NYCFC – Match Report vs Philadelphia Union 09/07/20

The second match of the ‘MLS is back’ tournament saw New York City FC take on Philadelphia Union in Orlando, in what were difficult conditions for both sides with 81% humidity and temperatures reaching 33 degrees celsius during this morning match in the United States. NYCFC for the most part dominated possession and created some good opportunities, but they were unable to find a way past Blake in goal and Elliott and Mckenzie who offered him good protection from centre back.

Philadelphia took the lead through Bedoya whose shot Johnson got a hand to in the New York goal, but was unable to prevent it from finding the back of the net after NYCFC failed to clear their lines despite having several opportunities to do so. The tempo of the match varied greatly, with the conditons clearly taking their toll, NYCFC livened up for the closing stages but couldn’t find an equaliser, meaning Philadelphia were able to take all three points in their opening match of the group stage.

NYC set up in a 4-2-3-1 system that saw the front four adopt quite fluid positions that they would interchange between. The full backs were asked to bomb on and they delivered several crosses, but the lack of quality of these deliveries hindered the side’s overall threat. Castellanos, Heber and Mackay-Steven all had great chances to score but some poor finishing coupled with some great saves from Blake meant that NYC couldn’t find a way through. In what was a challenging first game back for both sides and NYC were made to rue missed opportunites that cost them their chance at securing any points.


  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Valentin Castellanos

Player profile:

  • Nationality: Argentine
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 03/10/1998
  • Current Club: NYCFC
  • Career: Torque, NYCFC
  • Position: Striker
  • Secondary position: Left Wing / Right Wing
  • Preferred foot: Right

Castellanos had a promising match upon his return to football. The Argentine played as a left winger for the majority of the match but also occasionally occupied a more central position in the final third. He was heavily involved in the majority of NYC’s attacks and showed good skill and close control with the ball at his feet. He took up dangerous positions either in the box where he could be a direct threat to goal or in wide areas where he could drive infield from the left and try and get a shot off with his stronger right foot.

He was far from shot shy, having 8 attempts on goal in the game – 5 more than the next player in either team and just under half of NYC’s total efforts. Four of these efforts were on target, with at least one coming from range after having cut inside whilst another was from taking up a central area on the penalty spot and firing a cut back towards goal, only to see it turned away by the Union goalkeeper. He linked up well in wide areas, whilst also providing an aerial threat with his late runs into the 18 yard box.

Despite only standing at 5’10 and with an average to slim build, Castellanos has a good leap and burst of pace which make him dangerous. He looked to use this pace to stretch the opposition defence but rarely got an opportunity due to Philadelphia sitting deep. The 21 year old is very positive and always looks to go forward but could perhaps improve upon his decision making in the final third, taking on a shot when a pass would have been a better option or making a loose pass when trying to be overambitious.

He had very view defensive duties and due to NYC’s dominance of the ball he rarely had to track back with the full back, but he displayed good aggression and stamina levels to maintain his energy throughout. Overall it was a particularly promising display from Castellanos who looked his team’s most dangerous player in this match.

Rating: A2

James Sands

Player profile:

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 06/07/2000
  • Current Club: NYCFC
  • Career: NYCFC, Louisville City (L)
  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Secondary position: Centre Back / Centre Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

James Sands had an uneventful game but showed quality at times as his team fell to a 1-0 defeat. He was solid in the challenge and won his fair share of aerial duels, standing at six foot and with an average build. He was quick to get out to close down the striker and used good timing to read the game and use his body effectively to recover possession for his team. The NYC defence looked to play quite a high line and catch the Union forwards offside, but they struggled with the third man runs of Aaronson from deeper areas. Sands had mixed success in this regard, sometimes stepping up effectively to maintain a solid defensive line, but other times being caught out in behind and being forced to try and track back quickly to recover.

Sands was accurate with his passing (94% completion rate) which was important in these conditions as every turnover meant that the side was forced to expend more energy in transitional phases. He made some smart and crisp passes into wide areas to invite the full backs to get forward and was happy to play around the back when NYC were in comfortable possession. Sands appeared comfortable and composed throughout this match and was unfortunate to be on the losing side.

Rating: A2

Keaton Parks

Player profile:

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 06/08/1997
  • Current Club: NYCFC
  • Career: Vrazim, Benfica, NYCFC
  • Position: Defensive Midfield
  • Secondary position: Centre Midfield / Right Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Keaton Parks looked comfortable in midfield and displayed some good attributes, and was perhaps unfortunate to be taken off at half time due to a tactical change from NYC. Despite not seeing a lot of the ball, he was accurate with his passing and seemed effective in transitions from defence to attack, making one or two nice passes in behind the Philadelphia back line. He linked up well with his teammates in tight areas and showed good skill to beat a man and drive with the ball. It was in the the final third that Parks struggled to make the right decision – either taking on one too many players or failing to get a shot off – hence why he was replaced by a more creative player in the final third in Jesús Medina.

Despite being 6’4 and with an standard frame, he was too weak in the challenge at stages which let him down defensively, failing to win a header or make a successful tackle before being withdrawn. He covered a lot of ground in central midfield but failed to have a significant impact at either end. The American showed his potential on the ball and range of passing, but needed to have more end product and make better use of his physicality in this match.

Rating: B1


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