in his second start for the club.
Another man who did has chances of further starts no harm was Andrea Pirlo, who returned to the lineup for the first time since NYCFC’s 2-1 defeat to Orlando City in April.
If anyone was going to unpick the stoic Salt Lake resistance, it looked likely to be the Italian who played some typically breathtaking passes from the base of midfield.
Andrea made 56 passes in his 90’ with 25% of that number being logged as “long passes” – he also assisted three shots for teammates in a creative display from the veteran.
The form guide pointed to a convincing NYCFC victory but the head-to-head record between these two teams argued the other way.
It was the latter argument which proved the more compelling… if you want to be superstitious and reductive, that is.
Anyway, NYCFC have now been defeated by Real Salt Lake three times in three meetings by an aggregate of 7-3.
One positive: at least we don’t have to play them again until 2018. Unless…