Not much has gone wrong for New York City FC this season.
Even with injury issues plaguing the first month or so of the Major League Soccer campaign, NYCFC has largely cruised, asserting itself as one of the league’s deepest and most dangerous teams.
On Sunday, NYCFC experienced its first setback of the young season.
Following a seven-match unbeaten run that included five wins, NYCFC suffered its first defeat of the campaign on Sunday in a lopsided 3-0 defeat against the Portland Timbers.
In a match that saw NYCFC dominate possession, Patrick Vieira’s side simply lacked that final touch that has been there all season.
Meanwhile, the Timbers were at their counter-attacking best, giving NYCFC what the team sees as an important lesson into what needs to be strengthened going forward.
“We were punished in moments where we made little mistakes and it’s the first time we’ve really been punished as a team,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. “There were a lot of positives in the match and we have to take a hard look at the match and analyze what went wrong and what went right.
“I don’t think it’s really a big step backwards for us. It’s more so a wakeup call. We have a little bit more to work on, actually a lot of things to work on. We can always improve, but on the day they were the better team and they came away with the win.”
After allowing just four goals in the first five matches, NYCFC has allowed five over the last two. There’s no shame in conceding to teams like Atlanta United and the Timbers, but there is some concern with regards to the recent defending.
Vieira says part of the recent defensive issues is simply the quality of competition, while the other part is NYCFC’s vulnerability.
The first goal? A poor response to a cross. The second? An out-manned counter-attack that saw a simple rebound finish. The third was a set piece, giving NYCFC plenty to look at and analyze regarding what went wrong.
“I think it was really difficult for us,” Vieira said. “They were defending quite well. They executed their game plan well. We were really vulnerable in the counter-attack. With the quality of players they have, they scored three goals, but overall it was a really difficult game for us to find space. When they went into counter attack, they made it really difficult for us.
“I think our defensive transition wasn’t good enough. It was a day where we didn’t find the way to perform. I still believe that we have a good team and we’ve been doing some really good stuff since the start of the season, but of course, we think the game today shows that we still have a lot of work to be done.”
Still, there were plenty of positives to takeaway. Once again, NYCFC showed the ability to maintain possession and generate chances, even if several of those chances were wasted. It just wasn’t its day and, in MLS, that happens.
The idea is to make sure you’re on more often than not, and NYCFC will take Sunday’s humbling as an important step heading into an upcoming slate of matches against dangerous attacking teams in FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls and LAFC.
“We knew the first half wasn’t good enough. To go down two goals on the road in a place like this, it’s not easy to come out of that hole,” Johnson said. “For us to have a bit more bite as a group. We take that responsibility on us as players because we were given everything to be prepared for the match, but we just have to find it within to come out everyday and compete the way we train every single day of the week.
“It wasn’t a match that defines us as a team and we’ll look to improve and more forward for next weekend.”