No David Villa. No Jack Harrison. No Rodney Wallace. New York City FC, coming off a tough draw several days ago against the consensus best team in MLS, made five changes to the starting XI keeping in mind their upcoming match against their Orlando City FC rivals this Sunday. NYCFC couldn’t have had a better start, with Sean Okoli scoring just three minutes into the match. But, the team was unable to sustain their hot start, ultimately losing 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium in a disappointing but fair result.
Sean Okoli was able to capitalize on a poor RSL pass in the early minutes to give NYCFC the lead. Okoli displayed some of his best attributes on that particular sequence, showing his strength and hold up play as he was able to fend off a defender inside the Real Salt Lake box and tucking the ball away low and hard into the corner.
NYCFC Designated Player Andrea Pirlo was back into the starting XI for the first time since team lost to Orlando City on April 23, and he impressed. In the 30’, Pirlo played an unbelievable cross field ball to find Thomas McNamara in a decent goal scoring opportunity who ultimately struggled to get a good shot on goal.
Just seven minutes later, 22-year old and former Manchester City youth player, Albert Rusnak, found the equalizer with an impressive volley from outside the box that Sean Johnson had no chance to save. RSL took the lead and never looked back just five minutes into the second half, scoring on a powerful Aaron Maund header off a corner.
NYCFC had chances to equalize, particularly when head coach Patrick Vieira subbed in David Villa and Jack Harrison immediately after the goal. Villa had a golden opportunity after Maxi Moralez supplied him with a brilliant through ball. With no support in the box, Villa had no choice but to shoot on goal from a tight angle that was saved by the goalkeeper. Okoli, a natural striker, stayed on despite Villa’s substitution, but was found in an unnatural role at left-midfield as Harrison partnered with Villa up front. NYCFC were unable to create any other goal scoring opportunities for the remainder of the game, dropping all three points on the road.
During the post game conference Patrick Vieria spoke about the team’s performance and his decision about the starting eleven:
The defeat today is mine. It’s me who is responsible for the loss today because the selection of the team wasn’t good enough to compete against [Real] Salt Lake and I take full responsibility for the performance of the team today.
Man of the Match
Not too many positives to take away from this match, but Sean Okoli gets the honor here for his first MLS and NYCFC goal. At times Okoli looked indecisive, but that’s to be expected from a backup striker without much experience. Nonetheless, credit to Okoli for scoring the lone goal for NYCFC and displaying some of his best attributes throughout the match. Okoli’s strength in his hold-up play was on display as it allowed for his teammates to get involved and in support. There’s certainly much room for improvement for Okoli, particularly his decisiveness and confidence, but today was promising.
NYCFC will be traveling to Orlando to face Cyle Larin and Orlando City Soccer Club on Sunday, May 21 at 7:00 pm. NYCFC has lost twice to their Orlando rivals this season, most recently on April 23 at Yankee Stadium when Larin scored twice to take all three points. Larin has nine goals in seven all-time appearances against NYCFC. Can NYCFC slow him down? Stay tuned…