It was a day where very little went wrong for the home side at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
New York City FC roared to a 3-1 victory over Atlanta United but where was the game won or lost?
Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five things we learned…
A Deserved Win
The match was billed as a clash of styles: Patrick Vieira’s patient, possession-based build-up versus Gerardo Martino’s high-octane, counter-attack.
Sparks usually fly when teams with these two characteristics throw down and this match was no different as we were treated to a brilliant spectacle from the first whistle until the 61st minute when Maxi Moralez killed the game.
It felt like a day where the first goal could be pivotal in shaping the rest of the match and it turned out that way as David Villa parted the Atlanta defense beautifully to open the scoring emphatically early on.
Despite Gerardo Martino’s men striking back before the half, this did nothing to take the wind from NYCFC sails as they shot out of the blocks after the interval and immediately laid siege to Alec Kann’s goal.
Sometimes when chances to score are spurned, you’re left with the fear that it may come back to bite but there was something about the composure of the home team on both sides of the ball that imbued home fans with a confidence than it was a case of “when” not “if” Vieira’s men would retake the lead.
NYCFC never looked back after Rodney Wallace flicked home and even the most ardent Atlanta fan couldn’t argue against NYCFC being good value for the three points.
You couldn’t have scripted a more fitting opening goal.
Put the build-up to this strike side-by-side with David Villa’s first-ever goal for the club in 2015’s Home Opener and the similarities are downright spooky.
In the week Villa signed his new deal, he called back to that historic day to weigh in with his 47th goal for the club in his 71st appearance.
Just for good measure, this finish was even better than the one against New England in 2015 as it flew in off the woodwork but it wasn’t just one shot that earned El Guaje the NYCFC.com Man of the Match honors.
On a day when so many of his teammates shone, the 35-year old still managed to stand out with a hugely influential performance as he helped knit moves together, tracked back to win back the ball in opposition territory and looked dangerous every time he took up possession.
That we get to enjoy him for at least another season is pretty, pretty good...
A small band of supporters have started referring to NYCFC’s goalscoring hero as The Rodfather and we’re not about to take issue with that.
If Rodney failed to take up an offer he couldn’t refuse with two quickfire chances in the first minute of the second half, he made sure Atlanta were sleeping with the fishes when he flicked home to make it 2-1 15 minutes later (I am so, so sorry).
Ahem. Anyway, It wasn’t the first time Wallace has netted a decisive goal at Yankee Stadium in 2017…
It’s easy to forget the Costa Rican is still adjusting to life at his new team following his move in the offseason – the greatest compliment you can give Rodney is to say that he looks like he’s been at the club for years judging by the way he’s started his NYCFC career.
Aside from one unstoppable strike, Sean Johnson had a much quieter day than he would have anticipated against one of the league’s most potent attacking forces.
That was down to the ‘keeper himself, as well as the four men in front of him who all drew special praise from their Head Coach following this fifth victory of the season.
Vieira told reporters: “They were brilliant today. You look at Ben and Ethan, confidence building up game after game and the partnership between Alex Callens and Maxime is getting better and better. Sean at the back also gives a lot of confidence to the team.”
Not only have NYCFC scored four more goals than at this stage of last season, they’ve also conceded five less.
On the Road
It was a win that looks all-the-more vital considering what’s to come in the remaining weeks of May.
A trip to Texas next weekend kicks off a run of three successive road games at FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and Orlando City.
It looks like a grueling schedule for Vieira’s men but with the insulation of these three points and with the confidence we’ll take from successive away wins at Philadelphia and Columbus, things are looking bright as we climb to third in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on Toronto in first place.