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Help wanted: NYCFC still looking for another striker

Mar 10, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Alexandru Mitrita (28) plays the ball past D.C. United midfielder Russell Canouse (4) during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

BRONX, N.Y. — Here are three things we learned from the 0-0 draw between New York City FC and D.C. United Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Help Wanted

Dome Torrent used his post-match press conference to again emphasize the need for a striker. The NYCFC coach said there’s plenty of playmakers on the roster and enough defenders available.

But NYCFC are bereft of forwards. It was a reality when the Cityzens started preseason and remains a reality after a pair of draws in which both goals were scored by midfielders.

Torrent had previously expressed the need, and likelihood of signing a striker and the club was linked to Ola Kamara before the Norwegian international left the LA Galaxy for a big-money move to China.

Torrent said he thinks it’s possible NYCFC sign a new striker in “maybe two or three weeks,” but acknowledges the process in MLS isn’t simple.

“I’m very happy with the people who work in our team about that,” Torrent said. “It’s not easy to sign here in MLS. In Europe if you have money you can sign. … Everybody knows we need special players, scoring players because if you create enough chances after that the result is about that.”

Sands shines again

Jimmy Sands was lauded as NYCFC’s future No. 6 last year when he impressed in a late-season start in 2018. The club’s first-ever homegrown signing has, in fact, started in that spot for the first two games of the 2019 season and the 18-year-old has been among the bright spots for Torrent and his coaching staff.

“He played amazing for me today,” Torrent said. “He controlled all the time [Luciano] Acosta and [Wayne] Rooney, he’s a clever player for us.”

Sands, who joined Alex Ring as part of a double No. 6 in Torrent’s 4-2-3-1 formation, would likely have been the Man of the Match if not for a spectacular performance by Sean Johnson in the NYCFC net.

In a 90-minute shift, Sands had five tackles, four interceptions, two blocks and a clearance. He won 66.7 percent of his duels and 83.3 percent of his aerial duels, while touching the ball 75 times.

“He’s made a step from last year,” Ring said. “He had a couple of games in the fall where he played really good and now he has to seize the opportunity. You have to prove yourself every day in practice, every day in games and he’s doing well. I’m proud of him.”

Rough and tumble

The match was a physical one with 36 combined fouls and three bookings. It was played under wet, chilly conditions.

In other words, just what was expected when NYCFC meet D.C. United.

“Scrappy stuff, typical NYC game, the field wasn’t great, cold, rain,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “There were 30 fouls, somewhere in the range of that.”

Ring, who has no problem mixing things up, was fine with the physicality.

“For me, half of the fouls were no fouls, I said to the ref already,” he said. “I thought we played the ball more. But two teams who are pretty physical, especially midfield and backline. It was a physical fight. I always enjoy one, sure. But I’d rather win.”

Part of that included a tussle between Ben Sweat and Paul Arriola, who had to be separated by officials and teammates at one point. It was one of the more entertaining individual matchups over the 90 minutes.

“It’s good to play against top players like him,” Sweat said. “He’s one of the top midfielders, wingers in the league I think. It was good matchup. And I think we both had fun battling against each other.”

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