NYCFC Goal/s: Villa 15mins
Houston Goal/s: Quioto 2mins, Alex 49mins, Rodriguez 88mins
Ten-man NYCFC fell 3-1 to a physical Houston Dynamo side in their opening Desert Diamond Cup encounter on a windy night in Tucson, Arizona.
In an eventful opening 45 minutes of soccer which saw both Patrick Vieira and David Villa controversially sent-off, NYCFC fell behind inside 60 seconds to a Romell Quioto goal before Villa replied with a strike from the tightest of angles 15 minutes later.
Alex restored Houston’s advantage five minutes into the second period and it stayed 2-1 until the final minute when Dynamo scored a third through Memo Rodriguez.
Vieira made ten changes from the XI which started against Red Bulls last time out on Wednesday, with only RJ Allen retaining his place in the line-up.
In all, it was a far more recognizable NYCFC team which included new DP Maxi Moralez for the first time but, with just 60 seconds on the clock, they found themselves a goal down to Houston when an errant ball out of defense found its way to Quioto who punched it past Sean Johnson.
They weren’t down for long, however, as Moralez gave a tantalizing glimpse at his quality, sowing the seeds for the equalizer on 15 minutes.
From a Houston corner, the diminutive Argentine playmaker helped turned defense into attack, setting into motion a devastating counter which Jack Harrison picked up the baton on, driving forward before slipping in Villa who was coolness personified, slamming into the far corner.
NYCFC were denied what looked like a penalty just a few minutes later when Harrison was dragged down just inside the Dynamo box but, much to the English winger’s confusion, he was penalized for the foul instead.
On 30 minutes, Vieira was ordered from the bench after protesting an ugly foul on Moralez by Juan David Cabezas and another moment of controversy soon followed as Villa was sent-off for an alleged slap on A.J DeLaGarza.
The Spaniard was initially yellow-carded by the referee but the punishment was increased following a Houston video challenge – an initiative being tested in the Desert Diamond Cup.
No-one could accuse this friendly match of lacking a competitive edge…
Houston started the second half as they began the first, retaking the lead through Alex who crept through the NYCFC defense and poked home to make it 2-1.
Second half substitute Andre Rawls came to his team’s rescue with an excellent save from the scorer of Houston’s second goal, diving to his right and parrying away when Alex looked favorite to net.
Despite having one player fewer for more than an hour, NYCFC stayed in the game and limited their opponents to half chances until the 88th minute when a fortuitous bounce gave Rodriguez a tap-in to make it 3-1.
In what may very well be a first in soccer, David Villa was shown a red card after the official used the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.
NYCFC were getting on top following their excellent equalizer before this video-assisted decision which left Villa clearly furious.
MLS and the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) are testing Video Assistant Referee technology in 29 preseason games this month to “help referees reduce clear errors.”
There are four types of plays that are subject to review: goals, penalty decisions, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.
Man of the Match…
Due to the above moment of controversy, we only had the opportunity to see our newest DP at the tip of midfield supporting Villa for 40 minutes but he certainly made a positive first impression.
The playmaker was influential in orchestrating the opening goal with his clever turn before setting Harrison free and he was key figure throughout this 45-minute run-out, drawing fouls, with his clever movement and knitting moves together with his fleet feet.
How They Lined Up…
NYCFC XI: Johnson, Allen, Brillant, Chanot, Sweat, Sands, Pirlo, Moralez, McNamara, Harrison, Villa
Having received his visa late on Friday night, new Designated Player Moralez came straight into the team behind a front three of McNamara, Harrison and Villa.
16-year old James Sands made his first start in Arizona alongside Andrea Pirlo in front of a back four containing trialist Ben Sweat, Frederic Brillant, Maxime Chanot and RJ Allen, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson in for Eirik Johansen.
After the red card and the interval, Jalen Brown came on for another audition as he continued his quest to make his NYCFC stay permanent.
Colorado Rapids are up next for NYCFC on Wednesday afternoon as the Desert Diamond Cup continues…