NYCFC Squanders Lead at RSL

May 17, 2017; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) is congratulated for his first half goal against the New York City FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

NYCFC logoTen minutes in, it appeared as if New York City FC’s rotated lineup was on its way to a victory. By the end of the night, the players were exhausted and defeated in Sandy, Utah.

Ugo Okoli‘s first Major League Soccer goal would be for naught as Real Salt Lake scored on either side of halftime to turn the early deficit into a 2–1 win Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Albert Rusnak and Aaron Maund scored for Salt Lake (3-7-2, 11 points) in a snowy night against an NYCFC (5-4-2, 17) side that made five changes for the second part of their week-long, cross-country jaunt.

To go with Okoli, Andrea Pirlo also returned to the starting lineup. Thomas McNamara moved to left wing and captained the team while Miguel Camargo started at right wing. R.J. Allen made his first start since the season opener but at left back. Frederic Brillant also started for Maxine Chanot in central defense.

Despite forcing the turnover that created the opening goal, Camargo was quiet for much of the game and was subbed off after 54 minutes. McNamara was also subbed off then, having let a number of first-half chances die at his feet. Allen struggled with his defensive positioning and was ineffective with his passing.

“The defeat today is mine,” Coach Patrick Vieira said. “It’s me who is responsible for the loss today because the selection of the team wasn’t good enough to compete against Salt Lake and I take full responsibility for the performance of the team today.”

Vieira said his team was too deep and essentially stopped playing after scoring the first goal. The forward press that created the goal faded away, the defense spent too much time on the ball in their own half and the midfield ran out of ideas. Whether a midfield that has Maxi Moralez and Pirlo in it can adequately breakdown a deep, determined team such as Real Salt Lake remains to be seen. Perhaps Sunday’s game at Orlando City will provide an answer.