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Game Changers: New York Blues

A look back at what the Philadelphia Union did wrong - and right - in their 3-2 loss to New York City FC.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

1.) No Nogueira - I don’t know if this needed to be stated or not, but having the best player on the team for the past two and a half seasons leave unexpectedly is a game changer for this match and every other match this season. Losing the engine that drove the team hurt, and there’s no easy answer as to who can step in and take Vincent Nogueira’s place.

2.) The (un)friendly confines of Yankee Stadium - The dimensions are legal (allegedly), and it made for a tough day for the Union, who are used to playing in something a little bigger than a living room. The Union at times seemed out of step and unable to keep up with the frenetic back-and-forth action. The Union often times struggled with either trying for a quick counter or holding the ball up to allow guys time to get into position, and it always ends badly when you try and do both at the same time.

3.) Lucky Lampard - This first goal is just a result of poor defending by the Union.

When Chris Pontius goes upfield to challenge Frederic Brillant, he leaves RJ Allen all alone on the NYCFC right wing. A quick one-touch pass from Andoni Iraola finds Allen with a wide open field to run up. Not the end of the world as Brian Carroll and the defense have hung back. When Iraola hits midfield however, Carroll inexplicably turns upfield like he’s going to challenge Iraola and force him wide and then heads back toward goal. Carroll then breaks wide toward Iraola, trying to force him to the touch line but he’s already lost the angle. Instead he’s only able to force him out towards Ray Gaddis, who did well until his clearance attempt went off of Iraola, who was able to regain control of the ball past Gaddis. Carroll had not continued his run back, and was effectively out of the play by the time Iraola looked to center the ball. When he went to center the ball, Richie Marquez and Ken Tribbett had fallen too far back, leaving Frank Lampard with a ridiculous amount of space in the box.

Don’t leave Frank Lampard this open in the box.
Don’t leave Frank Lampard this open in the box.

Out of position, Tribbett broke toward the ball but was too late. Lampard dummied it off to Tommy McNamara, whose shot attempt was scuffed. It weakly rolled past Tribbett to Lampard, who continued his run and was kept onside by Richie Marquez. Lampard fired from close range and there wasn’t anything Andre Blake could do.

4.) Reversal of fortune - Watch how quickly this turns from Union corner kick to fast-break opportunity for NYCFC.

Barnetta’s goal kick wasn’t the best he’s ever taken, and Josh Saunders was easily able to go up and get it and in one fluid motion start the fast break with a throw to David Villa. Villa was well covered by Warren Creavalle, who intercepted the pass and forced it back toward the NYCFC goal. Brian Carroll got a touch on it, but it was a very heavy touch that went straight to Jack Harrison. Carroll tried a sliding tackle but Harrison easily side-stepped it and it was off to the races. Creavalle came over to try and dispossess Harrison, but Harrison’s speed was no match. Creavalle did well to stay with Harrison and try and to force him centrally toward Ray Gaddis. It almost worked, except Harrison hit a little backheel to Villa, who never gave up on the play. Villa hit a great shot that looked to catch Blake a bit off guard. Just like that, it’s 2-0 New York City.

5.) Blake comes up big - While it might not have ultimately mattered, Andre Blake was able to keep the Union in this match. Even down 2-0, Blake was able to do this:

Without this, it’s 3-0 before the 40th minute and the Union are toast.

6.) Alberg for Creavalle - Nothing against Warren Creavalle, but it was clear from the beginning that the double pivot with him and Brian Carroll wasn’t working. Instead of clogging up the passing lanes, Creavalle and Carroll more often than not found themselves in one another’s space. Jim Curtin made the right move, bringing on the much more offensively minded Roland Alberg to play the 8. Alberg opened up the field for the Union, and it’s no accident that the Union’s offense was much more dangerous with him on the pitch.

7.) Third DP, third NYCFC goal - This is a free kick that never should have happened. Prior to where this video starts, two poor touches from the Union allowed NYCFC to get possession of the ball and keep the attack going. First it was Sebastien Le Toux in deep whose first touch let him down, turning the ball over to Ronald Matarrita. Some good one-touch passing from NYCFC eventually got the ball back to Josh Saunders, who blasted it upfield where Richie Marquez’s chested ball bounced off of him and to an onrushing Frank Lampard. Lampard got the ball off to David Villa, who one-touched it back to Lampard, who was open and got into a footrace with Ray Gaddis. Gaddis brought Lampard down just outside of the penalty area, which set up the Pirlo free kick.

The practice-pitch trickery aside, Pirlo’s kick was perfect and NYCFC’s Designated Players had all scored.

8.) Not so fast my friend - The Union were finally able to get something going not long after Pirlo’s goal.

A couple of quick passes from Ken Tribbett to Sebastien Le Toux up to Roland Alberg found the Union in the NYCFC box. Alberg sent it over to Fabian Herbers, who was mauled by Jason Hernandez. Silviu Petrescu did not hesitate and pointed to the spot, much to the dismay of the NYCFC players.

Roland Alberg then converted the penalty, and the Union were back in the game.

9.) An absolutely Brillant goal - The Union got a little help from NYCFC’s Frederic Brillant.

Ok they got a lot of help, because I’m not convinced this is going in if Brillant doesn’t head it. Watch again - as Brillant heads it, he heads it on goal instead of straight up, back to the side - anywhere but his own net.

10.) Blake again - Again while this didn’t change the overall outcome, what a save by Blake on David Villa.

Will this finally be the one where Blake wins Save of the Week?

11.) The bad no-call - This absolutely should have been a penalty.

Referee Silviu Petrescu is right there on top of the play, yet inexplicably doesn’t make the call as time expires. It sure looked to me like it should have been called, however much like the Union’s twitter account I’m pretty biased. Then again, if the Union had handled their business in the first half, this would be a non-issue instead of a game changer.

A tough loss for the Union but there are a lot of things they can take away from this. Were there any other game changing moments during this match? Let us know in the comments section below!