August 21, 2016
NYC FC, Red Bulls, Cosmos have forged their personalities by now, for better and for worse
By Michael Lewis
David Villa and his NYC FC teammates have turned the corner .
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Here we are as September approaches and one thing is quite certain:
Regardless what league they play in, the three area men's soccer teams have formed personalities, for better or worse.
Let's start with the better and move on from there.
New York City FC
The second-year has gotten with Patrick Vieira's program and has improved since that sorry, sorry start, which seemed like a continuation of last year's sorry season.
City has become one of the hottest, if not the hottest side in Major League Soccer, sporting a 10-4-4 mark since that stumbling beginning. While far from perfect, NYC FC has become a respected team in the league that could do some damage in the playoffs. Now, that certainly is not going out on the limb of a team that is the Eastern Conference leader. But quite frankly, who out there would have thought that City would be leading the pack as Labor Day approaches?
A show of hands, please?
I don't see very many, if any.
I thought so.
But give Vieira and his players plenty of credit. They have gotten many bad habits and problems out of their system, such as their inability to accrue points at Yankee Stadium and to close out games at home. Heck, City has won four consecutive matches at the stadium as the team has found ways to win on the narrow field.
While things can change greatly between now and November (injuries, player form and fitness and a couple of suspensions of key players at the most inopportune times), City has position itself for perhaps a surprising playoff run, surprising at least at the beginning of the season.
Did anyone say MLS Cup at Yankee Stadium?
Yes, I am getting a bit ahead of myself. But then again, who would have thought Vieira's troops would be in the position that they are in right now?
New York Cosmos
Regardless who head coach Giovanni Savarese puts on the field, the Cosmos have found a way to be a formidable side at home. On the road, not so much, although Saturday night's 2-1 comeback win in stoppage time could very well have a positive effect on how well the defending North American Soccer League champions fare for the rest of the fall season.
The win at Puerto Rico FC was the second in a row in injury time for the Cosmos as El Salvadoran international Andres Flores played hero this time, after David Diosa had the honors in the 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Saturday.
The Cosmos have been a head scratcher this season, being virtually invincible at Shuart Stadium and quite vulnerable on the road. That happens to many teams, but the team's inconsistent away play has been, well, so un-Cosmoslike. Perhaps we have gotten quite accustomed to heroics regardless where the club plays.
Still, Saturday's comeback has to be encouraging for a team, even against a first-year expansion team that has struggled.
Who knows? Perhaps the Cosmos are the midst of changing their personality.
At the present time, yours truly thinks the only way the Cosmos can defend their Soccer Bowl title is by playing at home. Only time will tell if they can change their road results and my mind.
New York Red Bulls
If I listed all of the time the Red Bulls gave up second-half leads that saw wins turn into draws and ties transformed into losses, it would break the internet.
There was the Philadelphia Union in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup.
There was Philly again in MLS.
Last week there was the LA Galaxy in a 2-2 draw in Carson, Calif.
Almost like clockwork, it happened again Sunday at D.C. United when a two-goal lead vanished in only a few minutes.
Seriously, there have been so many dropped points that the Red Bulls could be leading the Eastern Conference instead of trailing Hudson River rivals as a third-place side.
While the playoffs are set up as two-leg, total goal affairs, the Red Bulls could theoretically can survive that. But even Sacha Kljestan fears that bad habit could catch up to the team during crunch time in November.
Of course, the Red Bulls needs to reach the postseason first and all those lost points could come back to haunt them down the stretch if other teams get on a roll.
Once teams acquire bad habits -- and losing leads, particularly two-goal advantages, are considered the worst type of habits -- they are difficult to break.
The Red Bulls have a little more than two months to find a solution. That should be plenty of time to turn things around, but we have waited way too long already.