BRONX | Mehdi Ballouchy might have rued his missed opportunity to score in the first half, but his second-half finish certainly erased any ill feelings.
The New York City FC midfielder had a brilliant first touch to create space from a nearby defender then curled his left-footed attempt into the back of the net in the 57th minute to give the Club the lead, but once again, the Philadelphia Union scored late to spoil the party.
C.J. Sapong scored in the 86th minute to tie the game as the two clubs played to a 1-1 draw in front of 20,461 supporters on Thursday evening at Yankee Stadium.
“We talked about it as a group and said we had to have better first halves than we have and I think we did that tonight,” Ballouchy said. “I think if we replicate that performance over however many games we have left, I think we’ll be in a good position.”
Ballouchy, who was named the Heineken Star of the Match, had the match’s best chance in the 28th minute following a lovely touch from captain David Villa. Adam Nemec passed the ball from the right across the field toward Villa, whose backheel set up the on-rushing Ballouchy for an ideal chance. Unfortunately, he curled his attempt over the goal.
The 32-year-old Moroccan certainly made up for the miss.
Javier Calle, starting at left back, cut inside and fed the ball toward Khiry Shelton. The rookie forward, who was making his first-ever start for the Club, remained strong despite a defender on his hip and was able to turn to his right to create space. Shelton continued sliding the ball across the field to Ballouchy, who was set up at the corner of the 18-yard box.
With a defender closing down, Ballouchy did an inside foot flick shifting the ball from his right foot onto his left to create space. He proceeded to place his attempt past Philadelphia goalie John McCarthy for the one-goal advantage.
For the second straight match, the Union (1-3-3; 6 points) caused New York City FC (1-2-3; 6 points) heartache. The two clubs met just five days prior at PPL Park. After the Union took a 1-0 lead on Saturday afternoon, New York City FC equalized in the second half. Philadelphia scored in the 92nd minute to take all three points with a 2-1 victory heading into the rematch.
On Thursday, New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis fielded a more attacking side with the insertion of Calle at left back and Shelton at right midfield. The Club came out the aggressor in the first half.
Nemec had an opportunity to put the home team ahead off a header from 6 yards out in the 27th minute, but his attempt went over the bar. Shelton’s pace on the outside paid dividends, forcing McCarthy out of the box in precarious positions on multiple occasions. The rookie slipped the ball into the box both times, but it was cleared out by defenders.
"We came out the aggressor in the first half and did it right off the bat and again in the second half as well,” Shelton said. “We were on the front foot in both the first and second halves.”
New York City FC made two substitutions at halftime. Kwadwo Poku replaced Villa, who left with a slight hamstring injury, and Kwame Watson-Siriboe came on for Jason Hernandez (calf) in the center of defense.
The Club returns to the field again on Sunday, welcoming the Portland Timbers to Yankee Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET.
"Besides giving up that goal I thought we played really well,” Poku said. “We created a lot of chances. It’s part of the game – you’re going to miss some chances. I thought it was a pretty good game. We wanted all three points, but unfortunately we didn’t get them.
“We have to keep our heads up and focus on the next game Sunday.”