Same old defensive issues for NYCFC despite opening day Chicago win

The opening day of the 2016 MLS regular season has provided us with exactly what we expected so far – non-stop drama and goals in abundance. New York City beat Chicago Fire 4-3 on Sunday but are defensive issues going to haunt NYCFC again this year? Lewis Addley explores…

Patrick Vieira would have been a relieved man to hear the final whistle in his first regular season game as New York City FC head coach after watching his side beat Chicago Fire 4-3 on Sunday evening.

The game was completely rammed with action, and served as the perfect game for the neutral, but maybe not so much for the Chicago or New York City fans.

Video: Match highlights of NYCFC’s 4-3 win at Chicago (via Chicago Fire on YouTube):

Defensive issues were apparent throughout for NYCFC, despite winning the game. They struggled to deal with the lively David Accam throughout and will be concerned with the way Chicago equalised in the first half. Alarm bells would have been ringing for Vieira straight away.

A poor attempt of playing the offside trap allowed Razvan Cocis the opportunity to level – one he took very calmly.

Lapsed defending throughout, poor back-passes and cross-box passes had NYCFC ‘keeper Josh Saunders screaming at his defence on numerous occasions. But for some wonderful saves and a little bit of luck this may have been a very different outcome and NYCFC have Saunders to thank for the three points on opening weekend.

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Chicago had at least three solid shouts for penalties and were eventually given one, which Accam slotted in with confidence late on. But it was too little too late for the hosts, who will be hugely disappointed with the outcome of the game

Last season NYCFC conceded the joint-highest amount of goals across both conferences (58) and their defensive display against Chicago seemed all too familiar, despite Vieira’s arrival.

Although it was an exhilarating attacking performance, it seems unlikely that NYCFC will be able to sustain the approach of outscoring opponents all season in shootout-type matches.

It is now the seventh time NYCFC have conceded three or more goals in one game in their short MLS lifetime – averaging that not so favourable feat once in every five outings.

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It is also only the second time they have won a game when conceding three or more – the other occasion being last season’s 5-3 win over Orlando City.

One thing is for certain, they will have to tighten up at the back if they are to make the playoffs in 2016. Admittedly it is only their first game of the season so there is plenty of time to improve and let’s not forget they have picked up three points here.

But addressing some rather blatant defensive issues will be the key for Patrick Vieira and his team on Monday morning. There are more dangerous teams than Chicago across MLS and NYCFC can’t afford to perform poorly at the back each week.

Will the NYCFC defence cause problems for Vieira over the course of the season?