luis barazza, nycfc

Things around the NYCFC camp have been far from good recently. From injuries to frustrating defeats, you name it. With the season fast approaching its midway point with the All-Star game, positive results became much more needed, especially with the ongoing record of 12 games without a win, a streak that came close to ending recently against the Columbus Crew. But as I said, things are just not going as planned.

The soccer gods prolonged the dreadful wait until the team played literally in another country to finally end the negative run. A brilliant bicycle kick from Matias Pelegrini was enough to obtain the much-needed 3 points. The victory also marked the team’s first win away from home this season. Two very good motivating factors for their return home against Charlotte on Wednesday. With that being said, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

The defense and the clean sheet motivator

The defense has been something that has struggled a bit this season, the absence of Thiago Martins pushed for another adjustment in the lineup.

Luckily, Justin Haak adapted to his role in the defense in no time. He’s been solid with key interferences and has managed to provide the team with a level of security with good clearances and touches in difficult situations. If anything, it looks like he finally found his place on the team. In addition, Ilenic continues to impress with his attacking abilities, so the team will definitely be looking for him once again on Wednesday.

Last but not least, the clean sheet factor,  shutting down your goal to get a vital result, is enough motivation to repeat the defensive performance. Barraza once again continues to prove that he is the guy for the job. Let’s hope he manages a consecutive clean sheet against Charlotte.

Finding the target

The team needs to start finishing the chances they create (see the wordplay?). The results cant be coming down to a one-goal difference week after week.

To put it in perspective, the team managed 10 shots against Montreal. Out of those 10 shots, 7 were on target, but NYCFC only won by one goal. You might hate to rely on statistics, but if you watched the game, you know the scoreline should reflect more than one goal. Yes, the team experiments have not delivered as expected, but the lack of continuity doesn’t really help strikers like Gabe Segal. Hopefully, the youngster continues to see minutes this season, but in the meantime, the hunt is on for a new attacking alternative for NYCFC during the summer transfer window. 

Keeping “cool” under pressure

This is a great little detail that tends to play out when things go south. The team is starting to build a tendency to crack under pressure.

I would like to say that this only happens when they play away from home. But that’s not the case, giving up advantages has cost the team valuable results. The most painful ones? Against Atlanta and Columbus Crew. In fact, in the psychological aspect, I think they are their own worst enemy. Hopefully, the win against Montreal is the turning point maybe we were waiting for. It’s time to make New York the fortress we know it can become.

Charlotte’s predicament

The visitors are only one place above NYCFC in the eastern conference. That is perhaps why I highlight the importance of “keeping it cool.” They know that losing makes them drop from the playoff spots, so it’s something that they will try to evade at all costs. They know that NYCFC has not been as strong this season, so it could be an area that they will look to use in their favor.

The Fans

I may sound like a broken record, but they are the heart and soul of the team. The win in Montreal will definitely push the fans to come out and support the team on Wednesday. The fact that it will officially be the first summer game of the season may also help. I know things haven’t been completely positive, but this could be the turning point we were waiting for. So the support has to be there, rain or shine.  

* Congratulations to Nicolas Benalcazar on his debut with NYCFC. The youngster becomes the first defender with Ecuadorian background to play with the first team. He had an outstanding season with NYCFC II and is one to watch from now on.

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