NEW YORK CITY, NY – It very nearly looked like the City faithful were in for another disappointment, as Fafa Picault got on the end of a CJ Sapong through-ball between Ethan White and Maxime Chanot, putting the away side up 1-0 in the 69th minute.
After a first half that in which New York City FC saw so many opportunities slip away (pun intended), this match had all the makings of the club we’ve come to see over the past few weeks. To his credit, Andre Blake had an outstanding game until the very end, making a total of seven saves. However, at the end of a long stretch of games, New York City would not be denied. Just over ten minutes after Picault’s strike, Chanot found an in-swinging corner from Maxi Moralez and headed it just past Blake to draw the home side level.
The Boys in Blue would need only five more minutes to go ahead. Again on a corner kick from Moralez, the ball found NYCFC 2018 Superdraftee Jonathan Lewis, who sent it wide to David Villa. Villa rifled a shot that was parried by Blake, but fell right to the foot of Alexander Callens who slammed the ball home for what would end up the game-winner.
“It’s always good to score, especially when you win the game,” said Chanot. “So we are really happy – I’m really happy about this tonight but I don’t want to talk so much about goals. What’s important [this afternoon] was a victory.”
Callens and Chanot both scored their first-ever MLS goals.
In a match that saw three attack-minded subs come on for a desperate press for a win, it was the defense that came up big.
Speaking of attack-minded subs, the home crowd got perhaps their best look at Jon Lewis this season, his second-ever and first match minutes since Montreal in week three.
“I felt like after working a few months with this team, I feel a lot more confident and that my teammates trust me a lot more. When [Vieira] put me in I knew he trusted me so I took my chance to show them what I can do,” Lewis told reporters. “I felt more confident and more excited to play – less nerves.”
Lewis played solidly, and on his first touches got Union defender Raymon Gaddis to overcommit badly on his defense. Lewis promptly schooled Gaddis some more on his way to putting the first of a three dangerous balls into the box.
Also of note on the substitution front is left back Ronald Matarrita. Matarrita came on in the 60th minute and his impact was felt almost immediately. NYCFC suddenly looked much more dangerous moving forward, and much more fluid in their attack. In his first (and only) test before leaving for Costa Rica, Matarrita reminded City fans just how good he can be – coming in and playing as a winger in front of his backup, Ben Sweat.
One important thing to keep and eye on moving forward: City midfielder Jack Harrison took a pretty hard hit in the second half and was slow to recover. In the locker room after the match, he insisted it was nothing to worry about but was still moving gingerly.
Luckily for the club, the international break is now in full-swing and the Pigeons will not play again until June 14th, their opening match in the US Open Cup against the Red Bulls.