New York City FC saw major contributions from reserves against Sporting KC

It was highly unlikely that New York City FC would manage a victory against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, but despite the side’s first defeat in franchise history, Jason Kreis’ team had plenty of positives to take away from its match against the 2013 MLS Champions.

This was a side missing six starter-worthy players, including a late scratch of none of than star forward David Villa. Three members of City’s roster, Javier Calle, Patrick Mullins, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, made their starting debuts against Sporting. In the second half, three others, Tony TaylorThomas McNamara, and Kwadwo Poku, made their first appearances on the pitch for NYCFC.

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Kreis stated after Saturday evening’s match that he was quite pleased with the performance of his substitutes, “All three players I think made their debut for us and I think all three players made positive contributions and assisted in the effort to try and get that equalizing goal.”

There was no doubt though that Watson-Siriboe made the strongest impression on the match. Despite being partially at fault for allowing the game’s lone goal, Watson-Siriboe provided a stellar effort at the center back spot for the full 90 minutes. In fairness to the former University of Connecticut player, he was slightly picked off by a Sporting player, and Ike Opara timed his leap for the header to perfection.

It certainly wasn’t a surprise that the 6’3″ defender excelled the rest of the match in his team debut though, after spending time with his head coach at Real Salt Lake for two seasons. With the suspension to youngster Shay Facey, as well as the injury to Josh Williams, Kreis tinkered with his lineup, opting to start Watson-Siriboe at center back, and moving Chris Wingert out to right back.

In terms of attacking, NYCFC definitely had a difficult time in that department for the majority of their second home fixture. The absence of Villa was clearly most detrimental to New York, but not having forwards Adam Nemec and Khiry Shelton available due to international call-ups certainly played a huge role in the team’s lack of attacking presence as well.

It took over 90 minutes for New York City FC to have a quality opportunity on net, with Ned Grabavoy having the chance to equalize in second half stoppage time. A dazzling run by Poku into Sporting’s box, eventually led to a cross by Jeb Brovsky. Unfortunately for the Light Blues, Grabavoy’s diving header sailed wide of KC goalkeeper Luis Marin’s net. The most important part of the play though was indeed Poku’s dribbling display through Kansas City’s defense.

One of the biggest areas that this side is lacking at this stage is someone who can consistently break defenses down. When Poku was able to shift and scamper through Sporting’s back line, it had to have been very refreshing for Jason Kreis, as well as the fans. Everyone knows that when Villa is healthy, he is more than capable of being the team’s facilitator, but as was evident on Saturday, when he isn’t available to play it’s very difficult for this side to create quality chances on goal.

While Pat Mullins was able to make a few plays out of nothing against Sporting KC, it is still unclear as to how he can fit in with this side, especially with Nemec and Shelton returning to the squad. The whole Nemec vs Shelton debate is still up in the air, especially with Shelton providing quality minutes in each of his three substitute performances this season.

Unless the Sky Blues look to add someone during the season, there are really two wild cards on this team that will need to come up big for this side. Midfielder Mix Diskerud hasn’t found a way to influence any of NYC’s matches through four weeks, which is worrisome to say the least. He’ll need to find more ways to break defenses down and distribute balls to the wings.

That being said, Frank Lampard, whom was in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, will play another vital role in this team’s success or lack-thereof. Lampard won’t officially join his new side until July, but when he does, it’ll be intriguing to see how he is used. The long-time English national midfielder has always played an attacking role wherever he has been, and he could be exactly what this side needs, especially if Diskerud doesn’t find his way in the coming months.