NYCFC showed grit, depth in win over LAFC


They needed one like this.

After a string of commanding performances that weren’t rewarded with wins, NYCFC took a page from a different book last weekend.

For the first time this season, New York City was beaten (thoroughly) on xG, registered far below their average possession and saw a man sent off late.

And yet, when the final whistle sounded at Banc of California Stadium last Saturday, it was NYCFC – not LAFC – which emerged with something of a smash-and-grab win.

“It’s a massive win. … If you look at all the games where we haven’t picked up points earlier, today was an even game if you look at the chances, but we had the margins with us,” coach Ronny Deila said after the match.

The numbers (0.7xG -2.2 xG) may disagree with Deila, but his point stands: this was a badly needed three points.

Despite having the most goals in the Eastern Conference and being one of the league’s statistical darlings, NYCFC flew to LA winless in three games, looking the part of an unlucky outfit. They missed chances against Orlando, were the victims of a badly blown call against Toronto and were on the other end of a smash-and-grab – via two Lucas Zelarayán free kicks – against Columbus in a 2-1 loss.

NYCFC players celebrate a late Ismael Tajouri-Shradi winner against LAFC.NYCFC players celebrate a late Ismael Tajouri-Shradi winner against LAFC.AP

Anyone with eyes could see their performances deserved more, but then again, this is not a club (or a roster) in the market for moral victories.

Saturday was decidedly not that, and was instead proof this team can dig in (and get results) against tough opponents and in tough circumstances. Anton Tinnerholm was unavailable to start for the third straight game (though he was later subbed on), and LAFC peppered the NYCFC goal before opening the scoring in the second half.

Not every win for this team will be a breezy blowout in the Bronx. Sometimes, it takes forging a goal from a stolen ball and a 90th minute winner later on.

The good news for NYCFC is that they should have enough match winners to get them over the line in these types of games as the squad rounds into health and fitness.

Tinnerholm should be back in the starting XI soon, wonderkid Talles Magno debuted for the club last weekend, and striker Heber is expected to return sometime this summer. Fellow Brazilian Thiago Andrade hasn’t yet made his debut, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is a good option off the bench, as shown by his late winner against Los Angeles.

All of these options will give NYCFC a larger margin of error, and lighten the attacking load on Jesus Medina and Taty Castellanos. A roster this good can bail you out of a lot of games.

This was New York City’s most difficult win of the season, and while not every match will be such a sweat, it’s clear they have the players – and mentality – to scrape out wins when necessary.

Reinforcements are on the way.

Striker scoring woes could sink Red Bulls

How long can it last?

The Red Bulls are in the postseason picture, are tied for the third-most most goals in the Eastern Conference (10), and are coming off an impressive 2-1 win over Orlando.

But perplexingly, seven games into this MLS season, not a single one of their forwards has scored a goal.

Teenaged Caden Clark is the team's leading scorer from midfield.Teenaged Caden Clark is the team’s leading scorer from midfield.Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two players account for 70% of New York’s finishes – midfielders Caden Clark and Cristian Casseres Jr. – and that trend continued last weekend. Clark’s smart movement into the box again led to a goal, while Casseres later doubled the lead with a beautiful curler of a free kick.

The 18-year-old Clark is now up to four goals on the year, with Casseres just behind with three, tied for his most in any single season.

Given the pair’s youth (Casseres is 21), it’s hard to tell how sustainable this is – their scoring runs could be less an aberration and more a sign of their development.

Nonetheless, the underlying numbers say both are at least doubling the scoring output that would be expected based on their shot diet.

Coach Gerhard Struber isn’t concerned with the load they’ve been carrying thus far.

“For me it’s not so important which player scored in the end,” he said last weekend. “I think we have a big togetherness. We have many, many players on the pitch, they have the responsibility to score goals and the time with the strikers will come. We need the strikers in the next games. We have a long season and I am 100 percent convinced our strikers will score.”

On the flipside, New York’s forwards have done a good bit of creating. Fabio leads the team with four assists – his hold up play has shined – and Polish youngster Patryk Klimala notched his first assist last weekend.

Still, it’s fair to be slightly skeptical that a) Clark and Casseres will continue their scoring exploits at this rate or b) one of the Red Bulls’ forwards will produce something like double-digit goals in the remaining games.

For all of the hype surrounding them, Fabio and Klimala are in their maiden MLS campaigns, and Danny Royer looks a diminished version of the player who once had three-straight seasons of at least 11 goals. Brian White, who led a low-scoring attack with five goals last year, has just been shipped off to Vancouver.

Even with Clark and Casseres’ production so far, the team sits in a respectable but not overly impressive ninth place in the East, with star center back Aaron Long done for the season due to an Achilles injury. To be truly competitive – more than a bubble playoff team – they’ll need those two (and perhaps Frankie Amaya) to keep humming while simultaneously getting some legit goalscoring help from their forwards.

That may be asking too much.

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