Earlier this season, first-year head coach Ronny Deila said New York City FC needed to improve its mentality in undesirable situations, whether that be a quick goal allowed, a controversial officiating decision or any other in-game obstacle.
That’s clearly still a work in progress.
NYCFC went down early and never truly responded, failing to convert on the handful of chances it created in a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution. City (8-7-2, 26 points) gave up the opener before it had a chance to attack, allowing Teal Bunbury too much space behind in the opening minutes. A lazy foul by Alexander Callens gave the Revs a penalty, which Lee Nguyen buried in the 80th minute for some needed insurance. Callens pulled one back in stoppage time, heading in a corner kick from Alex Ring to make it 2-1 in the 93rd minute, but it was too late to make a difference in the result.
"I felt like we were always a half a yard too late in what we wanted to do offensively and defensively," Deila said. "If that is about fatigue or that we’re not in the right state of mind, it’s difficult for me to say, but that was not our best performance."
The loss drops NYCFC to 0-7 this season in games which it conceded the opening goal.
"A goal that early really sets you back and it takes you a while to find the game," said midfielder James Sands. "I think it took us too long to kind of figure out how to break down their pressure."
New England pushed the pace from the opening kick, and a sleepy NYCFC paid for a mistake soon after. In the third minute, Revolution striker Bunbury received a pass near midfield with NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot moving into position behind him. As Chanot stepped in to make a play on the ball, Bunbury sent a short pass toward Nguyen and bolted behind an inattentive City back line. Nguyen poked the ball into open space and Bunbury ran onto it with plenty of room to work. With City fullbacks Anton Tinnerhom and Gudi Thórarinsson pushing high, Chanot and Callens chased Bunbury on their own, but couldn’t catch up as he chipped a soft shot over a sprawling Sean Johnson to open the scoring.
"I think we started the game poor and we got more into it after a while," said Deila. "The last 15-20 minutes of the first half, I was feeling we were going to score, but we didn’t take our chances. Second half, it’s a chase for getting a goal."
NYCFC controlled possession for much of the game after the New England goal, but a shorthanded attack didn’t have much success. With Maxi Moralez still injured and Alexandru Mitrita leaving the club this week for a loan in Saudi Arabia, Jesús Medina was the club’s only Designated Player to participate. The young Paraguayan, however, struggled playing centrally with Alex Ring taking his spot in the middle at the start of the second half and Medina moving to the outside, only to be subbed off in the 70th minute.
City created a handful of chances throughout, but lacked sharpness in the final third, often finding themselves in offside positions and rarely finding a clean look for a key pass or shot on target. NYCFC’s defense looked tired late, including on the penalty call, which came from a sloppy tackle by Callens on Matt Polster. Callens made up for it a bit with his header goal, but the response was too late for City to get a result.
NOTES: NYCFC had the statistical advantage over New England in the loss, including in shots (16-12), shots on goal (8-5), corner kicks (9-4) and possession (66.9%) … Thórarinsson got the start at left back in place of Ronald Matarrita a few days after saying he was disappointed in his playing time since arriving at NYCFC earlier this year. Thórarinsson's performance was mixed at best, and Matarrita replaced him in the 70th minute.