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Following derby setback, NYCFC happy with bounce-back point against LAFC

For NYCFC, it will take some time to get over everything that happened at Red Bull Arena. The 4-0 shellacking from the New York Red Bulls was a major setback for a team that entered the match on a strong run of form and title aspirations.

Those title aspirations remain, and so does the frustration stemming from the derby beatdown. However, NYCFC took a step towards easing that frustration on Sunday with a valuable road draw.

NYCFC wasn’t perfect in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with LAFC. They didn’t dominate and there were certainly more difficult moments. However, against a very good LAFC team, NYCFC was able to escape their trip west with a point that feels pretty good given everything that went on in the week or so prior.

“Yes, it’s hard,” said captain David Villa, who scored the first goal of the match. “It’s been a difficult week after everything that happened the other day with the [New York] Red Bulls. The team reacted well after a difficult week. We are trying to forget what happened there every day, but it’s always going to be complicated.

“But what’s important is that the team came out playing energized and has had moments in the game where it has stepped in and taken its place on the field. It’s important for us to get this point.”

Against the Red Bulls, NYCFC was all but undone within the first five minutes. On Sunday, they made sure to strike first as Villa tapped home the game’s opening goal after seeing his initial penalty kick saved by Tyler Miller.

From there, though, there were moments of difficulty. A set piece led to an own goal from Sebastian Ibeagha. Carlos Vela then pushed LAFC ahead in the second half due to a bit of pinball in the box that NYCFC failed to clear.

There are still things NYCFC needs to clean up. Defensively, the team hasn’t quite looked at ease since a 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers last month. The own goal, in many ways, was an unfortunate moment, but the second was a slew of issues that led to a rocket of a Vela finish. Against a team with as many weapons as LAFC, those things tend to happen, though.

On Sunday, there were good and bad moments which, in many ways, was a step forward for a team that needed a bit of confidence.

“I think the team clawed its way through the game on the field,” said defender Ronald Matarrita. “We maintained it during the 90 minutes, but it’s soccer and we tied. We played a good enough game to win it, but that’s soccer.”

“The game was difficult,” Villa added. “We played against a good team. I think good soccer was played between both teams – there was a lot of intensity and at the end of the game, I think we saw what both teams were capable of on the field.”

Next up for NYCFC are a pair of Western Conference tests in the Colorado Rapids and the Houston Dynamo. After that, the team begins a murderer’s row of Eastern Conference clashes at home with Orlando City, Atlanta United and Toronto FC all coming to Yankee Stadium.

That stretch could be season-defining for an NYCFC team that counts itself among the elite right there with those three teams. Over the next few weeks, NYCFC will need to build to that stretch by regaining a bit of confidence and swagger. On Sunday, that process began.

“I think it is one of the best teams we’ve played so far in this league,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “They possess the quality and the pace and the ability to create. I am really happy going back to New York with the point – it’s a really good sign.”

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