New York City FC fell to the New England Revolution on Wednesday night. They are showing everyone precisely how not to finish a season prior to a playoff push.
It was the 70th minute. New York City FC had dominated much of the match. They were in control of proceedings, winning the battle of possession comfortably, dictating play with neat and tidy, if sometimes a little aimless, passing, and deserved the lead, though wasteful finishing let them down.
But as Cristian Penilla’s far-post effort was parried into the penalty area by Sean Johnson and Brian Wright was the first to react, cleverly redirecting the rebound into the goal, there was an audible groan around Yankee Stadium.
The 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution is the first home defeat of the season for New York. Although their form had dipped at home recently, two draws in their last two matches, they still were yet to taste defeat in the Bronx.
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But in this case, it wasn’t the performance that was the concern — the defending at times was disastrous, especially for the goal, Wright’s earlier chance that struck the post, and for Isaac Angking missed opportunity late on, but their offensive play and control of the game was promising, to say the least. It was the result, and the effect that it can have on the players and the atmosphere surrounding the team.
Domenec Torrent has a problem on his hands. His team has won just one of their last seven matches, losing four of them. And then win came against ten-man Toronto FC. NYCFC are in a tailspin. They are spiralling out of control, and their season along with it — they won’t finish outside of the playoff places, but they certainly aren’t heading into the postseason with any form or confidence.
This is where Torrent’s problem starts. The unravelling that damaging result after damaging result has on the psyche of your squad can be irreparable. This now a team that is bereft of belief, with heads drooping low as Wright wheeled away to celebrate an unlikely winner. To provide context for how bad this result is for New York, the Revolution haven’t won a game since July 1st, a 3-2 victory over D.C. United, prior to the capital team’s Wayne Rooney-inspired resurgence.
And the groan that rippled through the stanchions could be felt on the pitch, in the dugout, watching through the TV at home. This is a team that, even when playing well, just expects to lose. Mentally, they are shot. They are perfectly unprepared for an MLS Cup run.
NYCFC have wonderfully demonstrated how not to end a season in which the final standings are all but decided. Their playoff place has been secured for some time now and with the Red Bulls and Atlanta United stretching away at the sharp end, the Supporters’ Shield or high seeding in the playoffs were also unlikely targets. In very real terms, New York had very little to play for.
But form is not irrelevant; peaking at the right time is vital. And under Torrent, NYCFC are doing the very opposite of that. They are in trouble, and the whole groaning ground knows it.