NYCFC won back-to-back road games for the first time in 2017 on Saturday night as they triumphed over Columbus Crew SC.
A rollercoaster of emotions played out over the 90 minutes but where was the game won and lost? Here are five things we learned…
Winning in Adversity
Was this the most impressive of NYCFC’s four victories to date in 2017? It might just have been when you put it into context.
News of David Villa’s illness tempered the confidence levels of fans on social media in the hour leading up to kickoff at one of the toughest venues in MLS.
Factor in NYCFC’s miserable run at the Mapfre Stadium and the fact that Columbus had beaten the likes of Portland, Seattle and Toronto there already this season and it’s fair to cast the boys in blue as underdogs going into the game.
When Ola Kamara made it 2-1 with 40 minutes left, it would have taken a great deal of optimism to have predicted NYCFC’s thrilling comeback inspired by Jack Harrison and Yangel Herrera.
The pair netted a goal each to give a very young away side their second road win of the campaign and the perfect springboard into a mouthwatering showdown with Atlanta United next Sunday.
Harrison at the Double
Jack spoke of the need to add more goals to his game in the offseason and he’s definitely weighing in with his fair share eight matches into the campaign, boasting an average of a goal every two games.
While his first goal was a moment of technical brilliance as he lifted the ball over the head of Zach Steffen, his second was all about his reactions as he sensed the opportunity before anyone else to latch onto Herrera’s interception and stroke home.
It wasn’t just his goals either – Jack was a constant threat, backing himself on the one-v-ones and cementing his reputation as one of the league’s most feared wing wizards.
Despite his two goals and a brilliant performance, Jack didn’t even take the NYCFC.com Man of the Match honors.
That was because his teammate Maxi Moralez ran the show from his no.10 role in behind Sean Okoli.
The Argentine pulled the strings all night long, pulling Columbus defenders out of position and creating space for the NYCFC wingers to run riot.
His assist for Harrison’s opener was a pass that not many players in the league would see, never mind produce to perfection, and he almost got on the scoresheet with a diving header when Jack tried to return the complement.
Without Andrea Pirlo and Villa, Moralez was the senior man on the field in blue and he carried that responsibility with distinction, living up to his lofty billing from when he came into the league in the offseason.
Yangel Takes Chance
Stepping in for Andrea Pirlo at the age of 19 requires some broad shoulders but Yangel Herrera certainly did the maestro proud in his first start for the club.
A very different player to the Italian master, the Venezuelan may not have our DP’s passing range but he is more of a box-to-box specimen, equally adept at breaking up play and driving forward himself to cause problems for the opposition defense.
Vieira decided that’s what the night called for and his faith was repaid with an influential display from a young player who, while still raw, demonstrated that he’s ready to contribute in MLS following his loan move from Man City earlier this year.
More to come? Certainly. But Yangel made the difference on the night, helping NYCFC to an important, confidence-boosting win.
Returning to the club who took him in the 2014 SuperDraft and first made him a pro, Ben Sweat came back to haunt his former employers on Saturday night.
Ben has had to be patient for his first appearance in MLS – it’s been three years since he first joined the league – but he can look forward to more minutes on the basis of this run-out.
Not only did he create the game-tieing goal for Herrera with his excellent in-swinging cross, he also locked down the left side of defense, made some timely interceptions and was strong on setpieces to repel the Columbus threat.
His name is also good for puns, so selfishly, the NYCFC digital team want him to play every minute of every game ever. Just being honest…