Red Bulls and NYCFC two tales of finishing in Orlando

Soccer is truly a game of fortunes.

Despite largely similar offensive performances, the Red Bulls and NYCFC will have come away from their first games back in much different spirits.

The Red Bulls scrapped their way to victory against a tough Atlanta United side. NYCFC huffed and puffed again before falling 1-0 to Philadelphia.

For NYCFC and new manager Ronny Deila, it’s the third straight 1-0 loss in the league this season, and this one particularly felt like a missed opportunity.

“We had a solid game,” Deila said during a press conference last Sunday. “And we should’ve come away from that game with something.”

Deila’s not wrong. His team was on the front foot for most of the second half and created three good chances that Heber, Taty Castellanos and Gary Mackay-Steven (in stoppage time) failed to convert. Philly got on the scoresheet when Alejandro Bedoya scuffed in a half chance that bounced awkwardly onto goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and that was all they needed to secure the three points.

The concept of playing well and losing is not new. But it’s stark when you put NYCFC’s misfortunes next to the Red Bulls’ somewhat lucky win — especially when NYCFC conceded far fewer chances.

Atlanta hit the crossbar, nearly scored a header at the end and misfired on numerous other occasions. But Florian Valot converted an early chance for the Red Bulls in the fourth minute, and they managed to hang on.

NYCFC created better chances than Philly and conceded virtually none, and yet it was their crosstown rivals who managed to snag all three points.

Deila, still without his first MLS victory, must be feeling the heat, while Red Bulls coach Chris Armas will have been thrilled to eek out a win against a top club.

“I think they earned the three points,” Armas said after the game.

Maybe just, but NYCFC were probably even more deserving of a win despite its ultimate result.

Per, NYCFC posted an xG (expected goals) of 1.9 against Philadelphia and allowed just 0.5 themselves, suggesting that a comfortable win actually would not have been out of place based on the events of the game. Contrarily, the Red Bulls posted a similar xG — 1.6 — yet conceded 1.4 to Atlanta en route to their 1-0 win.

Philadelphia Union NYCFC Orlando
The Philadelphia Union’s Raymon Gaddis, above, wins a header over New York City FC’s Ronald Matarrita in Orlando.AP

Finishing and a bit of luck was what separated the two New York Clubs this weekend, and the former largely evens out over the course of a season.

Creating chances, however, is a requisite to even benefit from that type of equilibrium, and that may prove tough for NYCFC with playmaker Maxi Moralez out Tuesday vs Orlando, and possibly beyond.

Despite a decent performance from NYCFC against Philadelphia — at least according to the numbers — the real-world results are damning for a team with championship aspirations: zero wins and zero goals in three matches. Even the expansion Inter Miami and FC Cincinnati have found the scoresheet in losses.

If NYCFC is close to the same team that won the Eastern Conference last regular season, that will eventually show, just as the Red Bulls won’t be able to outrun the metrics in every match.

For now, though, Deila is a newly minted MLS coach manning a winless, goalless team.

It doesn’t have to be pretty. Maybe a rebound, thigh deflection or goalie error. Even an own goal will do. But Deila needs a real goal to show for, and fast.

“It’s always a concern to not score goals,” he said. “So I think everybody’s thinking about that.”