New York City FC’s back line defying injury woes

RJ Allen has stepped up in August with several NYCFC defenders injured.
RJ Allen has stepped up in August with several NYCFC defenders injured. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Robert Matarrita, Maxime Chanot and Ethan White have all contributed on the back line for New York City FC’s run up the table. But as the season enters its final stretch, all are hurt.

While the individuals have hit hard times, NYCFC as a whole has done anything but. The club got a result in all four August contests, including three wins. Keeper Sean Johnson, who made 17 saves in August, attributes that in part to the experience the healthy defenders have gotten and the chemistry they’ve built together.

“You don’t get to the top of the table by being a sloppy team by any means,” Johnson said at the unveiling of NYCFC House, a new pop-up shop in Manhattan. “Players have stepped up with a lot of depth on the team, and guys really stepped into the challenge.”

One of those players is RJ Allen. The 27-year-old fullback has drifted between the starting lineup and the bench, but his role has solidified of late. He started the past two contests — important ones for keeping the Blues’ second spot in the conference secure.

“I think lately we’ve been defending well in the box and in particular at home,” Allen said. “I think that’s gotten us where we are in the table now.”

This past weekend provided a much-needed respite thanks to the international break, when play halts for national team competition. However, when trying to close a season out and continue a playoff push, there’s a balance.

“A break is always good on your body to rest and kick back, but we’re still training every day and competing,” Allen said.

NYCFC (14-7-5, 47 points), three points ahead of Chicago for second in the Eastern Conference, takes the pitch again Wednesday against Sporting KC (10-5-10, 40 points) at Yankee Stadium.

“We ended the four-game stretch on a positive note,” Johnson said. “And now we can go in and some guys can take care of knocks, they can regenerate and kind of refresh for the last push here with the last eight games of the season.”