MLS Five Points: NYCFC must address structural issues

BY Kyle McCarthy • August 3, 2015

Entertaining weekend offers a welcome respite from summer doldrums

As a one-off in the middle of a long season, Saturday supplied a breath of fresh air. There were wild games across the league -- including D.C. United’s 6-4 win over Real Salt Lake and Orlando City’s 5-2 victory over Columbus Crew SC -- to establish a new, single-day record with 39 goals over eight matches.

The key for most clubs: figuring out how to shore things up moving forward. There were defensive and structural issues across the board for several sides on the day. One loose outing occurs over the course of the season. It cannot develop into a pattern with the stretch run around the corner.

Lack of midfield pressure condemns NYCFC to home defeat

NYCFC proved instantly pliable in the 3-2 defeat to Montréal on Saturday afternoon. The problems were two-fold at Yankee Stadium: (1) the defensive pressure in midfield dropped off as NYCFC attempted to accommodate Andrea Pirlo; (2) the center backs failed to tailor their work accordingly as the Impact played ball after ball over the top in response.

Those issues require resolution, though one wonders why NYCFC did not anticipate the threat posed by the counter-fueled Impact. NYCFC must integrate Pirlo and Frank Lampard (a second-half substitute here as he finally made his NYCFC debut) in central midfield without permitting opposing teams enough time and space in the middle third to play directly. That duo will need at least one player to cover ground in its stead and close down players immediately. The back four simply isn’t strong enough to carry the weight on its own.

Wright-Phillips brothers deliver for Red Bulls at PPL Park

After spending most of the past few years in the reserves, Shaun Wright-Phillips rather drifted away from his peak. His decision to swap QPR for New York Red Bulls revealed a welcome stroke of pragmatism: the 33-year-old simply wanted to play consistently again after years on the fringes.

The early returns are promising after an influential debut in the 3-1 victory at Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The former England winger prompted a rather unfortunate penalty decision against fellow debutant Tranquillo Barnetta and then set the stage for brother Bradley’s winner. It served a reminder of his potential impact at this level and underscored the threat posed by a Red Bulls side with plenty of mobility and pace in the wide areas.

Revolution sparking to life in time for Jermaine Jones … again

There are shades of a year ago in Foxborough as the Revs roust from their annual summer slump. Charlie Davies scored twice to ease New England to a 3-1 victory over 10-man Toronto FC on Saturday. The triumph extended the Revs’ unbeaten run to three matches as the MLS Cup finalists from a year ago finally cut out the rot and exploited TFC’s implosion after conceding the first goal.

Jones capped a satisfactory night by making his return from sports hernia surgery. The scenario bears similarities to a year ago with the United States midfielder poised to accelerate the ongoing revival. New England desperately missed Jones’ grit and his range of passing. The hope now is that his return can aid the recovery and push the Revs back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Sounders continue freefall with heavy home defeat to Whitecaps

Forget about instant salvation. Seattle needs more than the return of Clint Dempsey to cure the ills of this summer. Vancouver entered CenturyLink Field and grasped control of the proceedings with both hands. The instances of poor luck -- two-goal scorer Pa Modou Kah handled inside his own area shortly before halftime, but referee Mark Geiger waved away the protests -- combined with the Whitecaps’ ruthless approach to send the Supporters Shield holders to a seventh defeat in eight matches.

The culprit is simple right now: Seattle isn’t scoring enough goals. The previously potent Sounders floundered without Dempsey and the injured Obafemi Martins. Dempsey’s return offers some encouragement, but Martins must follow soon. The supporting cast buckled when asked to play above its usual station. It is now down to Dempsey and Martins to find their rhythm quickly and fire the Sounders back on track.

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