The first glimpse of New York City FC without David Villa resulted in a meek attacking effort at New York University Field, Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
FC Copenhagen, atop the Danish first division table through 20 matches this season, defeated City 2-0 in the 2019 preseason opener on a rainy evening in the Persian Gulf.
“It’s our first test – the most important thing is to get minutes,” head coach Dome Torrent told NYCFC.com. “The young players played really well and I’m very happy with them. We have time to improve. The most important thing is no injuries, and get minutes. Our performance was good.”
Two of the four NYCFC Academy players invited to preseason made appearances. Veljko Petkovic started the match at left wing while fullback Nico Benalcazar patrolled the left flank in the second half.
Of the three City Homegrowns, 16-year old Joe Scally was in the starting XI at right back while James Sands played the second 45-minutes as a holding midfielder. Justin Haak did not play.
Transfers Keaton Parks (21) and Juan Pablo Torres (19) each made their NYCFC debuts with solid performances.
With Villa’s departure for Japan and the termination of Jo Inge Berget’s contract less than two weeks ago, New York City is without a natural center forward on their roster – an omission exposed against Copenhagen, Danish champions in two of the last three seasons.
Valentin Castellanos was listed as the lone forward to begin the match in a 4-3-3 shape. In truth, 5-foot 3 veteran midfielder Maxi Moralez was attacking centrally and from the highest lines of the Copenhagen defense.
Outside of a Ronald Matarrita free kick that zipped wide of the near post, City lacked any serious threats on goal.
Second-year attacker Jesus Medina was inserted into a striker role in the second half out of a 4-1-4-1 shape. Medina had few touches and little impact in a position that suits him less than his favorite spot – wide right as a wing.
The early stages of the second half were highlighted by Sands and Anton Tinnerholm. Sands sat deep in the midfield and provided a rhythm to the attack that was missing in the opening session. The second-year midfielder may best suit the role of quarterback from deep lying positions.
Tinnerholm replaced Scally at right back and immediately put a charge into the match with an energetic and battling mentality.
The goals for Copenhagen were the result of set pieces – both in the second half with Jeff Caldwell in goal.
New York City will next host Sweden’s AIK on Friday, Feb. 8 at 8 a.m. EST. AIK is the former home of City midfielder Ebenezer Ofori where he was the Allsvenskan Midfielder of the Year in 2015.