Wednesday, March 16, 2016

8 Thoughts on New York City FC vs Toronto FC

Better late than never...

*For the second week in a row, the Sunday MLS game of the week did not disappoint. The Toronto FC - New York City FC match-up featured star power (Villa, Bradley, Giovinco, Diskerud, Pirlo), goals (4), and just general excitement. Bravo, MLS. Solid start to the 2016 campaign.

*I've mentioned before how I felt that 2016 was going to be a pivotal year in MLS for Mix Diskerud. After a disappointing 2015 that saw him deliver just three goals and one assist while falling out of favor with the U.S., Diskerud has been active on the attack in City's first two 2016 matches. Playing high on the right side against Toronto, Diskerud was active early delivering the pass that set up Villa's penalty kick, assisting on Villa's handball goal, putting a header on frame that forced a diving save from Clint Irwin, and slotting a teasing ball across the goalmouth that nearly went in for an own goal if not for an unlucky deflection. All told, on the scoresheet it amounted to just one assist, but that gives him a goal and two assists already this season. If I have a complaint about Mix's performance on Sunday it's that he disappeared in the second half when Toronto got themselves back into the match, but overall, I was happy to see him aggressive and having an impact on offense.

*We already talked about the star power on both of these rosters and it's crazy to think that we didn't see either of these teams at full strength. World Cup veterans Joey Altidore (Toronto) and Frank Lampard (New York City), both missed the match due to injuries. It will be interesting to see how Jozy fairs alongside Giovinco in year two, as his return should take some pressure of the Italian star who has been involved in every Toronto goal this season. Lampard's return will be a little more interesting as it's unclear where he'll fit into their lineup and who he's going to bump for playing time.

*Sebastian Giovinco is REALLY good. Seems obvious enough to say that given he was the league's MVP last year, but for two straight games this season, he's carried Toronto's attack accounting for all four of their goals (2 goals, 2 assists). Both his assist and his goal against City were pure class, and if not for Quincy Amarikwa's ridiculous chip against Portland, he'd probably be in the conversation for Goal of the Week. Anyhow, Taylor Twellman was spot on during the broadcast when he said Giovinco's performance during this summer's Euros will be huge for MLS. If he can deliver a goal or two as a representative of the league it could truly change the climate for European imports moving forward.

*Michael Bradley has really taken to the role of defensive midfielder with Toronto, and it seems like it's a natural fit for him at this stage in his career. He's not the type to take players on 1v1, but his brilliant vision allows him to sit back and play balls through to attacking targets with ease. This is much easier in a withdrawn role as it expands his field of vision and gives him more targets. People have been calling for the U.S. to deploy Bradley in this role for some time as he doesn't appear to be a natural #10, the question is, now that Bradley has starting filling this role for club, will Klinsmann give him the opportunity to do so for his country?

*I was a little disappointed with Toronto rookie Tsubasa Endoh. The 9th overall pick in the draft was pulled after 59 minutes on the right wing, and had a largely forgettable night that included a bungled trap when he had acres of space on the right flank. He hit a couple nice balls into the box, and drew a comparison to Graham Zusi for being an under-the-radar pick with a great motor, but suffice it today this wasn't the type of performance that got him drafted in the top ten.

*Holy cow, Steven Mendoza is fast. New York City's newest acquisition, acquired on loan from Corinthians in Brazil, is a burner for sure. A second half substitute for Tony Taylor, Mendoza wasn't given a ton of chances, but he had one run where he just absolutely blew by everybody showing what City surely hopes is a glimpse of what's to come. The 23 year old Colombian spent last season on loan in India (who knew they even had a Premier League?) where he led the league in scoring with 13 goals and scored the game winner in the 2015 Indian Super League Final.

*Mikey Lopez should have absolutely scored his first MLS goal and helped City come away with three points, but his free header from the six went wide late in the second half. While Lopez is more of a defensive minded player, you still can't miss from there if you're a professional.

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