Despite some close calls throughout the season, the NYCFC defense is better than we give it credit for.
Although criticisms of the New York City back line have been old news since the first game of their historic inaugural season, there have always been a few bright spots in what some people see as the team’s main weakness.
RJ Allen’s Speed (On and Off the Ball)
First and foremost, let’s talk about RJ Allen. The six-foot-tall defender from Old Bridge, New Jersey is constantly covering ground from his position at either left back or right back. In fact, it’s not unusual to see him across the field from his actual position when dealing with a dangerous ball toward the box. With that kind of speed and determination, Allen is an incredibly valuable part of NYCFC’s recent success.
Not only is Allen good at keeping the ball out of our box, he’s good at getting the ball into the opponent’s box as well! His sideline runs are a joy to watch and his ability to pass well, especially under pressure, has contributed to his five assists so far this season.
Ronald Matarrita’s Intelligence
After NYCFC’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Orlando on August 28th, there were a lot of things, both good and bad, to reflect on. However, one moment in particular stands out. In the 70th minute Matarrita made a heroic, empty-net save against Orlando’s Kevin Molino.
This is a textbook example of how “soccer smart” Matarrita is and how his positioning and timing help the NYCFC defense every time he’s on the field. Although this defensive display was extraordinary, it’s just one of the many that Matarrita has produced in recent months and we sure hope to see more of him after his international duties.
Brillant’s Hang Time
Aerial battles are always worth a mention when discussing a soccer team’s defense. We all know that NYCFC isn’t the only team that builds from the back, and long balls against them are a common occurrence as a direct result of that.
Frédéric Brillant may make some mistakes that lead to chances, goals, and even own-goals, but he makes up for it with his ability to head the ball away from danger while jostling with an opposing player. With a bit of work to improve his positioning and timing, he could be a jack-of-all-trades defensively, causing nightmares for teams who like to lob it toward the keeper in hopes of circumventing the back line.
Finally, let’s talk about the 26-year-old international Maxime Chanot. From the moment he stepped on the field for NYCFC’s 5-1 victory over Colorado, you could tell he was a perfect fit. Between his experiences playing in Europe, his ability to communicate with both coach Patrick Vieira and fellow defender Fred Brillant, and his tendency to be a part of every play defensively, Chanot has provided a spark for New York that has restored defensive confidence with the fans.
While there are times where New York City FC struggles to prevent goals, these players prove that the NYCFC defense is capable of amazing things.