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NYCFC Notes: Adjusting the backline, Castellanos’ drought continues and more


International call ups has forced New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila into a handful of adjustments this season, most recently with a change in formation in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew.

Fixing his makeshift backline that featured in the loss to CF Montreal, Deila dropped Sebastian Ibeagha and Alfredo Morales for Alexander Callens, who returned from Copa America play with Peru. Callens lined up next to Maxime Chanot as the center back pairing, switching to a four man defense compared to the back five Deila has been comfortable with.

Despite having one less central defender, both of NYCFC’s full back’s continued to push high up the field. Though Gudmundur Thórarinsson and Anton Tinnerholm are consistent chance creators, Columbus exposed the approach to grab a lead in first half stoppage tine.

After NYCFC lost the ball up the field, Thórarinsson didn’t rush back to position and left the left side of defense exposed. Once the ball made its way there through Darlington Nagbe, the visitors were in trouble.

Matters were made worse when Callens overcommitted trying to beat Nagbe to the ball, leaving Keaton Parks with the tough task of trying to catch and close Nagbe down. He couldn’t and the Crew grabbed a goal just before the break.

Whether this nudges Deila to bring Ibeagha back into the starting lineup will be seen midweek against CF Montreal. He’ll be without his preference, James Sands, while the U.S. Men’s National Team competes at the Gold Cup.

Castellanos’ drought continues

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With Valentin Castellanos now without a goal in his last eight games, Ronny Deila is concerned about his forward.

“Taty is in a situation that he is desperate to score goals and you know that can get a little bit in mentally,” Deila said. “I know when he first gets scoring, he’s gonna score a lot.”

The 22 year-old opened the 2021 MLS season with goals in each of NYCFC’s opening four games, a run of form that sparked transfer rumors and an eventual new contract with the club. Since signing that deal however, Castellanos has been noticeably struggling.

NYCFC’s most dangerous chance of the game fell to Castellanos in the 23rd minute. After Thórarinsson’s well worked shot was saved by Eloy Room, the rebound fell right to Castellanos’ who saw the ball bounce off his face before going wide of the empty net.

Deila said post game that confidence was hindering execution in front of goal and expressed frustration that he lacks backup behind Castellanos.

Talles Mango was the latest addition to NYCFC’s injury list after being removed from training with a knee injury this week. Héber, likely Deila’s first choice when healthy, is still on to two months away from recovering from a torn ACL suffered in September 2020.

“Right now, Heber is not ready yet and also Talles [Mango] is out for a while with injury,” Deila said. “‘Ive got total faith in Taty but of course it’s a lot of pressure on his shoulder because he is the only one to do this, to play number nine.”

BARRAZA’S costly errors

Luis Barazza’s first MLS start last week against CF Montreal showed glimpses of promise, however his follow up against the Columbus Crew on Saturday certainly raised some concerns.

Given how quickly NYCFC’s defensive collapsed, its hard to throw complete blame on Barazza for Darlington Nagbe’s opener. That being said, the backup goalkeeper was slightly late to come off his line and went to ground too early when closing down Nagbe’s unmarked run, allowing the Crew midfielder to bet him with a clever chipped finish.

When the Crew were awarded a dangerous set piece, Barazza left himself little chance to stop the league’s best free kick taker.

The 24 year-old told his wall of teammates ahead of him not to jump upon Zelarayán’s strike, a decision that would shortly come back to bite him. Zelarayán’s shot cleared the unmoved wall and beat Barazza, who was well late to move to his right and extend his arms to attempt a save. 

“I’m sure Luis [Barazza] feels he can do something more with that situation as well,” Deila said. “He’s young and will learn from these things.”

Though Barazza could have done better, Zelarayán is no stranger of punishing NYCFC from set pieces. Sean Johnson was beat twice by the Argentine when the Crew beat City by the same scoreline in May. 

Barazza should continue to see time in between the sticks in Johnson’s absence, likely getting the nod for the next three outings. Deila also has the option to turn to Cody Mizell, who joined the club from New Mexico United in March.

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