New York City FC kicked off Season 4 with an emphatic win over Sporting KC on Sunday night.
Here’s five things we learned from an enjoyable first outing for the Boys in Blue…
In terms of a statement of intent from the first whistle, Head Coach Patrick Vieira will have been delighted by what he saw at Children's Mercy Park.
Not only were City a goal threat from the opening exchanges, they pressed with intensity and committed bodies forward on every attack, ensuring an uncomfortable opening hour for their hosts.
It was a performance that called to mind the NYCFC we saw last summer when they went on the run which would all but secure post-season soccer, meaning when the first goal arrived for Maxi Moralez on Sunday night, it was no less than they deserved.
City didn’t stop there, picking up where they left off after the interval to score the second goal which clinched the first three points of 2018.
A game-clinching goal and a Star of the Game award… NYCFC’s newest DP won’t forget his MLS debut any time soon.
Vieira urged that Jesus Medina still has plenty of growing up to do in his post-game press conference but, behind that, he’ll surely have been encouraged by how the 20-year old has taken to life in his new colors.
It wasn’t just the Paraguayan international’s goal that caught that eye on Sunday night - a devastatingly unerring lift over Tim Melia – but the playmaker’s overall contribution to the game before his withdrawal.
Jesus showed he can combine in Vieira’s fluent, interchangeable frontline as he switched wings with Rodney Wallace and exchanged passes with Moralez, David Villa and Yangel Herrera, helping to carve out several promising openings.
More to come, certainly, but this was an impressive first outing from our boy from Asuncion.
It really was a night for NYCFC’s South American contingent.
Maxi opened the scoring by showing a no.9’s speculative instinct, making the run into the box and trusting the quality of Vllla’s delivery.
Moralez has looked razor sharp in preseason and ready to enjoy an even better second season at City after his promising debut year in 2017.
On this occasion, everything good about NYCFC seemed to flow through the Argentine, as he plotted and schemed in behind Villa, always making himself available to receive the ball in pockets of space, before quickly finding a teammate and moving the team forward.
Narrowly beaten out by Medina in the fan vote for Player of the Game, this was a terrific start to the season from our diminutive playmaker.
This is one of those occasions where we probably needed more than Five Things to wrap the game...
It was a dramatic night which built to a crescendo in the last ten minutes when KC came on strong looking for a route back into the game.
Maxime Chanot was twice thrust into the center of VAR debates and found himself on both sides of the system, first being correctly found innocent of committing a foul for a penalty on 79’ after his challenge on Daniel Salloi, before he was given a straight red card with five minutes to play.
Chanot can consider himself a little unfortunate in the latter case as he came together with Fernandes and the contact was minimal but Mark Geiger saw it as denial of a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity and ended the Luxembourg international’s night early.
Maxime will miss next weekend’s Home Opener vs. LA Galaxy as a result – one unhappy footnote to a night with so much to cheer for the Boys in Blue.
HOMECOMING:Join the Squad in Soho on March 6
Building from Strength
It was another busy offseason for NYCFC in terms of transactions but the fact that there were just two new names on the teamsheet for this season opener spoke volumes.
Following 2017’s second place finish, City were recruiting from a position of strength in the winter and adding to the squad with a view to heating up further the competition for places in every position.
Those new additions will have their opportunities to show what they can do in the coming weeks and months but, for this season opener, Vieira went with the majority of the key protagonists from last season and they did not let him down.
To pick out just a few... the midfield triumvirate of Alex Ring, Herrera and Moralez was both combative and creative, while the Alexander Callens/Chanot defensive axis was rock solid along with the impressive Sean Johnson, earning a first-ever season opening clean sheet for NYCFC.
Ben Sweat got the nod in an especially competitive position for NYCFC and he delivered a sublime assist for Medina, demonstrating the abundant options at Vieira's fingertips.
It's all looking good ahead of LA next weekend. Onwards...
All roads lead to the Home Opener vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday… to that end, we’re celebrating Major League Soccer’s return to the five boroughs all week long.
Tuesday March 6: Join the squad on Tuesday night for the Homecoming at Ladurée in Soho – a cocktail party with all proceeds from ticket sales going towards City in the Community (CITC), the charity proudly supported by NYCFC.
General Admission and VIP tickets are available via this link in limited supplies, so book now to avoid disappointment.
Friday March 9: On Friday, we’re hosting the 24 Hour Game at the Rockefeller Center – a soccer marathon which will give 500+ New Yorkers the opportunity to play on the Plaza as Team Vieira takes on Team Villa.
All timeslots are booked up but make sure you join the Wait List or come along and support from 4pm on Friday – more details on what you can expect in and around the game coming up throughout the week…
Sunday March 11: And, of course, the main event... on Sunday, we host our first home game of 2018 as LA Galaxy visit Yankee Stadium for what should be an explosive showdown between two of the league’s most-fancied teams.