NYCFC Adjusted to the Rain



NYCFC logoThere is only so much a coach can do when the field his team is playing on becomes a swamp.

The passing movements he charted mean little when the ball rolls into a puddle. The attacks rehearsed at the training ground can’t work when the middle of the penalty area is a pond. So Patrick Vieira became a nervous spectator fearing that a downpour would wash away his gameplan. The rain would relent in the final moments of the game but it rendered any efforts to make Saturday’s game into an 11 v 11 chess match useless. Instead, it took improvisation for New York City FC (8-3-5, 27 points) to rally and defeat the Seattle Sounders (5-7-4, 19) Saturday afternoon.

David Villa was frustrated at the end of the first half. His snap shot just struck the post and he watched Referee Robert Sabiga decline to award his team a penalty after Jack Harrison went down inside the Sounders area. Villa gave Sabiga a piece of his mind walking to the locker room at half time. Five minutes into the second half, Sabiga awarded NYCFC an opportunity to tie the game when Villa clipped legs with Oneil Fisher. Villa converted down-the-middle and a perceived balance was reached.

“It’s difficult to talk about from where I was, I didn’t have the best angle to make a decision to think it was a penalty or not,” Vieira said. “I really think the first one can go in favor, it didn’t. The second could not go in favor but it went.”

A small field combined with both teams using similar strategies and similar types of players was already going to limit the space available. Now take away another part of the field because of standing water and it makes short passes and building up from the back nearly impossible for most teams. Yet City stuck to its game plan with players adjusting to avoid the areas of the field where the water had gathered the most.

“In the second half, the big puddle in their defensive half on top of the 18 was the big one, the one where [Stefan] Frei came out and slipped,” Ben Sweat said. “We were trying to keep the ball wide and put balls in behind over the top.”

Seattle were able to compress the space between its defense and midfield making it difficult for City to find space and create chances. Thomas McNamara was unable to consistently cut inside and create a shooting opportunity. Harrison was not able to dribble in behind the backline until after Vieira switched to a 4-4-2 and moved him to the wing.

The Pigeons wanted to play balls in behind the Seattle backline and were able to more effectively once they added a second striker. Ugo Okoli occupied the center backs which allowed Villa to drift to the left rather than drop deep into the midfield. Villa was on the left byline when he crossed to Harrison in space on the right of the area and then was able to run at the far post and finish for his second goal.

“Sometimes you can’t predict how things are going to go on the field,” Okoli said. “It’s not my first time playing on a pitch like that but first things first you got to be smart with your passes, especially with the field being like that. But, nothing new, nothing crazy for us but the important thing is we got the victory today.”