New York City’s home woes have continued following Sunday’s 2-2 tie with Orlando City.
Normally a draw isn’t the end of the world, but when considering the recent play of NYCFC, it’s easy to see why star midfielder Andrea Pirlo used a word like “frustrating” to describe his team’s recent play.
Coming off the most embarrassing defeat in City’s brief history – a 7-0 home thrashing at the hands of rival New York Red Bulls – City was likely counting on rectifying matters with Orlando in town. And almost as expected, the central Florida squad was in obliging mood, going down 2-0 late in the contest.
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But a funny thing happened to NYCFC en route to what should’ve been an easy march to victory, they began making mistakes that star-studded – and pricey -- teams shouldn’t be making.
When David Villa stepped into the penalty spot at the 70th minute and was almost assuredly ready to put the game away, the Spanish legend slipped and shanked his attempt, giving Orlando new life. They in turn were able to equalize the contest with two late goals and steal a draw from the stunned Yankee Stadium crowd.
It was a rare miscue for one of the league’s best players – who is leading the league with nine goals -- but it was also a microcosm for what’s been going wrong for City lately.
The loss to the Red Bulls is one thing – NYCFC hasn’t beaten them yet -- but the way City had its late lead erased by Orlando (3-3-7, 16 points) may actually sting more. The Lions were missing team captain Kaká and four other starters, playing on a strange pitch that’s angled across the outfield of the stadium, and closing out their third game in eight days.
That game should’ve been a get-well opportunity for the sagging club. Yet, here they are sitting at 4-4-6 and second-guessing themselves.
Even head coach Patrick Vieira noted afterwards that they need to be more “ruthless in front of the goal” and need to show “more desire to defend.”
Vieira should take some solace that City’s overall performance was a definitive improvement over last week’s drubbing, but when the standings are as close as they are in the Eastern Conference, every victory counts.
The Philadelphia Union is currently atop the conference standings, but they’re only four points ahead of sixth-place Toronto FC, which shows just how competitive and tight things are. NYCFC has 18 points, one behind its cross-river rivals, meaning all is not lost yet despite the recent slide.
Thursday night’s matchup against Real Salt Lake (6-4-2) won’t be a reprieve, as the Utah franchise is currently fourth in the Western Conference with 20 points. So, City will need to find a way to erase the previous two disappointing home showings from memory and make sure Real Salt Lake isn’t the latest visitor to leave Yankee Stadium on a high.
-Since the beginning of its inaugural season last year, NYCFC has blown a result – described as a potential win that turns into a draw or a tie into a loss -- in the 75th minute or later 10 times. It’s happened three times already this season, and all at home. That’s a staggering statistic considering City has only played a total of 49 competitive matches since it entered the league.