NEW YORK CITY, NY – For the first time ever, New York City FC took on Minnesota United FC on a balmy Thursday night in the Bronx. The win marks the second time in NYCFC history the club has strung together four victories in a row.
NYCFC dominated possession, holding the ball for 61% of the half. But as has been the case for this season, the City attack struggled to finish their chances.
Patrick Vieira was forced to burn a sub early after Ronald Matarrita never fully recovered from taking down Johan Venegas on a counter attack down the touchline. After initially trying to play through it, Matarrita went down on the very next whistle and had to be helped off the field. With his injury history so far this season, one has to wonder if the Costa Rican will see the pitch again this season.
Nearly immediately after, Eirik Johansen would show some rust and concede the lead. On a long ball into the box from Venegas, Johansen stopped the immediate threat. But the City ‘keeper couldn’t hold on to the ball and the rebound trickled in front of him, slammed home by Christian Ramirez.
The goal seemed to throw City off balance for the rest of the half, as their relentless attack came up empty chance after chance.
As the half wound down, it looked like City would be going into the break behind. Alexander Callens wasn’t about to let that happen. On a ball put advanced by Alex Ring, Ben Sweat – fresh off his first career goal against Red Bulls – tried to make something happen on his own. A little clumsy in his execution, he ended up back-heeling the ball into space and chasing it down himself, only to be overlapped by Callens – of all people – who put it away between the legs of Bobby Shuttleworth to draw even.
A small scuffle between David Villa and Kevin Venegas had tempers flaring right before the half, stemming from a rough play inside the box that saw Venegas’ foot get a little high.
MNUFC came out stronger in the second half and asserted themselves early. Some miscues at the back for NYCFC led to dangerous opportunities for the Loons, but Johansen settled in some and got to the balls he should. Johansen clearly plays a different style of goalkeeping to that of Sean Johnson – preferring parries to traps and playing up off his line to staying put – all aspects of his game that took getting used to for his defense.
It didn’t take long for the Boys in Blue to find their feet, however. In the 52nd minute, Rodney Wallace roped a ball across the box for a streaking Jack Harrison. Harrison dropped his head and rifled the ball into the net to give NYCFC the 2-1 lead.
Only eleven minutes later, Harrison and Villa would combine to put the game away for good. Right on the touchline, Harrison looped a ball over a pack of defenders. Villa snagged it and made one of the more impressive runs he’s made wearing the City badge. Beating four defenders and getting a nutmeg on the way, Villa made it 3-1.
Also notable, Andrea Pirlo made an appearance, coming in for Wallace in the 78th minute. The home crowd roared with every touch Il Maestro made, including a slick recovery of a loose ball in a dangerous position. Pirlo ultimately had little effect on the game, but it was good to see that he’s still in game-shape and capable of performing if called upon.
“What I really like about this group is that they are challenging each other every day in training.”
“I think you can see [with our recent form] we are a strong team and we are hungry to win.”
“Nobody likes to lose on this team. It showed again tonight. We’re on the same page. Everyone defends together, everyone attacks.”
– Ben Sweat
Next for NYCFC
The Boys in Blue travel to the Great White North to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC next Wednesday before MLS goes on a Gold Cup break. Kickoff will be 10pm Eastern.