New York City FC 1-1 Seattle Sounders: A positive outlook after CCL elimination

Apr 13, 2022; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York City FC forward Talles Magno (43) reacts after missing a shot against the Seattle Sounders during the second half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2022; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York City FC forward Talles Magno (43) reacts after missing a shot against the Seattle Sounders during the second half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The start of 2022 has not been stellar for New York City FC.  For starters, they have just four points from five games in Major League Soccer.  More importantly, they almost failed to move on into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals after a disastrous second leg in the quarterfinals.  Defensively, they have struggled, and it does not help that the new center-back, Thiago Martins, has been struggling to adjust to his new team.

Nevertheless, NYCFC entered the second leg of the CCL semifinals down 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders FC.  The opening to move on was there, but the issue at hand was that the team has been extremely messy in the defensive third, and also unlucky.

There have been some matches where the team has played well too; the results would suggest otherwise.  In other words, the inability to get the right result has been problematic this year.  The Pigeons were also without Maxi Moralez and Maxime Chanot for the second leg, with both being critical to the Starting XI.

As such, the Pigeons’ backs were against the wall, and the Sounders took advantage by getting an away goal.  Despite drawing 1-1 in the second leg, NYCFC was eliminated from the CCL after a 4-2 result on aggregate.

New York City FC was knocked out of the CCL by the Seattle Sounders

Defensively, the first moment of panic came in the 13th minute, where the ball was given away right outside the box.  Thankfully, a weak shot from Nicolás Lodeiro led to a Sean Johnson save, but clearly their defensive weaknesses were shown.  Hence, it was not surprising when the Sounders scored in the 28th minute to put the team ahead.  The backline could not clear the ball, and Raúl Ruidíaz was able to get Seattle’s away goal.

The goal was truly a good goal, and nothing should be taken away from it.  But, the Bronx side should have done better.  They allowed the Sounders to get ball around numerous defenders, and just watched as the ball reached Ruidíaz and went into the goal.

Although, the backline did improve as the game continued on, and there were some solid defensive moments, including in the 59th minute.  The Sounders had a spectacular run on the counter attack, and Johnson came out of goal.  Martins, who has been struggling to adjust, made a vital block on the goal line, and kept Seattle from getting their second goal.

Alas, that one goal is all Seattle would need, for NYCFC failed to score the necessary three goals to go to penalty kicks.  They had numerous chances, but as seen in the majority of the MLS fixtures this year, they failed to capitalize on most of them.  It did not help that Stefan Frei had an incredible match for the Sounders, for he had seven saves.

Furthermore, NYCFC had 25 shots and eight on target, and even led their opponents with over 62% of the possession.  And unforgettably, Santiago Rodríguez did pull one back for the Pigeons, but it was too little, too late.

Yet, New York City FC continued to attack, especially in the second half.  There were numerous chances, and they were a continuous threat on Seattle.  The never-back-down mentality, and the fight until the end, must be applauded.

Don’t panic yet: New York City FC can find success

After the strong end to the 2021 season, the MLS Cup winners were expected to make it to the CCL finals.  But so far, 2022 has not gone as expected, and New York City FC has struggled to get results.  Again, there have been matches where the Pigeons played well, but the results did not go their way.

In spite of the rough start, fans might forget it is still early, and there is a lot more football to play.  Yes, the supporters would have preferred for NYCFC to continue their end of 2021 run, but if anything was learned that year, then it was that the team is streaky.  Unfortunately, the Bronx side is on the not-so-good and unlucky run, and their struggles resulted in the CCL elimination.

It is still not the time to panic though.  Everyone saw how NYCFC was initially on the outside looking in with the playoffs before that fateful Atlanta United match.  And, everyone saw the team finish in fourth and then win the MLS Cup.

Meanwhile, NYCFC has more trophies to play for.  Not only can they fight to recapture the MLS Cup, but the U.S. Open Cup is also back this year.  The Pigeons made it to the quarterfinals back in 2019 after failing to find success in the previous years, so there is no doubt they will chase the silverware again in 2022.

When all is said and done, NYCFC has the talent to do well.  They have most of the players from the previous season, and quite a few rising stars.  There are a few things that have to be polished up, but the side is close to where they need to be.  Fans know they can maintain possession, and play well in the midfield, especially when Moralez starts.  They also create chances and often outplay their opponents in most of the statistics, even when the results do not go their way.

The issue at hand involves the two aspects they lead to results, goals, and giving up goals.  NYCFC has scored this year, but there have been multiple games where they have failed or struggled to capitalize.  In four of the five MLS fixtures, the Pigeons scored one or no goals.  Hence, it was not shocking they struggled in the semifinals of the CCL, for they were playing against another MLS side.  And of course, the team has to fix their issues in the defensive third.  There have been too many mistakes and blunders to start the season.

However, once NYCFC is able to consistently score goals again, and fix the defense, then they will become an unstoppable force.  In some sense, the Pigeons are like a sandwich.  They have the ingredients that go in between the bread, but are missing the bread itself.

So, it is not time to panic yet.  There is plenty of time for New York City FC to get back where they belong, become a force in MLS, and make a run in the Open Cup.

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