It was a cold night in Chicago for NYCFC’s second fixture of the season. The Boys in Blue were hoping to spoil the party for the hosts in their opening match/birthday celebration. It looked to be an interesting showdown despite Chicago Fire’s negative record against NYCFC.
The hosts were hopeful to see the Shaquiri-Kamara combination, but it takes time to develop like any good attacking partnership. While the opponent’s lack of chemistry was an advantage, NYCFC was determined to show progress after the defeat to Nashville. Luckily the team got some much-needed reinforcements to turn things around just ahead of the home opener.
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Improvements in the making for NYCFC:
The team took a different approach against Chicago and made adjustments to fix some mistakes from last week. Mitja Ilenic replaced the injured Tayvon Gray at right back, and James Sands made his first official start days after returning from Rangers. His inclusion focused on a better possession in midfield alongside Keaton Parks, something that was achieved while Sands was on the field.
These changes had an immediate impact within the first 15 minutes of the match. The team was able to push forward more frequently, so that was a good sign for me. However, the surprise of the match was Ilenic. His movement and speed with the ball were key for the midfield to open more passing channels. The connections he made with Gabriel Pereira created trouble for Chicago’s defense. Unfortunately, that right side of the field was overpopulated at times and limited Ilenic’s surprise element. I assure you that once he’s able to find the space he needs, things in the attack will be very interesting.
The man of the match Gabriel Pereira also had a good performance. If anything, he took on the number 9 role in the attack. The young talent found the right spaces, made the right runs, and dribbled in the right moments. His goal rolled back a few months, and he reminded us of the last person who wore that jersey. A perfectly placed shot that seemed to be enough for the team to come back with the three points. In all fairness, Chicago Fire didn’t do much in the attack, so a 1-0 win was a good result to hold.
Santiago’s return also put things in a positive perspective despite the draw. Despite the short amount of minutes he spent on the field, the connection was untouched. He found the right spaces and read the movements of the attacking players to increase the team’s chances of scoring. With enough training and minutes, he’s set to become the focal point in midfield, providing balance and a more direct connection to the attacking third.
The question that remains is just how much longer Talles Magno will be used as a 9. If anything, the game against Chicago proved to be more evidence that he moves better among the wings. Just look at how much time he was spotted in the right wing throughout the first half. Maybe he finds a better connection with Santiago Rodriguez on the field. In terms of the defensive line, it looks to be the only section where the team has managed to establish a good chemistry level. Brian Cufre had another good performance in the left-back position. While Barraza continues to score points in his favor to remain the starting goalkeeper for the team.
NYCFC returns home this upcoming Saturday to face Inter Miami. The Boys in blue walked away with a win when they met last season. While the circumstances have changed, I’m sure they want to give the home crowd a win. The fixture could also signal the final experiment in the striker position.
If you think about it, Talles Magno was the striker in Nashville, Gabriel Pereira against Chicago, and maybe Thiago Andrade against Miami. It’s a crazy possibility, but at the moment, no idea is too crazy to be considered. If you ask me, the team has saved its best version for the homecoming match. A fixture that officially signals the beginning of a new chapter in the team’s history.