New York City FC Vs LAFC: Reason for hope

YANKEE STADIUM, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2019/03/17: Maximiliano Moralez (10) of NYCFC controls ball during MLS regular game against LAFC on Yankee stadium Game ended in draw 2 - 2. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
YANKEE STADIUM, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2019/03/17: Maximiliano Moralez (10) of NYCFC controls ball during MLS regular game against LAFC on Yankee stadium Game ended in draw 2 - 2. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

New York City FC are still waiting for their first win after Sunday’s draw with Los Angeles FC. Despite this, however, there is plenty of reason for hope. Here’s why.

New York City FC earned a draw against Los Angeles FC on Sunday. That is their third draw in as many matches. New York were able to take the lead twice in the match but were pegged back on both occasions, the final result a frustrating 2-2 draw. The performance, however, was an encouraging one.

The team now have just three points through three games and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They have given up leads in the second half twice. Despite those frustrations, New York City FC have looked good the last two weeks against tough competition. Both LAFC and D.C. United are seen as early MLS Cup front-runners. In both matches, NYCFC looked like the better team, they were just unable to secure the win.

Domenec Torrent had his team playing a 4-3-3 this week. After playing in central midfield last week, Maxi Moralez was returned to center-forward, where he started in Week 1. That allowed Torrent to play three more defensive-minded midfielders, James Sands, Alexander Ring, and Ebenezer Ofori. Ronald Matarrita received his first start of the season, displacing Ben Sweat at left-back.

Following Week 1, I criticized using Moralez as a center-forward. He was too isolated and the front-three did not connect well together. However, Moralez was much more effective this time around. He was given freedom to roam, drifting out wide and coming back a little deeper to get on the ball. He basically played as a free-midfielder.

Moralez was pressed into a forward position so New York City FC could put an extra box-to-box midfielder in the line-up. Ebenezer Ofori returned to the starting XI to play alongside Ring and in front of Sands. Obviously, NYCFC were wary of LAFC, who are off to a hot start to the season and scored four goals against last year’s MLS Cup runners-up, the Portland Timbers, last week. Soon after the start of the second half, Ben Sweat came on for Ofori, which pushed Matarrita into the midfield.

The defensive focus paid off. New York City FC did a great job of winning the ball. They had 24 successful tackles and another 12 interceptions. The defensive line snuffed out counter-attacks before they could get started. Of course, it helps that they were playing in the cramped confines of Yankees Stadium (NYCFC should never build their own stadium, it’s such an advantage, even if it’s an eye sore). The other side to the physicality of this match was the fouls. The two teams combined for an incredible 31 fouls. New York City FC were responsible for 19 of those. They also received five yellow cards (though no one was sent off). Most importantly though, NYCFC committed a penalty in the seventy-fifth minute that allowed Carlos Vela to score the equalizer.

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Last week, I complained that New York City FC were not getting many good opportunities at goal, particularly in the box, despite maintaining a significant amount of possession. They did better at this against LAFC as well. New York City FC took just 31% of their shots from outside the 18-yard box, while against D.C. United, 62% of their shots came from beyond the box.

NYCFC still need a starting striker. Maxi Moralez’ best position is attacking midfielder, and this team will be at its best with him there. Meanwhile, Alexandru Mitrita is being relied on too heavily and he does not look for teammates. He has one focus — goal. There is a rumor that New York City FC are zeroing in on their target striker (pun intended). Heber, coming from the Croatian league, would make an interesting compliment to Mitrita, who came from the Romanian league.

Overall, New York City FC were the better team against LAFC. They dominated possession 60.5% to 39.5% ( The attack looked sharper. They delivered the ball into the box on more occasions and did not rely on low-success rate long shots. Moralez looked comfortable, and Mitrita and Castellanos both threatened from the wings. The midfield continued to be a strength and the defense also did well for much of the game. Unfortunately, two mistakes allowed LAFC to score, resulting in a draw. Ben Sweat gave up a penalty and Maxime Chanot, who was great otherwise, turned the ball over in his own half and then dropped back to play Vela onside, allowing him to score.

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New York City FC have thirteen days to prepare for their next match. They will have their next opportunity to win their first match of the season on March 30th, when they travel to Toronto. If they continue to play as they did here, it will not take them long to get their first victory.