BRONX | There was a message written on the whiteboard in the New York City FC locker room in reference to their match against D.C. United on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Our backs are against the wall...
Are we ready to fight?
The players showed loud and clear they're ready to fight with a dramatic 3-1 victory over Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United in front of a sell-out crowd of 28,262, earning a vital three points as the Club vies to qualify for the Major League Soccer playoffs in their inaugural season.
New York City FC snapped a two-game losing streak with the victory and improve to 7-11-6 (27 points), while D.C. United fall to 13-8-5 (44 points).
"It was an all-or-nothing situation," head coach Jason Kreis said. "I made it clear to the guys that we had to have three points tonight. To get them is extremely important and I’m very happy. It’s an important win. I think this could be a really, really huge win for us and a season changer and momentum changer for us."
With the score knotted at 1-1 in the 80th minute, midfielder Andrea Pirlo played a pinpoint perfect pass from near the midfield line over the top to David Villa. After two bounces, Villa somehow controlled the ball despite being sandwiched by D.C. United defenders Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell then fired home the go-ahead goal inside the near post.
"We held up pretty well against the best team in the Eastern Conference," said Villa, who leads the Club with 14 goals. "It’s an important victory because of the three points, but also because of the morale boost."
It was Pirlo's first assist with New York City FC.
"We were convinced that we were able to do a lot better," Pirlo said. "Not just in terms of our ranking in the standings, but to further the morale of the team. We’ve been working really hard and thank God that the fruits were there for us to eat tonight.”
New York City FC weren’t done, though, as Kwadwo Poku sealed all three points for the home side with a goal in the 88th minute.
Poku received the ball on the right flank and drove on a backpeddling Boswell, turning him in and out and in again before blasting a shot past Bill Hamid at the near post for a 3-1 advantage.
The Ghanaian midfielder was also involved in the Club’s first goal of the evening in the 51st minute.
Villa had the ball on the left side and played a lovely through ball to Poku in space on the right. Poku drove into the box and dribbled past Hamid to his right before feeding the ball across the middle of the goal mouth to Tommy McNamara, who slotted it home.
It was Poku’s team-leading seventh assist and McNamara’s fifth goal of the season.
"We came in this afternoon and everybody knew we needed all three points," Poku said. "It's really important for us."
After a back-and-forth first 35 minutes, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 37th.
Pirlo’s attempted back pass near midfield was picked off by D.C. United forward Chris Rolfe, who beat a defender and streaked down the left side. Rolfe got to the 18-yard line and slid the ball across the middle to Alvaro Saborio whose side-footed effort went into the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
The score remained 1-0 at halftime.
New York City FC came out the stronger side in the second stanza, dominating possession and it seemed only a matter of time before the pressure paid dividends with a goal.
Six minutes into the half it did.
"I am hopeful that we are sticking our flag in the ground right now and will move forward positively," Kreis said.
New York City FC begin a two-match road swing with a match at Columbus on August 19. Kickoff against the Crew is 7:30 p.m. ET from MAPFRE Stadium (YES Network, WFAN, WADO).
"We have our backs against the wall a little bit and are running out of time," defender Jason Hernandez said. "We knew we needed to get the full three points. They’re a great team and they’ve shown it all year. We’re really happy to get the victory tonight.
"We’re going to get back to work and prepare ourselves to play our best on the road. They’re two great teams, but we like our chances coming off a big win."