It looked like an all-too familiar scenario for New York City FC against FC Dallas on Saturday night. So head coach Jason Kreis decided to make a change.
Down 2-0 in the 66th minute, and staring a third straight loss in the face, Kreis pulled off big-name designated players Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo in a double substitution for Mix Diskerud and Kwadwo Poku. NYCFC’s other designated player, David Villa, was went off at the half for Patrick Mullins for a hamstring injury that was not thought to be severe.
Unfortunately for Kreis, while NYCFC did find goal – Mullins finished off a penalty kick – the side would still come up short, falling 2-1, the team’s fourth straight without a victory as its playoff hopes continue to fade.
After the game, Kreis preferred to focus on the performance of his substitutes rather than the decision to remove NYCFC’s designated players.
“I think that we are always going to expect the players that come off the bench to make a difference,” Kreis said. “One of our biggest disappointments in our last match, we brought two fresh guys in at the end of the game to bring a new, fresh energy to the match, and they actually looked more fatigued than the players who had played 60 or 70 minutes, so we made a point of really getting at those guys and telling everybody they need to be ready and making positive contributions when they come in. So, we're really pleased with the energy they brought to the game.”
Keeper Josh Saunders also saw an improvement after the changes.
“We had good energy,” Saunders said. “We kept them pinned in the half; they couldn't get out. We limited their chances and created some chances of our own.”
NYCFC had bright moments, but ultimately conceded two goals in the final five minutes of the first half, including an Olimpico by Dallas defender Michel, suggesting Saturday would be the same old story for the expansion side that’s results have not lived up to its price tag thus far.
Villa came off for Mullins when play resumed with the official reason being a hamstring injury, though with the removal of Pirlo and Lampard 20 minutes later will likely lead to speculation over whether if Kreis was making a statement to his struggling team.
If a message was intended, it seemed to have been received. Mullins did make an impact – his successful pressure created a turnover in the 69th minute, which led to Ned Grabavoy earning a penalty after taking an Atiba Harris elbow to the face. Mullins converted, to give NYCFC hope of securing a much-needed result.
But despite looking more threatening from that point on, NYCFC was unable to grab the equalizer. Kreis however, spoke positively after the game.
“I was actually really pleased,” Kreis said. “I felt this was a really solid effort on our group's part. I thought that collectively they were willing and able to battle a lit bit more than I had seen them over the past several weeks. So really pleased with the effort and commitment level, and obviously just a little disappointed we couldn't quite get that goal tonight to level things."
With the loss, NYCFC remains stuck on 28 points, trailing Philadelphia, which also lost Saturday, by a point for ninth, and Montreal, which drew at Los Angeles, by four points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.