Sunday, March 15, 2015 – truly a day of firsts and 43,507 can say “I was there.”
History was going to be made no matter the score at Yankee Stadium but New York City FC’s 2-0 win over the New England Revolution was unquestionably special.
New York City’s newest sports team claimed their first Major League Soccer win and David Villa, the Club’s first-ever signing and captain, scored the first-ever home goal in their first home game.
Villa’s 19th minute goal was added to by former New England striker Patrick Mullins with six minutes left to cap a dream start to life at Yankee Stadium.
Head Coach Jason Kreis could not have asked for a much tougher first home assignment.
Defending Eastern Conference champions New England may have been missing the talismanic presence of Jermaine Jones in midfield but they would have been determined to bounce back from their 3-0 defeat to Sounders last weekend.
The NYPD and FDNY gave a tunnel of honor for the players to walk out through and Grammy-winning New Yorker Ashanti sang the national anthem to further fuel excitement for a day many years in the making.
New York City FC settled into the match the quicker of the two sides and nearly raced into an early lead with just four minutes on the clock.
Andrew Jacobson fed Villa, who unselfishly squared for Adam Nemec, but the Slovakian’s side-footed effort was blocked expertly by goalie Bobby Shuttleworth.
Twelve minutes later, the majority of those inside Yankee Stadium were out of their seats once more when Villa cut inside from the right and raced clear of the Revolution defense but their goalkeeper was again alert to the danger and made a brilliant one-handed save.
However, there was nothing Shuttleworth could do to prevent Villa from scoring New York City FC’s first Yankee Stadium goal after 19 minutes and the quality of the strike certainly matched the occasion.
The captain exchanged passes with Ned Grabavoy before opening up his body and curling the ball around the ‘keeper to become the seventh Spaniard to score in MLS history.
That goal seemed to bring New England to life and they began to assert some pressure of their own in the remaining minutes of the half and they were perhaps unfortunate not to go in at the break level.
Kreis had his goalkeeper to thank for that fact as Josh Saunders produced a breath-taking save to deny Juan Agudelo from equalising with his powerful header in the dying embers of the first period.
It was one of a number of chances the Revs had to level but crucially, it was the only one of their nine first-half attempts which was on target.
The second half began as the first did, with New York City FC on the front foot and threatening through what looked, on this evidence, like a promising strike partnership.
Nemec played Villa through on goal on 47 minutes but Spain’s record goalscorer could only fire straight at Shuttleworth when most would have backed him to double his tally.
Jeb Brovsky went close with a sweetly-struck long-range effort a few minutes later but it just flew past the far post and on 62 minutes, Villa brought the very best out of Shuttleworth with a spectacular volley which was tipped over the bar.
Last time out, New York City FC conceded despite possessing a one-man advantage and they found themselves a man up once again this time when Jose Goncalves was shown a straight red card with 25 minutes left to go.
Khiry Shelton had only been on the field for 60 seconds when he showed his lightning pace to race clear of the opposition defence and when he felt a clip of his heels from Goncalves, he went down, giving World Cup referee Mark Geiger no option but to show a straight red card.
That made the task of holding onto the narrow lead that bit easier and the home side secured the points thanks to second half substitute Mullins.
He’d only been on the pitch for a minute when he peeled away to the back post and slid home Villa’s pinpoint cross.
The fact that Mullins was drafted by New England last year was not lost on the gleeful home supporters.
Next stop: Colorado!