WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New York City FC entered their encounter with D.C. United on Sunday afternoon with their eye on finishing the regular season atop the Eastern Conference. With just a pair of games remaining, City needed maximum points in both of their remaining matches to have a chance at claiming that prize.
That goal is gone now. And after a largely lifeless 3-1 loss to D.C. United at a rowdy RFK Stadium, some were left wondering whether second-place NYCFC have bigger troubles ahead.
“I think it’s just the lack of concentration,” said NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira. “I think in the first half we didn’t play, we didn’t turn up – we didn’t compete enough in the first half. And of course, the way we wanted to play, the quality of the pitch didn’t help us and I think we didn’t manage to find the solution and we struggled.”
City look flat from the get-go and had issues dealing with an in-form United side who were at full tilt from minute one. They were careless at times with the ball, a fact demonstrated perfectly on D.C.’s third tally, one which NYCFC midfielder Andoni Iraola delivered, gift-wrapped, with a woeful back pass.
Vieira dismissed very quickly the notion that perhaps NYCFC’s trip to Mexico last week to play a friendly contributed to his side’s sluggish performance.
“Nothing to do with the trip,” Vieira said. “I think we had a lot of days to recover from that, we didn’t perform, we didn’t play well and maybe it had to do with tactical reasons [or] the decisions I made, but that has nothing to do with the trip to Mexico.”
NYCFC will need to finish the season strong – after this weekend’s loss, they find themselves all of the sudden in danger of being forced into a play-in game. Just a single point separates them from third-place Toronto FC.
On Sunday, Vieira did not seem particularly worried.
“You guys analyze the game and the season so far,” he said. “I think you’ll remember that during the same period last year the football club was out of the competition, of the playoffs, and tonight we are disappointed because we can’t fight until the last day to win the Eastern Conference. I think that shows how we’ve improved as a football club.
“I know the players really well from working with them in the past few months. If you go into the dressing room now you’ll see how disappointed they are because I think when you have fans traveling from New York, you need to give more. And we didn’t do it in the first half.”