NYC FC’s Title Defense is Going Poorly

There has not been a repeat MLS champion since the Los Angeles Galaxy won the title in 2011 and 2012. New York City FC won their first ever championship this past season, beating the Portland Timbers 4-2 on penalty kicks. Repeating as a champion in any sport is hard, as the winning team usually sees salary issues and a large number of players leave for larger contracts. Despite these obstacles the defending champs usually perform to at least a respectable degree. Sadly, this is not the case for New York City FC as they are currently dwelling in the Eastern Conference basement. Let’s analyze how they got there:

In the 2021 season New York City FC captured the MLS Cup after defeating the Portland Timbers to be the last team left standing. This came as a shock to many as NYCFC had looked very average for much of the season. They finished 4th in the Eastern Conference with 14 wins, 11 losses, and 9 ties for a total of 51 points. They scored 56 goals and allowed 36 for a differential of +20 goals. They even finished with a losing road record of 4-8-5. Despite this, they clawed through the playoffs and outlasted every other team. They beat Atlanta 2-0, beat New England 5-3 on penalty kicks, beat Philadelphia in a nail-biter 2-1, and capped it off with the previously mentioned victory over Portland. Now with the 2022 season 6 games deep, they look far from the champions of last year.

New York currently sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They have a record of 2-3-1 with a goal differential of +5 through the first 6 games. They are 2-1-0 at home and 0-2-1 on the road. With a positive goal differential (11 scored against 6 allowed) and top talent on the team this lackluster start has come as a surprise to many. This slow start does not mean that New York is dead in the water, as there are plenty more games to play. Let’s analyze their previous matches and see where the problem areas are.

In week 1 NYC faced LA Galaxy and lost 1-0 on the road. LA Galaxy is a very talented team and is top tier, so this loss was not too concerning. Losing isn’t fun, but losing to LA Galaxy is understandable. Despite this, there were signs of great concern, as New York was outshot 15-9 and only had 1 shot on goal to LA’s 6. The lack of offense was concerning, but this was the season opener as well. The next match was a 0-0 draw against Vancouver on the road. Vancouver is currently 13th in the Western Conference, so this match was disheartening for many. They outshot Vancouver 19-10 and had 4 shots on goal. Even with all these shots NYC was not able to find the back of the net. Back to back road trips and only a single point to show for it was an early sign of trouble for them.

In week 3 New York City FC faced Montreal and destroyed them 4-1. Both teams had 13 shots, but NYC had 7 on goal with Montreal only having 3. This was the offensive explosion that New York so desperately needed and showed that they were still capable of lighting up the scoreboard and destroying opponents. The following match was a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia Union. New York outplayed Philadelphia in just about every category ranging from possession to shots. They outshot Philadelphia 18-13 but still could not score a single goal. They completely outplayed Philadelphia and still came up empty handed. The following week NYC outplayed Toronto in almost every aspect of the game and narrowly lost 2-1. Their only goal came in the 92nd minute when the match was in the closing moments. Another gut-wrenching loss as they played better than their opponents. Their most recent match was against Real Salt Lake in which they won 6-0. Valentin Castellanos had 4 goals, giving him 4 total goals on the season. It was a slaughter both on the stat sheet and the scoreboard.

New York CIty FC clearly has the talent to contend, but they are continually falling short in matches. They are losing games in which they outplay their opponents and are struggling to generate continuous offense. Despite having scored 11 goals this season and having a +5 differential, 10 of those 11 goals came in 2 blowout victories. This means that NYC has only managed 1 goal across the 4 other games. There is very little consistency on offense as it is either an onslaught or a drought. The defense has played well, surrendering only 6 goals in 6 games. NYC has the talent, but they are very streaky and have to find the answers on offense if they hope to challenge for a repeat title.


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