HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 13: A general view of the MLS, Fussball Herren, USA march ball on the field during the first half of the Major League Soccer game between the New York Red Bulls and Minnesota United on March 13, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire SOCCER: MAR 13 MLS - Minnesota United at New York Red Bulls Icon220332609

Last weekend NYCFC visited Houston to meet the Dynamo. This was the first victory for Houston Dynamo over the New York City FC. They performed a quite interesting first half, both sides showed their ability to control the game and either threatening via counter-attacks. Interestingly, in the bigger portion of the first half, the Dynamo control the game and tried to find a way through the opponent’s defence.

Targeting the half spaces

The home side used their base shape to press, thus they formed a 4-2-3-1 against the ball. Manotas and the line behind him stayed high during the opponent’s bull-up phase in order to prevent the progress. With a man-oriented fashion that Dynamo used they managed to challenge the guests.

In the deep build-up, some occasions were, where Dynamo could make bad circumstances for the opponent, which means hard to beat the pressing or even make it impossible. In these situations, Dynamo forces the opponent to the wing and squeeze them in a small and limited space. The players in orange covered the NYCFC players, therefore were any passing option. Whilst Manotas positioned sideways in between the side backs, which allowed them to prevent a switch to the far side. There is an interesting detail, which can be seen in the images below. Elis on the far side did not move infield to cover one of the midfielders. This was fairly redundant if you think it through due to Manotas blocking movement.

However, NYCFC could find one way to bypass this pressing scheme. Thanks to the passing lane which one was open towards Villa, therefore he dropped several times to got ball in the left half space. This was a frequently seen pattern during the first part of the half.

Half spaces were important in other situations because the guests could gain access to left half space in the opponent’s half. Again Villa had a big role to exploit the space in Houston’s defence. Everything started with Villa dropping movement. This provided a promising passing option for the ball carrier. Then a pass through the whole defensive until the far side, where Tinnerholm got the ball with a huge space ahead of him.

The key to making this is the position of Machado, who had to divide his attention between Villa and Matarrita. Due to the high position of Matarrita, Machado had a decision-making crisis, which led to allowing to Villa to dropping freely.

Houston’s struggle against NYCFC’s narrow shape

It was clear that the guests find a way in the half spaces during their build-up. Due to the fact that NYCFC front lines narrow, thus it was a good spot to progress.

However, Vieira’s man managed to press effectively. Fuenmayor and Leonardo stretched the shape and positioned close to the wings in order to make hard for the opponent to press. In these situations, Villa and Berget marked tightly the defenders, therefore wasn’t option to pass in close proximity. In some situations, Villa used a curved pressing run to force Leonardo backward pass to the goalkeeper. Then Villa continues his pressing movement to force Willis for a bad decision. An incoming pressure would lead some lost ball. Due to Berget covered the other centre back, the keeper had to rely on the volley.

In these situations also an important that the guests use tight marking in the midfield, thus Dynamo’s midfielders weren’t available to effectively participate in the build-up. This was handy in other situations, like when Houston forced to the wings and tried to reach the centre from there. The compact and tight defensive manner neutralise these attempts.

The equaliser goal

In the 21st minutes, Houston got a free kick near the goal line. This was kind of a corner because of the situation, therefore the defending team’s positioning same as they do during the corners. Patrick Vieira uses a zonal defence in these situations.

This position of NYCFC players appears in every corner. Usually, they maintain a control over the middle area. The goal is to make numerical superiority, but a few players move higher close to the opponents in order to slow them down. However, as you see in this case some of the Houston players moved to the far side, outside of the defensive block. This allowed them to act freely, which led to the goal.

After NYCFC conceded this goal they became less dangerous than before. The biggest opportunity to use the shape and pass beside the opponent’s double pivot. They often find a free man in the right wing because besides Garcia there was a big amount of space, therefore Tinnerholm was free when he receive passes.

The other method to make dangerous attacks was the long passes towards Villa or Berget. However, these passes lacked precision. If these were laser passes, it would be a good idea.

Low quality second half

The game continued after the break with a increasing dominance of home side. Houston pushed forward and control the game with an aggressive pressing. They could manage to be in possession much more time than the opponent. However, the poor execution of the crosses means some wasted chances.

Surprisingly, Dynamo made the first substitution in spite of the fact that Vieira’s side should make some of it in order to stabilise their build-up. Right after the substitution, the guests lost the ball again in their early build-up because of the poor execution and decision, and conceded a goal.

After the goal, the NYCFC increase the tempo and tried to equalise. They had some chances, but they failed to score. On the other hand, they pushed up, which means Dynamo could threaten with counter-attacks. This counter-attack led to their third goal. The match was over.

The level of the attention, the poor decisions and executions and also the lack of balance led the Patrick Vieira”s side defeat in the second half. For the future, he has solved this problem. The team have to improve in these circumstances, avoid to being exposed through counter attacks.