NYCFC signed off on preseason with an entertaining 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Here are five things we learned from our final dress rehearsal before the MLS season…
1. The New Boys
This was our first opportunity to see what Yangel Herrera, Alex Ring and Rodney Wallace on the field in NYCFC colors and their effect on the game was hugely encouraging.
Herrera is just coming off the South American U-20 Championships where he captained Venezuela to a third-place finish – their best placing in 62 years – and he showed his athleticism as the no.8, as well as some nice touches.
Ring was arguably Man of the Match as he demonstrated his combative nature in the midfield engine room, breaking up play and setting up some of his team’s best moves with the breadth and perfect weight of his passing.
Wallace was also a key contributor for NYCFC, taking on defenders in one v one situations and playing some balls over the top which asked serious questions of the opposition.
All in all, three more reasons to be excited going into year three.
2. Johnson to the Rescue
Although NYCFC undoubtedly deserved to win this game, they might not have without Sean Johnson.
When the referee pointed to the spot for a Ronald Matarrita foul on Benny Feilhaber, Soony Saad had a golden opportunity to equalize but he didn’t count on the reflexes on NYCFC’s no.1.
Johnson guessed correctly, diving low to his right but he still needed to have a strong wrist to keep out the PK and it was a save made all the better by his reactions to smother the ball and prevent the rebound.
He wasn’t finished there as he made another crucial save with his feet a couple of minutes later to deny KC a leveler against the run of play.
3. The Winner
As game-winners go, this was one worthy of winning any Regular Season game.
The three actions that led to the goal were of the very highest quality as Jack Harrison’s little stabbed pitching wedge over the top of the Kansas defense was perfectly weighted for Maxi Moralez to run onto before the little Argentine produced the arcing cross which was tailor made for the head of David Villa.
NYCFC’s counter-attacking potential certainly seems to have gone up a notch in the offseason with the addition of a number of speedy, technical players with clean feet and quick wits.
4. Defensive Strength
Patrick Vieira has indicated on numerous occasions that he’s not going to lose sleep about conceding goals, so long as his team scores more than the opposition.
However, with the addition of a new goalkeeper and a new center back in the shape of Alexander Callens, he will be hoping that NYCFC allow less chances to score at the back in 2017.
On the evidence of this win over Sporting KC and for the majority of the narrow defeat to Colorado Rapids, that should be the case over the next 7-8 months.
Callens’ athleticism was there for all to see on Saturday afternoon as he put out fires at the back, won headers and stepped in to end Kansas attacks.
A clean sheet was the perfect way to sign off preseason and will have pleased the Head Coach no end going into Orlando.
5. No More Auditions
No alarm bells were ringing in the camp following defeats to Red Bulls, Colorado and Houston as they could all be explained away through late arrivals, a video-assisted red card and experimental XIs, but you always felt as though this was a game with a little bit extra for Vieira and co.
There was a competitive spirit evident from the first minute as the team got into the winning habit just in time for Orlando City.
There are no more chances for players to catch Vieira’s eye in a competitive match setting and the Frenchman will certainly be a lot closer to knowing the XI which will take to the field on Sunday March 5.
So close you can almost touch it…