CITY STRUGGLES CONTINUE

NYCFC 1 PHLADELPHIA UNION 1
nycfc-david-villa-philadelphia-2-620x400-3048276789
FROM STEVE BRENNER IN NEW YORK

Manchester City’s problems are not confined to the Barclays Premier League.

Over the pond, NYCFC manager Jason Kreis is finding life increasingly difficult following a patchy start to the season which continued here last night as Philadelphia Union snatched a late draw in a match which had been bossed for long periods by the men in sky blue.

The pressure hasn’t reached Manuel Pellegrini proportions . It’s too early for that.
Yet Kreis and NYCFC will be under no illusions about the task in hand.
Things need to improve. And fast.

A superb second half strike from Mehdi Ballouchy looked to have put an end to a run of just one win from the first five matches. But , as is ever the case in MLS, haphazard defending allowed CJ Sapong to stab in on 86 minutes.

As long as David Villa stays fit – he was taken off at half-time here with a hamstring strain –  and the squad continues to gel, Frank Lampard will arrive in the summer and join a side who slowly but surely will have adapted to the task in hand by then.
This though was a reminder of how much work needs to be done.

The Big Apple sports fans have been quick to adopt City’s plans though it will take more time – and a more wins – for the club to really catch light. They will never, and don’t expect to compare to the might of the Yankees, Knicks, Jets or Giants.

They are sporting titans in a city bursting with stars.

Certainly a look around Yankees Stadium at kick-off was all you needed to see that the initial spike of interest in NYCFC has quickly dimmed.

The opening game attendance of over 60,000 seemed like a hazy distant memory last night. It’s another reminder, not that the club bosses required one, of the desperate need for a permanent football specific home.

But , to be fair, as the game wore on the atmosphere and excitement was enough to leave the attendees wanting more even if the League itself does little to help the product on the pitch.

MLS needs to start acknowledging international breaks like everyone else. City’s Mix Diskerud, arguably their best player thus far, was unavailable having played for the US in their win over Mexico on Tuesday night while the likes Robbie Keane missed League matches during the last round of Euro 2016 qualifier. That cannot help the progress of the game here.

Another quirk this side of the pond saw Philadelphia lock horns with Kreis’ side just four days after beating them at home 2-1. It’s perhaps an attempt to recreate the mini-series of matches like in baseball.

City, though, created nothing of note early on. David Villa’s second MLS strike in Philadelphia had brought his side level before Vincent Nogueira slotted home a late winner yet the Spanish star was feeding off scraps here.

Indeed the chances were falling at the other end of the pitch, Venezuelan striker Fernando Aristeguieta firing just over to keep the stuttering home side firmly on their toes.

Villa sparked into life every time the ball fell at his feet yet his markers weren’t giving an inch. Three surrounded the former Barcelona forward on 25 minutes and after he was ushered out of play, full-back Sheanon Williams needed no invitation to get stuck into the Spaniard by pushing his square in the chest.

It was handbags at best. Yet it showed just how wary Union were of Villa’s class.

And on 27 minutes, the first moment of magic should have resulted in the opener. A sweet flick from the 33 year-old beautifully teed up Ballouchy only for the Moroccan to blaze over. He really should have scored.

It goes without saying that Villa was emphatically the best player on the pitch. A canny dummy helped split the Philadelphia backline in half but Khiry Shelton couldn’t get round keeper John McCarthy.

Kreis needed the rest of the team to start performing after the break though. And , to their credit, they did. Ned Grabavoy was denied by McCarthy’s outstretched leg before Adam Nemec headed wide.

Finally there was some urgency and on 57 minutes, there was a goal. It was a superb strike by Ballouchy who cut inside with an excellent first touch before curling home.

 Philadelphia though, home of Rock Balboa, stayed strong before delivering that late knock-out blow.
Perhaps Kreis should give Pellegrini a call at some point soon. Both are enduring tough times.

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