Five games into 2018, New York City Football Club were undefeated and had 13 points.
Five games into 2019, New York City Football Club are winless and have 4 points.
It happens, ya know? Rebuilds take place, eras come to an end...
...but NYCFC aren’t exactly in rebuild mode. Up to nine of the regular starters from those 2018 games are still on the 2019 squad.
Now, the other two, David Villa and Yangel Herrera, were two of the team’s three best players. I’m a big “coaching matters more than players” guy, but players matter an awful lot. Less talent naturally cedes lower results. It was always going to be near impossible to replace players like Villa and Herrera (in the same way Red Bulls sans Tyler Adams were always destined for a regression). There’s a natural 2019 dip to be expected.
NYCFC’s present roster probably deserves to be in the middle of the two extremes indicated by their early results over the last two seasons. They aren’t as good as the 2018 team, and aren’t as bad as the 2019 results.
Let’s take a look at the improvements the team can make to bridge the gap on both sides of the ball:
Summary: NYCFC are choosing to do something weird. It’s not working.
They defend in an aggressive middle block. They drop back into a typical defensive shape — a 4-4-2, similar to what we see from Columbus and Toronto, but NYCFC look to pop out particularly quickly. The idea is to get set into a block-like shape and make sure the opponent can’t play through the middle. Whereas other teams generally wait a few passes once they get into their shape, shift side to side, and keep the opponent in front of them, Dome Torrent’s group pop out of shape to try to pressure the ball as quickly as possible.
That, in itself, isn’t that unique. The next part is.
Most teams maintain zonal roles when they start to apply pressure on the ball in the middle of the field. The first person steps forward and other players in his line step inward a few yards.