New York City FC won their first game of the 2019 season last night with a win over D.C. United at Audi Field. Heber made the first start in his MLS career and his contributions played a big part in the win for the visitors.
He was able to stretch the back line of the Black-and-Red, taking the center back with him out of the middle of the field. That created space for his teammates to make runs through the center of the box and create chances. Hebert would score in the 56th minute to give his team the 2-0 lead, but it was Alexandru Mitrita that opened the scoring, off an assist from Hebert.
The visitors also did a good job of keeping the ball from getting to Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney, when it did get to them they were instantly surrounded by bodies. They weren’t given the space to create like they would like.
It wasn’t a great showing for the home side, they weren’t ever able to get into a rhythm when attacking and had countless giveaways while passing out of the back. As Ben Olsen said following the game, the visitors played more “desperate.”
Despite the loss, D.C. United is still atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 4-2-2. They don’t have much time to dwell on this loss as they play Columbus on the road on Wednesday. Following that they remain on the road and play Minnesota on Sunday before returning home.
The recent stretch of play at home hasn’t been great, but the Black and Red are 2-0-1 on the road thus far.
Flow. One of the things that may not be able to happen this year is having Paul Arriola play right back. At least at this point, when he’s not a wide option in midfield it allows teams to really crowd Acosta and Rooney. Akin to a basketball team having good outside shooters, Arriola creates space for those two in the middle of the park with his ability to win out wide. He was moved back up into midfield in the second half and the impact was noticeable right away. No team is going to let Rooney and Acosta do what they do, it’s on the others to stress the defense so that the attention on those two loosens a bit.
Viable Option. This goes hand in hand with the point above, the Black-and-Red have to find someone who can man that right back position while Mora is out. It’s a long season, but similarly to when Fisher went out late last year, the impact is huge. Everything has been a bit off since his injury, Olsen made a great point following the game saying that they have to work to find a way to manage things while the team gets over some injuries.
Long Road. While the recent results at home haven’t been great, there is no reason to panic. There’s ebbs and flows to every season, players will go in and out of funks and other players will step up and carve out roles. What’s important for D.C. United is to stay even keeled and at least play every game with a sense of urgency.