Season Opener – NYCFC

Official New York City FC Reporter

By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms

It’s 2017 and New York City FC still hasn’t managed to best Orlando City SC on the road.

I’ll admit to a lingering fondness for Orlando City. Chalk it up to being expansion team twins, how deeply I appreciate their tribute to the victims of the Pulse shooting, and Kaká. Just… everything about Kaká. I genuinely like them, and I get some warm fuzzies when we play them.

That said, I would love it if we could defeat them in their own home.

It is a really nice home, for the record. This was the inaugural match in the new Orlando City Stadium, and throughout the game I kept marvelling at just how slick it is. Good job, Orlando! You built a beautiful stadium that I think we all covet, at least a little bit. And naturally the narrative of the team and supporters getting a win for their first game in a new home is a lovely one.

But again: It would be great if we could go down to Florida and win.

Despite the 1-0 loss, there are still some positives we can take from this match.

Usual defensive shakiness and some lag in the midfield aside, I thought NYCFC looked comfortable. So often the first few matches of the season are plagued with nerves as the team is still growing together, but I didn’t see any of that. The team gelled, for the most part, which is more than I expected.

Andrea Pirlo – NYCFC Facebook

We held the lion’s share of the possession, and though we weren’t able to finish any of the chances created, the fact is that there were plenty of chances. It’s easy to see that there’s already more play opening up to supply strikers with opportunities. In particular, the link-up between Jack Harrison, Maxi Moralez and David Villa (before he was called offside — in other news, water is wet) was stunning. More of that, please.

(And, you know, more clinical finishing for more goals. Goals would be great.)

There are, of course, old ghosts that continue to haunt NYCFC. To say our defense is weak would have been a lukewarm take last year — does it even bear repeating this year? It was especially stark going up against Orlando City, who are similarly notorious for defense issues, and yet… they defended against us fairly well. What? Guys, come on. If Orlando City can mold their defense into something semi-firm after all this time, so can we. Please. I don’t ask for much.

One of the things I like best about Patrick Vieira is his willingness to alter lineups to find winning combinations. The beginning of the season is always full of growing pains, so I don’t expect a dramatic change right away, but I am confident the starting lineup next week will look different. My biggest question is if he’ll bench Andrea Pirlo, who didn’t exactly have the game of his life in Orlando. My second biggest question is, can I really live in a world where Pirlo is on a bench?

I leave you with a smattering of random observations:

  • We play better when we have a second striker. We didn’t have a second striker until the 84th minute. It was a little hard to watch.
  • At one point in the second half, Cyle Larin and Maxime Chanot got tangled up on the ground and it looked a bit like Larin was trying to spoon him, to which I say: Same.
  • Jack Harrison is still doing brilliant Jack Harrison things, and opposing teams are still dealing with brilliant Jack Harrison things in the only way they know how — by throwing every defender at him at once in hopes that he won’t be able to dance his way out. (Sometimes he does anyway. I love those times.)
  • Bench depth is the best problem and we’re lucky to have it, but man, I miss T-Mac. The game inarguably changed pace for the better when he came on.
  • UGO. Ugo! Here’s the part where I confess that I was unable to watch a single minute of preseason, so I hadn’t yet been introduced to the wonders of Ugo, but now that I have: Ugo, you guys. What a firecracker! I can’t wait to watch him play this season.
  • Taylor Twellman commenting that NYCFC “played a sexy kind of game” has been looping in my head for hours. Please help.

Next week we’re back home to take on D.C. United! What do you think we should do differently? Who do you predict will score the first goal of the season? (Don’t say David Villa, that’s cheating. Get creative.) Is it too early to wonder if Jack Harrison’s beard might be bad luck?

Featured image David Villa courtesy: NYCFC Facebook

Come talk to me on twitter about all this and more: @lukacharms

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