Patrick Vieira has been around the game long enough to understand that losing games is part of the business. Every team, even the best ones, has off days and every team has missteps along what is always a long season.
Losses are something Vieira can accept. Saturday’s derby performance against the New York Red Bulls? Unacceptable.
NYCFC conceded twice in five minutes and twice more over the ensuing 85 in what ended as a 4-0 rout at the hands of the New York Red Bulls. It was a match that, at times, didn’t even feel that close as the Red Bulls dominated from start to finish against a flat NYCFC.
It wasn’t just the goals conceded but how they were conceded, and it wasn’t just the defeat but the manner in which NYCFC was defeated. It was a beatdown from start to finish, one which Vieira called a “collective nightmare” from top to bottom.
“I’m really frustrated about the competitiveness, the desire we had on the field,” Vieira said. “I’m prepared to accept that we can lose games, but the way we lost today with the lack of conviction, the lack of competitiveness, that’s something that I can’t accept.
“Today we didn’t turn up, and that’s the frustration.”
In some ways, the match started as NYCFC expected. The Red Bulls pressed high and played on the front foot. The opposition was aggressive, as usual, and NYCFC just had to weather the storm.
They didn’t weather any story. Instead, they were battered by it. Kaku provided the first goal just two minutes into the match, finishing off a rebound from a strong Sean Johnson save. Two minutes later, it was Florian Valot finishing off a Kaku assist to push the score to 2-0 before the smoke from pregame pyrotechnics even fully cleared.
The next goal took 30 minutes as Bradley Wright-Phillips pushed the lead to 3-0 before halftime, all but ending the match before the intermission.
“I was unhappy with the way of all of them, the way they perform,” Vieira said. “We have to reflect on our performance because, at this level, it’s unacceptable to go on the field and have the opposition team want it more than us.
“If I had a chance to change all 10 players on the field, I would have done it at halftime. I wasn’t happy with any of the players on the field.”
Although the second half saw small improvements from NYCFC, the damage was certainly done. NYCFC all but conceded the game in the 65th minute by taking David Villa off the field as the Red Bulls looked to coast to a clean sheet.
Still, the hosts added one more late on a goal from Derrick Etienne, capping a miserable afternoon for NYCFC with yet another backbreaker.
“Everyone knows we can do much better,” midfielder Alex Ring said. “This is a game we have to forget fast. We didn’t bring our passion and the energy we’re used to bringing. We thought we can come here and play flick-ons and (crap) like that, and then this happens.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and take responsibility today,” he added. “We have to look in the mirror and know the truth: this was a (crap) game from us.”
Saturday’s match was only NYCFC’s second setback of the season. Their first was a similar scoreline, a 3-0 loss in Portland that was, by all measures, closer than the scoreline would indicate. The game after? A bounce-back win over FC Dallas that produced one of the team’s best performances of the year.
Bouncing back from Saturday will be much more difficult, and erasing a derby day defeat from memory will take much longer. At the end of the day, NYCFC expects the 4-0 drubbing to be a bump on the way to what they hope will be something bigger.
“We’re very far away from where we want to be as a group, and today that was evident,” Johnson said. “We’ve done some good things this year, but by no means can we take our foot off the gas pedal. It’s cliche, but that was a humbling one today.”
“This is an embarrassment,” Ring added. “We have to take responsibility, forget about this game over the next couple of days, and make sure this never happens again.”