Colorado Rapids – New York City FC 0:0
Coming off of a historical win at Yankee Stadium last weekend, New York City FC hit the road to take on the Colorado Rapids. In Saturday evening’s contest NYCFC held off the Rapids’ 21-shot onslaught to move to five points.
- Colorado’s pressing blocked vertical passes intended to reach New York City’s front four
- NYCFC’s narrow midfield line neglected the open flanks deliberately, but had problems with Sánchez’ dribbles
- Mastroeni’s side could not keep up the pressure in the second half
Jason Kreis has transformed his more preferred diamond midfield formation to a 4-4-2 system, with Mix Diskerud and Andrew Jacobson playing as pivots. Kreis made only one change, as Shay Facey, a 20-year-old English defender who is on loan from Manchester City, replaced Josh Williams at right-back.
Meanwhile, the Colorado crowd saw several changes in the Rapids starting XI. Michael Harrington moved from left-back to right-back position. Home-grown player Shane O’Neill started in central defence, while Sam Cronin played alongside the Argentinian playmaker Lucas Pittinari. O’Neill replaced Burling who was suspended for the match after receiving a second yellow card in the season-opening draw at Philadelphia. Moreover, Dillon Powers was fielded instead of Marcelo Sarvas, as Gabriel Torres played out wide this time.
Early dominance by the Rapids
Powers became the key factor of Colorado’s attacking strategy in the first half. The 24-year-old switched consistently between a trequartista and a deeper midfielder role. Particularly a couple of long balls reached centre forward Dominique Badji, who made his second appearance after Colorado recently announced the transfer of striker Deshorn Brown to Norwegian side Vålerenga.
Badji dropped between NYCFC’s lines and won some aerial duels, knocking the ball into Powers’ path. That was quite a simple strategy, though, NYCFC were not able to close the zones between the back four and midfield line.
Pablo Mastroeni asked his players to press in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Both wingers stood relatively wide, while both centre midfielders occasionally pushed forward. Thus Jacobson and especially Diskerud were not able to bypass Colorado’s central block. NYCFC usually use two inverted wingers, with Sebastián Velásquez being a left-footed player on the right side. Therefore, both wingers move inwards at an early stage of the attack, leaving some space for the advancing full-backs. In that particular match, NYCFC’s full-backs did not often push forward, nor did the wingers find channels to receive vertical balls.
Hence New York City’s most threatening effort of the first half came after a long ball when Adam Nemec broke free of the Rapids defence. Goal-keeper Clint Irwin was unable to gather the ball after coming off his line, but it was apparently enough to deny a goal.
The Rapids were able to lead NYCFC’s build-up passes towards the flanks, not only blocking the inside-channels where Ned Grabavoy and Velásquez waited to be released, but also putting pressure on the full-backs, as both Colorado wingers defended them clearly man-orientated.
As always, Jacobson and Diskerud arranged duties, with Mix offering more penetration of offensive spaces. Despite Jacobson is some kind of NYCFC’s safety belt, covering zones horizontally, both full-backs did not intend to leave their basic position exposed. Only Facey’s diagonal passes to Velásquez created threatening attacks.
In the early goings, New York City used a narrow 4-4-2 formation in terms of pressing. Since Velásquez and Grabavoy left both flanks open, Colorado’s full-backs could easily move forward, carrying the ball into the final third. Moreover, Vicente Sánchez and Gabriel Torres had plenty of space to try dribbles.
Particularly Sánchez displayed some Robben-like runs when he started out wide and cut inside to shoot with his left foot. Right-back Harrington made several runs down the flank, apparently to pretend that Sánchez would play to his overlapping comrade. Additionally, Pittinari was able to play a couple of vertical and diagonal long balls with ease because of New York City’s sloppy defensive work.
The visitors reacted to their problems just after the half-hour mark with a more man-orientated approach. Now Grabavoy and Velásquez covered the opposing full-backs, while NYCFC’s centre tried to defend more aggressively, with Nemec marking the zones behind Villa in a 4-4-1-1.
Although a goalless score line at the half, Colorado seemed to be the more dominant side, taking seven shots, with three being on target.
Kreis commanded his full-backs to play in advanced roles after the interval. Plus, New York City looked more effective in terms of transition play, with Nemec linking up in the right half-space. As for Colorado, Carlos Alvarez replaced Badji after a short while. As a consequence, Torres played as centre forward from that point on, offering more speed to receive through balls and constantly outpacing New York City’s centre-backs.
However, Colorado displayed flimsier connections between the separate parts of the team. Albeit Powers continued to test Josh Saunders in the second half, both Powers and Torres were continually isolated and out of position too high in the channels.
As for David Villa, the veteran showed some problems in the first half, as he cannot seem to get a good first touch and made wrong decision in terms of positional play. Though Villa showed why he is a dangerous player in the second half, beginning in the 53rd minute by making a run past the opposing right-back to try a low shot that was deflected out wide of the goal. The Spaniard tried to find free space on the left side which is why he progressively departed the centre, while substitute Khiry Shelton being a fluid powerhouse in the middle. So later Villa made Irwin stretch out once more, trying to net a near post shot from the top left corner of the 18-yard box.
NYCFC’s task became tougher when right-back Facey was shown the red card for pulling down Juan Ramirez just outside the 18. Despite almost a quarter of an hour with the man advantage, the home team were unable to gain the lead.
Colorado maintain their 16-match winless streak in the league. The Rapids have not registered a victory since a 3-0 win over Chivas on July 25, 2014. Albeit showing a poor performance overall, New York City FC extended their unbeaten start in their maiden MLS season. Though, anyone who expected to see a thoroughly dominant NYC side was disabused. Kreis needs to enhance the relatively simplistic 4-4-2 system. It momentarily lacks surprising attacking patterns and an effective pressing strategy. However, playing at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which sits some 5,200 feet above sea level, is always difficult. Plus, Colorado showed impressively how a team can protect centre spaces and lead the opposing build-up play outwards. Strangely, Mastroeni’s side declined during the second half.