Five Things: A Stronger Spine for NYCFC?

San Jose Five Things

Win no.2 was secured at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five things we learned from NYCFC’s 2-1 comeback win over San Jose Earthquakes…

1. Rolling Sleeves Up

We’ll not get ahead of ourselves at this very early stage in the campaign but it’s often said that winning when you’re not playing at your very best is the mark of champions.

There are a lot of months between now and December, but you can definitely see that this is a team that will fight together on the field to get over the line.

Our boys in blue also demonstrated a backbone and resilience to recover from the early concession to complete the fightback and to hold on for the 2-1 win.

Goalscorer Jack Harrison described it as a “scrappy” performance following the game but there was certainly enough sparkle in the creation of the two goals to complement the grit which secured this second victory of the season.

2. Instant Impact

“I always love Tommy, not just the player, but the person,” Head Coach Patrick Vieira said after watching McNamara climb off the bench to secure the three points.

The New Yorker has scored more aesthetically pleasing goals in his 50+ games for NYCFC but this one could prove to be just as vital as any of them when we’re looking back at 2017 at the end of the year.

McNamara had only been on the field for a couple of minutes when he found himself in the right place at the right time to turn in Ronald Matarrita’s pass from close range.

He won’t want to gain a reputation as a “super sub” as Tommy will want to be in the XI and moments like these will only strengthen his cause.  

3. What a Goal!

Not one of Tommy’s best goals on individual merit, but maybe one of the best team goals NYCFC has ever scored.

The way the team moved the ball from back to front and unlocked the stubborn San Jose rearguard action was a thing of beauty.

David Villa’s no-look-Cruyff-turn-through-ball was glorious and so too was Matarrita’s unselfish cutback after the Costa Rican had overlapped and broken the defensive line.

The whole crowd would have been internalizing the same thought: “Why didn’t he shoot?”, before leaping to their feet to celebrate Tommy’s goal... and Mata's foresight.

It was a goal that exemplified Vieira’s way of playing the game and will have left him delighted.

4. A Stronger Spine?

Great sides are often built on strong spines and there have been some positive signs on that front for NYCFC in the first month of the season – especially at the back.

Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot were two of the best players on the field against San Jose, winning their aerial duels and stepping in to make excellent challenges when the Earthquakes threatened on the counter.

Sean Johnson also proved his worth once again with two brilliant saves which bookended the match and were every bit as important as Harrison and McNamara’s goals.

In 2016, NYCFC conceded an average of a 1.67 goals per game – so far in 2017, it’s 0.75.

A small statistical sample size, sure, but there’s no question the boys in blue look more solid than ever before.

5. Villa Turns Provider

H/T to NYCFC Nation for this stat: You have to go back to July 6, 2016 for the last time in which all of the following three things happened…

- David Villa played

- David Villa didn’t score

- NYCFC won

However, just because El Guaje didn’t add to his two 2017 MLS goals, he was just as influential as ever, showing another lesser celebrated dimension to his game: his creativity.

The two flicks which broke the San Jose defensive line were world class and very few players in the world would have both the audacity and the technique to pull them off.

David Villa being good at soccer is hardly news to anyone but sometimes even he surprises with the sheer breadth of his talent.

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