Good teams find a way to respond. That’s not just an MLS necessity. To be a good team, you need to react to setbacks and handle them as they come because, at some point, they most certainly will come.
The great teams, though, do more than respond. They learn, they adapt and, ultimately, they change for the better.
It’s too early to tell where this year’s NYCFC team truly falls between the labels of “good” and “great”. There haven’t been enough games, enough moments, to truly assess them. But, with performances like Sunday’s, NYCFC proved once again that could be a team that’s ready and able to walk that line.
After experiencing their first real setback of the season last time out against the Portland Timbers, NYCFC came out and handled a previously unbeaten FC Dallas team en route to a 3-1 win. It was a performance that most certainly was the bounce-back effort the team needed to provide following a little bit of adversity. It was also another statement that NYCFC has the depth and talent to handle plenty of different challenges.
“It’s great for us to come back from a big mistake in Portland,” said David Villa, who scored twice in the win. “We made a big mistake in Portland, and a team does that sometimes, but it’s important for the mentality for the team to come back as quickly as possible. We felt the first day when we came back to the training facility that we had made a mistake and that we had to forget the mistake today. The team performance was great.
“We knew after the game in Portland that we made a mistake. We didn’t play the way we played in the games before. Always in soccer, when you make a mistake, you want the next game to change that. We felt the whole week that we knew we made that mistake and we wanted to arrive at this game.”
It was easy to see that anticipation manifest itself in NYCFC’s performance, as it took just moments for Villa and co. to unleash their first goal-scoring attack. Villa provided the initial cross as Alexander Ring fired a shot off two posts and out. Fortunately, Jesus Media was waiting, and NYCFC had a lead within the first handful of minutes.
But then, the setback. A few minutes after NYCFC’s opener, FC Dallas was back in it through a goal of their own. From there, though, it was all NYCFC as the Eastern Conference contender locked down a potent FC Dallas attack while creating two more goals of their own.
It was a far cry from the “mistake” in Portland that Villa repeatedly referred to. On that day, NYCFC was outplayed in atypical fashion in what ended as a 3-0 loss. They dominated much of the match when it came to maintaining the control of the ball, but defensive mistakes and a lack of a cutting edge doomed them.
They had the possession, they had the chances and they had the opportunity to make a push, but, for the first and, to date, the only time this season, NYCFC failed to take advantage.
“The Portland game, it was more myself as a coach and the staff reflecting on the way we performed,” said Patrick Vieira. “The players did well with our gameplan, and myself and the staff didn’t prepare our players well enough against Portland. We have to give better information to the players to give them a little bit more of a problem.
“You always learn from the defeats and you try to reflect on the team’s performance, but I’m really proud, really happy, about the group of players I have because I enjoy working with them and they’re really focused, hard-workers. Portland was about myself more than the players, but we worked hard during the week and they’ve respected all of the gameplans we’ve had so far. With the players, I’m just really happy with the attitude.”
NYCFC will look to carry that attitude into next week’s match. A derby with the New York Red Bulls looms as another chance to solidify their place atop the Eastern Conference table.
So far this season, NYCFC has handled pretty much every challenge. They’ve handled injuries, difficult opponents and, most recently, the dreaded bounce-back effort. There will be more pitfalls along the way, for sure, but Sunday showed an NYCFC team with the depth and maturity to make it happen.
“In soccer, you can’t win every game. It’s almost impossible. Only a few teams can do that,” Villa said. “You have to lose some times, but when you lose, its important to come back and win that next game. We did it, so we’re happy.”