Cociș 19mins, Igboananike 49mins, Accam 72mins (pk)
McNamara 10 mins, Taylor 29mins, Shelton 36mins, Diskerud 63mins
It was a winning start to the Patrick Vieira era at Toyota Park on Soccer Sunday.
In a day of firsts for New York City FC on the opening day of their second MLS campaign, they took a white knuckle seven-goal thrill ride 4-3.
Against a Chicago Fire side that finished bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2015 and under a new Head Coach in Veljko Paunovic themselves, NYCFC warmed to the task quickest and immediately set about putting Matt Lampson’s goal under pressure.
This attack start yielded its reward on nine minutes when Vieira’s side punished Lampson’s miscued clearance in stunning style courtesy of McNamara’s 20-yard goal – the midfielder opening up his body and arcing the ball around the stranded goalkeeper.
However, this lead would only last for nine minutes as Cociș leveled on 19’, latching onto a clever chip over the New York backline by Arturo Alvarez and slotting past the onrushing Josh Saunders.
Tony Taylor restored NYCFC’s advantage just before the half an hour mark, pivoting and firing off a snapshot which found the bottom corner of the net and it got even better ten minutes before the interval when Khiry Shelton showed his lightning pace to reach onto Mix Diskerud’s through ball and poked the ball under the goalkeeper.
That two-goal advantage would only last for three second half minutes as Kennedy Igboananike reduced the deficit after David Accam capitalized on some indecisive defending and gave his fellow forward a tap-in.
Just as Chicago were working through the gears and threatening a second equalizer, Diskerud fired in the best goal of game on the 62’ - an excellent volley from McNamara’s assist.
Shelton’s handball allowed Accam to pull Fire back to within a goal of NYCFC from the penalty spot with 20 to go but Vieira’s side closed ranks and held out for a deserved win.
Photo of the Match
How they lined up
Vieira implemented the new 4-3-3 system, with Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton providing the width on either side of David Villa in the offensive third.
With Frank Lampard missing, McNamara came into a midfield three alongside Andrea Pirlo and Mix Diskerud, while there were debuts for Frédéric Brillant, Ronald Matarrita and Ethan White in defence.
With NYCFC 4-2 up with more than half an hour remaining, Vieira brought Mikey Lopez on for Taylor to try and tighten things up in a match which was an end-to-end, open, attacking spectacle before then.
Federico Bravo was also brought on for a first competitive appearance in stoppage-time to help his side get over the line.
New York City FC’s 3-1 half-time lead suggests that it was one-way traffic in the first 45 at Toyota Park; however, that wasn’t quite how it played out.
Josh Saunders was required to come to his side’s rescue on a number of occasions to keep the visitors’ noses in front, including one excellent save from Gilberto on 41’.
The 35-year old looked second favorite when the Fire forward broke through, but he spread himself well and parried the ball out of harm’s way.
If that one had gone in, it all could have turned out very differently…
Man of the Match
Not only did McNamara score the opening goal of the 2016 MLS Season, he was the key man for NYCFC throughout the game and capped off an excellent performance with the clever assist for Diskerud’s match-clinching volley.
Stats and milestones
- Tommy McNamara scored the first goal of the 2016 MLS season.
- It was the first time New York City FC has ever scored three goals in the first half of an MLS match.
- It was also the first time NYCFC has ever beaten Chicago Fire – they drew and lost the two meetings in 2015.
- NYCFC and Chicago Fire were the only two MLS teams to have changed Head Coach in the off-season.
- Khiry Shelton’s goal means he has already matched his tally of strikes from last season.
- Chicago scored its 1st goal of MLS 2016 in the 19' vs. NYCFC after going scoreless in the first 209 minutes of MLS 2015 (via OptaJack)
- The goal by McNamara in the 10' would have been the 4th-earliest goal in any match for NYCFC in MLS 2015 (via OptaJack).