Last week City Football Group owned New York City FC made their MLS debut in Orlando. The New Yorkers were close to their first victory but it was stolen by a deflection of a goal in the dying minutes. This week the club’s big headline was not the fact that they were facing last year’s MLS Cup runners up but were making their league home debut on a baseball park – Yankee Stadium.
The hysteria and curiosity of how a baseball park served as a football field among fans and neutrals remained till kick off, given earlier reports of the pitch being in far from idyllic condition.
But new MLS franchises were traditionally prosperous in their home openers. Orlando showed that last week as approximately 60,000 fans made their way into the Citrus Bowl with similar crowd numbers seen in Portland, Montreal and Seattle.
For the hosts only one change was made from the 1-1 draw against Orlando. Creative midfielder Valasquez replaced Mehdi Ballouchy, rightfully so as Jason Kreis realized the importance of at least one player with some technical ability to support Villa and Nemec in the offence.
It was clear that the angles, the dimensions and the grass at the Yankee stadium would take a while getting used to. Even the TV angle of the game looked bizarre, as the field was 70 yards wide, the narrowest allowed by FIFA rules, which meant no time for a breather.
The visitors had their pun for the evening prior to kick-off as chants of “Where is Lampard?” made its rounds in the section.
But it was NYCFC who had the last laugh as they finished off New England Revolution by two goals in each half.
The game should have seen a lot more goals from either side, with chances coming in as early as in the 5th minute for the hosts. But we shall blame that on the non-football specific presence of the grass. This game also saw a different and a very leader like performance from their star forward – David Villa who notched the first and setup the second.
NYCFC looked vulnerable early in the first half, especially on the wing play by Chris Tierney whose whipped in crosses from the left were hard to deal with. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders did everything in his might to keep them alive on repeated Revolution onslaught.
However, a nice one-two with Grabavoy in the 20th minute, at the edge of the Revolution penalty area opened up the defense and Villa taking full advantage of it. Using his technical ability in tight spots, the Spaniard was able to curl the ball past GK Shuttleworth to the far post for his first goal of the season.
New England tried to slow the game down after the goal. But as the way the field was set up, that could never be. The Revolution had missed some humbling opportunities to level this game but were not able to capitalize.
Beginning of the second half so Villa came close at numerous occasions yet, Shuttleworth was able to bail his defense out. Even substitute Shelton, who played an important role last week, had an instant impact with his pace as he drew in defender Jose Goncalves for a foul which called for an immediate red.
New England’s defenders were previously all over the place when NYCFC broke but with 10 men down, the home side’s goal to get a second was looking quite realistic.
NYCFC extended their lead with a well-worked counter with David Villa making space to get in-behind the Revolution defense and set up Patrick Mullins for his first goal of the season.
Manager Jason Kreis still has a lot of work to do, but I expect this team to grow with every game. More importantly, Velasquez put in a stellar and vibrant performance in midfield, showcasing his pace and skill on the ball and surely was the best player on the field today.
As for the fans, they were having a good time as chants of “You can’t Beat Us!” could be heard among the press box after the second goal. And based on tonight’s performance, they had every right to be.