Ahead of their opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament, Philadelphia Union boss Jim Curtin described opponents NYCFC as “maybe the best team in the East on paper”. Fortunately for the experienced coach, soccer isn’t played on paper, and his team subsequently downed New York courtesy of a solitary Alejandro Bedoya strike. It was the franchise’s third defeat on the spin, with last season’s MLS Cup semi-finalists struggling to reproduce their 2019 form.
Despite ending the campaign with just two defeats in their last 12 matches, and going into the 2020 campaign as one of the pre-season favourites, the Boys in Blue have made a disappointing start to life under Ronny Deila, and a 3-1 reverse at home to Orlando City on July 14 prompted many fans to question the appointment of the Norwegian.
As reported by mlssoccer.com, the former Celtic coach has suggested that his side “have to look within” as they aim to get their Group A campaign back on track over the coming weeks.
Firepower has been the key issue this season, with Deila finding it tough to strike the right balance in the final third. Last season, NYCFC only failed to find the net in five of their 35 MLS fixtures and ended the season as joint-third highest goal-scorers in the division. However, it’s been a completely different story this year with the club drawing three blanks in their opening four fixtures, whilst also failing to break down U.A.N.L Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League at the beginning of March.
Maxi Moralez, who scored seven times and provided 12 assists last season, has picked up a quad injury, and his creativity will be much missed over the coming weeks. The club has plenty of alternatives, some of whom have been picked out by nycfc.com, although without the experienced Argentina in the side, clear cut chances are likely to be few and far between.
In their opening four matches, NYCFC have fired in 43 shots, 21 of which have landed on target, however, they have just a single goal to show for their efforts. Jesus Medina’s long-range strike against Orlando briefly gave the fans something to cheer, however, there has been precious little else to celebrate so far.
MLS Is Back
Soccer fans have been largely following the MLS is Back Tournament from home, although some franchises such as San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire have been hosting drive-in viewing parties with the club’s matches being shown on a big screen. This is just one example of clubs and the industry having to diversify and find alternative ways to maintain fan engagement.
Many Major League Soccer clubs, including NYCFC, participated in a FIFA 20 virtual-tournament earlier this year as an outlet for their competitive needs, and to support their fans due to the lack of events. With the absence of sports, many have turned to eSports and virtual betting as an alternative.
Sites such as comeongames.com, who offer a wide variety of alternatives, have been directing soccer fans towards their eSports betting markets, virtual betting events and sports-themed slots. This allowed fans the opportunity to explore the other side of the industry. With many sporting events starting to return, fans will be eager to get involved again. It is yet to be seen if the sudden surge of awareness will benefit the likes of eSports in the long term.
Fans will be hoping that their side can rediscover this shooting boots before the tournament reaches its conclusion, and although last season’s defensive frailties remain a concern, the lack of cutting edge is Deila’s biggest issue at this moment in time. With Jesus Medina, Heber, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Valentin Castellanos all on the club’s books this season, the Boys in Blue are not expected to be firing blanks for much longer.