New York City FC: Three things we learned in the win over Sporting Kansas City

NYCFC. David Villa (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NYCFC. David Villa (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Thanks to goals from two of their three designated players, New York City FC earned a crucial three points on the road with a season-opening victory over Sporting Kansas City.

After a long offseason full of hype and anticipation, New York City FC finally kicked off their 2018 campaign Sunday night, winning their season opener with a thrilling 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City. It was a well-deserved three points for the Cityzens, and their performance at Children’s Mercy Park Sunday night gave us good insight as to where the team is now and how they’ll fare going forward.

The Defense Looks Much Improved

Although the 2017 league table wouldn’t indicate it, the defense was a problem for the Cityzens last season. The backline was inconsistent at times and when they conceded a goal, the floodgates would open up more often than not. However, the new back line of Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, and Ben Sweat looked vastly improved against Kansas City Sunday night.

The defense was fully composed and well-disciplined, especially during Sporting’s late second-half onslaught. It seemed like each time Kansas City got a shot off, one of the back quartet would block the ball. The only blemish on the defense’s performance was Chanot’s straight red card in the 88th minute, but as long as the backline plays like they did against Sporting, NYCFC will be in great shape going forward.

Jesus Medina Looks Worth the Money

After losing Andrea Pirlo to retirement this offseason, NYCFC turned heads when they decided to use their third designated player slot on 20-year-old winger Jesus Medina instead of an established veteran. Many were skeptical about Medina and whether or not he was worthy of a hefty DP contract, but as we learned Sunday night, signing Medina was the best move the Cityzens could have made.

In his club debut, Medina wreaked absolute havoc on Sporting Kansas City. The Paraguay international constantly attacked the Sporting defense with excellent pace and showed the flexibility to play both wings throughout the evening. The 20-year-old was also vital in the buildup to City’s opening goal and scored his first goal in the MLS in the 53rd minute. His night ended in the 69th minute, but Medina more than proved his worth and will be a dangerous attacking force going forward.

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Discipline is Still an Issue

While they finished second overall on the Eastern Conference table, NYCFC had some serious discipline issues last year. The club surprisingly accumulated the second-most yellow cards and committed the fifth most fouls in the league last season. Naturally, maintaining discipline was constantly preached by head coach Patrick Vieira and focused on this preseason, but apparently, the lesson hasn’t stuck just yet.

Despite a strong showing in the season opener, NYCFC struggled to stay disciplined throughout the night. The Boys in Blue were guilty of 14 fouls, three yellow cards, and one straight red card against Kansas City. Granted, all four cards given out last night were the result of tactical fouls, but those fouls could have been easily avoided if each player was positioned properly. For now, we can chalk it up to first game jitters, but NYCFC needs to clean things up from here on out if they want to contend for the MLS Cup.

Match Notes

  • New York City FC is now 2-1-1 all-time in season openers.
  • The 2-0 win over Sporting is the first Opening Weekend shutout in club history.
  • The win marks Sean Johnson’s seventh career shutout against Sporting KC.
  • NYCFC has opened the season on the road in each of their four years of existence.
  • Maxi Morález is the first designated player in NYCFC history to score the club’s first goal of the season.

Next: Assessing the Power of NYCFC

Up Next: Los Angeles Galaxy, 3/11, 5:00 p.m. ET Kick

The new-look Galaxy will enter Yankee Stadium coming off a strong 2-1 season-opening win over the Portland Timbers. Los Angeles boasts a lot of attacking talent, but they’ll face an uphill battle against a New York City FC side that is 18-11-5 (W-D-L) at home under Patrick Vieira.