NYCFC fall flat in 3-1 loss to D.C. United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

Washington, D.C. — With a chance to guarantee a spot in the Conference Semifinals, New York City FC fell flat against D.C. United, conceding three times in the first half en route to a 3-1 loss on Sunday at RFK Stadium.

Patrick Mullins opened the scoring against his former team with a simple finish at the back post in the 27th minute. Bobby Boswell headed a corner kick home four minutes later and Rob Vincent finished the scoring as the first half, giving D.C. more than enough as they clinch a playoff spot.

“I think in the first half we didn’t play and we didn’t compete,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “The way we wanted to play, the quality of the pitch didn’t help us and we didn’t manage to find a solution, so we struggled.”

City had to alter its defense before the match and halfway through it as R.J. Allen suffered a calf injury last Friday and Ronald Matarrita was forced off with an ankle injury. Jason Hernandez started at right back for Allen and Diego Martinez came on at left back. The shuffled backline were split by Luciano Acosta’s passing for the first goal and lost Boswell on the second. Andoni Iraola and Josh Saunders’ misplay led to the third goal.

“There were some instances where we turned the ball over when we normally didn’t,” Hernandez said. “We really played into their hands. They have four or five guys up front that are dynamic and can make a play. We tried to avoid [playing into their hands] in the second half but obviously we failed to do so in the first and we got punished for that.”

David Villa scored from the spot to give NYCFC a consolation but their attack failed to create many chances. Martinez forced Hamid to make a diving save and Jack Harrison nearly scored with a fortunate deflection but City wasted the rest of their few opportunities with shots right to Hamid. Harrison said Vieira was right to say that the team started out flat.

“We started to realize that later in the game and tried to get our chances in,” Harrison said, “but by that time it was far too late. We need to start [creating] chances earlier.”

City’s loss and the Red Bulls’ win opens up a three-point, 13-goal gap between the two for the first seed in the East. Toronto FC’s draw cuts the gap between them and NYCFC to one point. City, therefore, would clinch a spot in the Conference Semifinal with a win in its final regular season game against Columbus Crew SC next Sunday at Yankee Stadium.