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Grading NYCFC: Replacing international absences proves costly in loss to Montreal


A trio of forced replacements constrained New York City FC Wednesday night, with the club falling to CF Montreal 2-1 away from home. 

This summer’s series of international tournaments has done a number on teams across Major League Soccer and NYCFC is no exception. A run to the Copa America semifinal with Peru saw Alexander Callens miss his fourth straight club match while call-ups to the Gold Cup with the U.S men’s national team saw Sean Johnson and James Sands also become unavailable.

These absences forced head coach Ronny Deila into a handful of changes to his starting lineup, most noticeably in defense. Though City was limited with options at center back, Deila stuck to his five-man backline by introducing Alfredo Morales.

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The 31-year-old was visually uncomfortable with the position and it ultimately cost his new side. 

“They play a lot on two big, fast strikers and have a high elevation between the lines,” Deila said. “I think we’re prepared for that but we do two easy mistakes. I think it’s not shape-wise, it’s more individual things.”

Tasked with marking Romell Quioto, Morales lost the forward on multiple occasions, allowing him to slip behind NYCFC’s defense with ease. Morales is not an especially quick player and the traditional midfielder couldn’t keep up with Quioto once he was beaten, leading to multiple chances that were eventually converted. 

Despite getting a solid look at Quioto, Morales was beaten for pace when the CF Montreal forward angled his run. This left Quioto through on goal to score the game-winning goal.

Sebastien Ibeagha’s day wasn’t much better.

Given more responsibility due to Callens’ absence, Ibeagha didn’t adapt his game to work well next to Morales. The 29-year-old was prone to leaving his line to try to gain possession higher up the field, handing more work to Morales when his attempts were unsuccessful. 

A lapse in judgment and a poorly timed tackle saw Ibeagha award Montreal a penalty minutes before the halftime whistle. He returned to his position recklessly after being pulled out wide to prevent a counterattack, overcommitting in his attempt to close down Djordje Mihailovic and awarding Wilfred Nancy’s side a spot-kick. 

Though Morales’ experiment at center back is likely over, Ibeagha should be seeing regular time for up to the next four matches. Callen’s return to the squad couldn’t come at a better time as NYCFC travels to MLS cup champion Columbus next.

Barraza’s league debut

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Sean Johnson’s USMNT call-up handed 2019 SuperDraft pick Luis Barraza his first MLS appearance and second with the team. The 24 year-old played well for a backup goalkeeper despite the loss, showing he can do the job filling in through the USMNT’s Gold Cup run.

Barraza did well closing down chances that leaked through NYCFC’s backline but was eventually beaten when forced into enough one-on-one’s with Quito. Though Barazza was rounded after being beaten to the ball by the Honduran, he stopped similar chances in the 13th and 50th minutes by coming off his line and denying Mason Toye and Quito from clear chances respectively.  

“I can’t blame him for the penalty situation, a penalty is a penalty,” Deila said. “He had one good save in the second and one in the first half as well. Was also good in distribution. To be his first game in the MLS it’s a good start.”

The Marquette University graduate will continue to gain MLS experience as  Deila’s choice in goal during the team’s run without Johnson. Barazza is projected to start twice against the Crew as well as a rematch with CF Montreal and a battle with Orlando City.

NYCFC Player Ratings

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Luis Barraza (6) – Looked nervous at times during his first MLS start but came up with a few needed saves. Could’ve done better to avoid getting dribbled past leading to Quioto’s goal. 

Malte Amundsen (5) – Didn’t provide the offensive threat NYCFC often utilize from its fullbacks. He picked up his pace and stayed higher up the field in the second half but was ultimately replaced by Gudmundur Thórarinsson.

Sebastien Ibeagha (4) – Had his worst appearance in an NYCFC shirt. Ibeagha was prone to leaving his line to make tackles slightly higher up the field, leading to an exposed space between City’s remaining center backs. Conceded a penalty after taking down Djordje Mihailovic.

Maxime Chanot (5.5) – Was the best of NYCFC’s three central defenders but couldn’t keep his backline structured.

Anton Tinnerholm (6) – Worked up crosses along the right side but wasn’t too ambitious going for goal. 

Alfredo Morales (3.5) – Morales was clearly uncomfortable filling in at center back, often losing his mark and allowing runs in behind him. He was responsible for Quioto’s game-winner and nearly allowed the CF Montreal forward to have a multi-goal outing. 

Nicolás Acevedo (5.5) – Helped win possession back for NYCFC but his distribution lacked compared to the 22 year-old’s previous outings. 

Keaton Parks (6.5) – Found his second goal in as many games with a perfectly placed half-volley in the 29th minute. 

Maxi Morález (6) – Created a few chances that went unfinished but wasn’t as effective as usual given his deeper position on the field.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (7) – Was NYCFC’s best option going forward, often making runs along the right side that advanced City up the field. Did well to beat Zohran Ludovic Bassong on the dribble before finding Parks at the far post for an assist. 

Valentín Castellanos (4.5) – Looked frustrated in front of goal, registering just one shot on target.

Ronny Deila (4) – Deila waited too long to make changes to his stagnant side, eventually costing his team when replacing Ibeagha and conceding a minute later. Opted not to start Thiago Andrade and Thórarinsson, two players that have been integral to NYCFC’s offense in recent weeks. 

Thiago Andrade (N/A) – The second-half substitute wasn’t able to make the runs we’ve seen from him during his limited time with NYCFC. 

Gudmundur Thórarinsson (N/A) – Was introduced too late to provide the service NYCFC needed from its left back. 

Jesus Medina (N/A) – Was reduced to a substitute appearance for the first time this season, ultimately not able to make a difference in his nine minutes on the field. 

Talles Magno (N/A) – Provided a needed spark with his late inclusion but was unable to help find the much-needed equalizer.

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