The 2023 season is finally underway after a problematic off-season. NYCFC started off fresh in Nashville with a new team nonetheless. It didn’t give the fanbase much hope, and if you add that the team has a negative record away from home, we were in for a difficult afternoon.
Although it was expected, I have to say that the performance was not as bad as many thought. Yes, the team lost, but there were positives and negatives that give me hope for the season ahead.
- NYCFC eyeing playoff appearance, but Inter Miami stands in their path
- Talles Magno keeps NYCFC in the playoff race
- NYCFC wins in the Bronx and continues the playoff push
Main takeaways in the loss for NYCFC:
1.) Barraza is up for the challenge
The GK position had some big gloves to fill after Johnson’s departure. The proper progression would have seen Barraza take the spot automatically, but Matt Freeze’s arrival opened up the competition for the position.
In the end, Barraza was the man in goal to start the season and had key interventions for NYCFC. One of them was one-on-one against Nashville’s Jacob Shaffelburg, definitely a confidence booster in the push to be the number one this season. I also enjoyed his ability to anticipate crosses and the communication he built with Maxime Chanot at some points during the match. He was even able to block the first shot attempt during the set piece play that ended in the goal, but the defeat left a bad mark on his first match as NYCFC’s starting goalkeeper. All things considered, he should be NYCFC’s number one this season in my eyes.
2.) The team needs a connection in the midfield
There was almost no midfield for NYCFC against Nashville. Keaton, Haak, and Pellegrini were not able to connect throughout the match. It’s the first game of the season, yes, but the number of misplaced passes could have ended in more goals against NYCFC.
Luckily the defensive line and some defensive interventions from Haak kept the game open until the end. But Pellegrini was too far from the attacking line for him to distribute the ball properly. Nashville also managed to neutralize the midfield with a double-man marking system whenever any of NYCFC’s defenders had the ball. With no clean transitions and only a few chances to shoot at goal, the announcement of Santi’s return is urgent. His return secures chemistry with the attacking line, saving time, and a few headaches in the process. Although is the first game of the season, I hope Pellegrini is able to display his potential.
3.) The “9” situation will get the best of us
To win games you need to score goals, it’s that simple. So not having a true 9 (or striker) was something that had many scratching their heads. Talles Magno is without a doubt one of the most technically gifted players in the league. His skill and speed combination make him a dangerous asset to defend.
This, of course, is whenever he plays on the wing, but after Nashville, he might have scored points to be reconsidered for the role. He was unable to create chances as a 9 and seemed uncomfortable moving toward a more centralized position. Perhaps it was that responsibility as a striker that prevented him from playing more freely with Gabriel Pereira. In fact, GP did have chances to take on an attack completely unmarked, but the ball never got to him properly. It’s all these small details raise the question, why not go for a proper 9? Why improvise? Then again, we have a long season ahead.
4.) Brian Cufre
The defender impressed me despite not having the proper preparation with the team. I was aware that he had the ability and technique to go forward, but after seeing his first game I wouldn’t mind him playing as a striker (clearly a joke). But I did like that he knows how to add himself to the attacks at the right moments.
The fact that he also manages to create shooting space is impressive, so when the dust settles he can well be a 4th striker in transitional play. Trust me, I’m aware that his defensive game was not the best against Nashville, but he just needs time to adapt properly.
Overall I think the team can definitely build great chemistry as the season progresses. But that’s where the key is, time to prepare and to learn. After all, good things take time to flourish, this is a young team that needs all the support it can get. Trust me I understand the frustration, but it’s only the first game of the season, there’s no reason to lose hope already. Just remember that the team is not done bringing in players, so we still have some cards to play before going into panic mode.