New York City FC: Three Things We Learned Against Orlando City SC

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Even though they were without their captain Saturday afternoon, New York City FC doubled down and defeated Orlando City SC for their third win in as many matches.

New York City FC was dealt a heavy blow just before kickoff Saturday afternoon, as star forward and captain David Villa was scratched from the starting XI. With their goal-scoring talisman unavailable to play, a positive result looked unlikely for the Boys in Blue. However, when the chips were down, the Boys in Blue were up to the challenge and pulled off an impressive 2-0 win over Orlando City SC. While we hope it doesn’t happen often, fans should be relieved to see that this team is capable of winning without Villa on the field. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s match.

They Can Win Without Him, But NYCFC Still Needs David Villa

Villa was a surprise late scratch against the Lions due to a calf injury he suffered in training and was replaced by Ismael Tajouri in the starting XI. Without Villa, though, it looked as though NYCFC didn’t skip a beat as the Libya international scored the opening goal of the second half that set the tone for the rest of the match. The Boys in Blue may have come away with the victory Saturday afternoon, but it was blatantly obvious that they were lost on the field without their captain.

Villa’s role in the NYCFC lineup can’t be understated. The Spain international is a creative playmaker that makes dangerous runs off the ball and shows great chemistry in his link-up play with the midfield. Without Villa, the Boys in Blue became predictable with their passing and their forwards were seemingly incapable of making the dangerous runs behind the defense.  The team proved that they’re capable of winning without Villa, but they won’t do it often without the spark of creativity and killer instinct in front of goal that Villa provides.

Rodney Wallace Has No Business Being in the Starting XI

New York City FC signed Rodney Wallace last offseason to add depth out on the wing, but he ultimately earned the starting job thanks to a good preseason and a lack of quality competition around him. He had a good, but not great, 2017 season in which he recorded four goals and six assists. However, to anyone who watched NYCFC play Orlando this weekend, it’s clear that Wallace’s sluggish start to the 2018 campaign isn’t due to a need to get more minutes under his belt.

The Costa Rica international looked like he was moving in slow motion and he poorly timed his attacking runs throughout the afternoon. He was sloppy when he was on the ball, took one touch too many on several occasions that stalled the NYCFC attack, and he missed a golden opportunity to score on a free header in front of an open net. I understand that he has a good defensive work rate and has the endurance to play the full 90, but the Bronx Blues would be better served with a quick attacker like Tajouri or Jonathan Lewis out on the wing.

Alexander Ring is the Club’s Most Important Player

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Designated players get all the fanfare in the MLS and are constantly viewed as the most important players to a team’s success and Villa, Maxi Morález, and Jesus Medina are no exception. All three make big contributions on the field and are a major part of the team’s attacking success. The DP impact is significant on this squad, but it’s midfielder Alexander Ring who will be the key to NYCFC’s success this season.

Ring was absolutely dominant against Orlando. The Finland international was all over the field, constantly forcing turnovers in the midfield while mopping up any and every mess that the back line was unable to address themselves. Ring also got the job done on the opponent’s side of the field, picking out the right pass on almost every occasion he had the ball. Villa, Morález, and Medina will most likely get all the headlines going forward, but Ring’s work rate and quality passing will ultimately decide whether the Boys in Blue come away with a win.

Match Notes:

  • With the win, New York City FC improved to 3-2-5 (W-D-L)  all-time and 2-1-2 at home against Orlando City.
  • NYCFC improved to 5-0-4 (W-D-L) in games without David Villa.
  • Ismael Tajouri’s 62nd-minute strike marks the first goal of his MLS career.
  • Ronald Matarrita’s six-minute cameo marks his fourth straight appearance in which he played less than 10 minutes.
  • Dating back to last season, NYCFC’s win marks the first time the club has notched consecutive shutouts against Orlando City.

Next: Assessing the Power of NYCFC

Up Next: New England Revolution, 3/24, 1:30 p.m. ET Kick

New York City FC will make their way to Foxborough Saturday afternoon to take on Brad Friedel’s new-look Revolution, who were idle this past week. Patrick Vieira’s men will surely come into the match as the favorites, but they can’t take New England lightly, especially in Foxborough. Dating back to the 2015 season, the Revs are an impressive 31-12-9 (W-D-L) in home matches.