New York City FC’s most dominant performance of the season turned out to be its most frustrating result.
Despite controlling virtually every minute of action against D.C. United, NYCFC failed to break down the tightly-packed D.C. defense, drawing 0-0 on the road Sunday.
With D.C. United regularly putting nine or 10 players behind the ball on defense, NYCFC had possession for more than 70% of the action, took 19 shots, put four of those on target, yet failed to score a single goal. D.C. didn’t take any shots, rarely moving forward and testing the City backline.
While disappointed not to score, NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila seemed thrilled with his side's defensive effort after the match.
"We get a point. We feel that we have lost two," Deila said. "But, again, they had no chance to get three, and that's a positive thing."
The draw ends NYCFC’s three-game winning streak, making them 4-5-1 (13 points) this season.
D.C. United's approach may have been responsible for ending City's winning streak, but midfielder James Sands took positives from the adversity his side faced throughout the match.
"I think it's a little bit of a sign of respect that we've been been doing well the last couple games, and it's also a bit of a learning experience for us," Sands said. "If we keep winning games, we're going to play more and more teams like that, and I think it was good to play that type of game now, especially when we have Cincinnati coming up, which I know they play a similar sort of style. So on one hand we were really good defensively and that's a big positive, but on the other, I think we all have to work a little harder to create some more chances."
New York City FC’s first half was promising given D.C.’s ultra-defensive set up. After taking some time to find the gaps in what quickly became a 5-4-1 defense, NYCFC created a series of quality chances. Ronald Matarrita twice sent decent balls into the center of the box, only for Keaton Parks and Jesús Medina to go off target. Héber had some chances of his own, the best coming in a one-on-one with D.C. keeper Chris Seitz, but the striker couldn’t beat the veteran goalie through the legs.
The NYCFC offense continued to create chances early in the second half. Medina and Alexander Ring both tested Seitz with shots on target in the first few minutes of the frame, but couldn’t find the net. Not long after, Héber sent a header toward the target, only for it to be blocked and cleared off the line by a D.C. defender.
Deila made a few attack-minded changes late in the match, bringing in Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Gary Mackay-Steven and Valentín Castellanos for fresh options in the final third. Yet no matter how many chances NYCFC created, the ball never truly threatened to cross the goal line, and City was forced to leave Audi Field with just a point.