Another night, another New York City FC late show at Yankee Stadium.
Another Late Show
They left it late to get it done but even the most ardent SKC fan would have trouble arguing against the fact that NYCFC deserved all three points from this one.
Missing nine first-team players and facing off against a side who had the opportunity to go top of the Western Conference, all of the odds looked stacked against a home team looking to extend their long unbeaten run in the Bronx.
Following a fairly even, tense first half, the Boys in Blue really took a stranglehold of the play in the second period, racking up chance after chance to put Kansas City to the sword, creating everything but the game-winner.
However, this NYCFC are built in the image of their Head Coach and Patrick Vieira’s side were not to be denied, finally grabbing the goal their determination and quality had merited through Jack Harrison in the 85th minute.
It was a goal worthy of the points too, as Harrison had the presence of mind and technical quality to bring down the loose ball in the box before firing it clinically past Tim Melia.
Winning in Adversity
Injuries, international duty and suspensions had robbed Vieira of the chance to put out what has been his first-choice XI for the majority of the season but his squad did not let him down.
As Vieira so eloquently put it after the game: the XI selected are always representing the squad and the club as a whole on any given matchday.
That those selected managed to put in a performance in keeping with what we’ve seen in past weeks is testament to the sheer volume of character and quality at the Frenchman’s disposal.
Andrea Pirlo and Tommy McNamara were two singled out for special praise in Patrick’s press conference following the game as they stepped in for Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera – both staples in the midfield throughout 2017 – to great effect.
Vieira said: "Both Andrea and Tommy were fantastic. They worked really hard and were really smart. I want to give them both a lot of credit."
Ask About Ugo
Replacing David Villa is no easy feat, especially for a young striker who has played understudy to the league’s best player since arriving in the offseason.
Sean Ugo Okoli carried the responsibility on his young shoulders with distinction, putting himself at the service of the collective to hold up the ball and bring his teammates into play, winning more than his fair share of aerial duels and generally posing a serious threat in the final third throughout.
Ever since he joined the club, last year’s USL MVP approaches his duties with a likeable humility and has been patient for his opportunities to shine, making it even more pleasing that he seized his opportunity.
It’s fair to say that his Head Coach was satisfied with what he saw, even hinting that we could be seeing plenty more of him in the coming weeks and months.
Patrick told reporters after the game: "He showed me he’s someone I can count on more for the rest of the season. He sacrificed himself for the team."
On a Roll
You only had to scan the #NYCFC hashtag in the lead up to kick-off to see that confidence wasn’t exactly high going into this game.
With so many out, including our leading scorer and two midfield staples, as well as the torrid conditions, there was an understandable but unfamiliar nervousness emanating from the team’s fanbase after such an impressive recent run.
Following a near-perfect August, NYCFC have started off September in the mood to really accelerate into the season run-in, to at least secure that second automatic MLS Playoffs berth and maybe, maybe, maybe, start thinking about catching Toronto…
This win made it five unbeaten at home and away (W4 D1) and ten unbeaten in the Bronx (W8 D 2) – ominous form, no matter how you slice it.
Now the squad has two full days to return to the training field to prepare for a visit from another of the Western Conference’s finest.
Portland Timbers will have been grateful to NYCFC for inflicting this defeat upon their Conference rivals but Vieira’s men won’t expect any favors in return on Saturday evening.
While we now face an anxious wait to find out how many of those nine players missing on Wednesday will be ready for the weekend, at least we go into it knowing we can rely upon whoever we have taking to the field… in our next match and beyond.