The stars are gone in The Bronx but NYCFC is quietly making a charge

NYCFC doesn't spark the buzz it did in its earlier years.

There's no Frank Lampard, no Andrea Pirlo and now no David Villa.

Patrick Vieira, back in France at Nice, no longer works the sidelines, where he's been replaced by Spaniard Dome Torrent.

Torrent's first season was a struggle. NYCFC finished 3-6-4 over its last 13 games and fell into third place, well behind the Red Bulls and Atlanta United.

It took a while for NYCFC to get going this season -- it opened with five ties and a loss in its first six games -- but it suddenly finds itself in position to take over the lead in the Eastern Conference.

NYCFC came back from a goal down in the last seven minutes to beat the Houston Dynamo, 3-2, in a weather-delayed game on Thursday night and jumped two spots into third place in the Eastern Conference.

NYCFC has three games in hand on first-place Philadelphia and two on second-place Atlanta United, and its 1.73 points per game is the best in the Eastern Conference and second in MLS behind runaway Supporters' Shield leader LAFC.

NYCFC is not a team with big names. Alexandru Mitrija and Heber, the big offseason acquisitions, were acquired from clubs in Romania and Croatia, respectively.

Heber leads NYCFC in scoring with nine goals, two more than second-year Argentine Valentin Castellanos, who came off the bench against Houston to score the tying goal in the 83rd minute and winning goal three minutes into stoppage time.

Torrent has integrated Americans James Sands (16 starts at center back) and Keaton Parks (who got his first MLS assist on Castellanos' first goal) into the lineup and gave Eric Miller his first start against Houston since coming over from Minnesota United.

The win against Houston didn't come easily even though the Dynamo lost Romell Quioto to red card in the 29th minute.

"We had to win the game," said Torrent. "We needed the result. We were able to create opportunities. When you are in the key moment in the game you have to score. Even when it was 1-0, we had opportunities to go 2-0 three or four times and then after that [Houston] created two opportunities and they scored two goals. We were able to get the result and I am very happy about that."

NYCFC's glue is Argentine Maximiliano Moralez, who is tied with LAFC's Carlos Vela for the MLS lead in assists with 13.

With NYCFC's next game on Sunday at Atlanta United, Torrent didn't start Moralez and tried to win the game without him. The Argentine was brought on with 12 minutes to play.

"I spoke with Maxi before the game," said Torrent, "and he told me he is ready for 15-20 minutes. He is ready for the next game against Atlanta. Everybody knows how important he is for us. When he plays, the team plays different. He can score. We play with more confidence when Maxi is on the field."

Photo: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

9 comments about "The stars are gone in The Bronx but NYCFC is quietly making a charge".
  1. Wallace Wade, August 9, 2019 at 8:18 a.m.

    It’s not possible to play soccer on that 7v7 pitch. No other professional League in the world would allow it. Talk about a home field advantage! No knowledgeable fan could tolerate watching soccer played in a phone booth. 

  2. beautiful game replied, August 9, 2019 at 10:58 a.m.

    NYCFC pitch is a joke; another MLS con job.

  3. Alfred Randall, August 10, 2019 at 9:10 p.m.

    Where's the stadium?

  4. Bob Ashpole, August 11, 2019 at 2:19 a.m.

    My understanding is that the field is 106 x 68 yards. I am knowledgable and don't have a problem with that size field. Neither would any professional team with good technical skills. I would hope that maybe this would lead to better play.

    I would much rather see a match played on a minimum-size field than on a maximum-size field.

    MLS claims it is 110 x 70 which is the MLS minimum requirement, but the only thing remarkable about 110 x 70 is that would mean that the field could be used for international matches.

    I can't believe that you guys would get upset about a couple of yards.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, August 11, 2019 at 2:23 a.m.

    Just for the record, I have played on every legal size of field and illegal fields as short as 80 yards and as long as 140 yards.

  6. frank schoon replied, August 11, 2019 at 3:06 p.m.

    Bob, Every team that comes there has difficulty and there is a reason for this.
    The size of the field does matter and no doubt it is much more advantageous for the defense. With a smaller field along with a very defensive minded team can make it very difficult for an attacking  team.
    Two ways you can make the field smaller, either through playing extremely compact or playing on a smaller field but it makes it even more difficult if both are combined. Even in the former for example ,high pressure defense,good players in top leagues around the world can have problems. It takes only one player to make an error in the combination of several involved.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, August 12, 2019 at 12:50 a.m.

    Yes the field is small, but the field is the same size for both teams. It is far bigger than the minimum field allowed under the LOTG. It shouldn't both a team with good technical skills. What suffers is a long ball attack. Yes it is more technically challenging to play on a smaller field, which is why some coaches train players to play in small spaces. In one practice for an adult competitive team, we played 17v17 on an 80 yard field. It was good training except for there only being one ball.

  8. frank schoon, August 12, 2019 at 10:52 a.m.

    Bob, you can make the field small as possible even playing on a big field. A good example is when you play park the bus, or play very tight man to man instead of zonal defense. But no matter how you put it a small field aids the defender more than an offensive player. 

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, August 13, 2019 at 12:06 p.m.

    Can't argue with your last sentence. Small spaces mean fewer goals. But what I was reacting to was the comment implying that no knowledgable fan would watch play on a field of less than international standards.

    I am more a student of the game rather than a fan so maybe that is why I like variety and seeing how teams adapt.

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