NYCFC got back to winning ways at Yankee Stadium on Saturday with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Philadelphia Union.
Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five things we learned from the game…
Down 1-0 with ten minutes remaining following a run of one win in five games, the outlook was bleak.
Despite dominating the game, forcing Andre Blake into save after save and rattling the woodwork twice, it was starting to feel like another one of those days.
That was until the corner which resulted in the equalizing goal, demonstrating that this is an NYCFC side with a strong backbone, laced with characters who refused to take “no” for an answer.
It was the kind of steely determination and winning mentality that carried the team’s Head Coach throughout his career and so Patrick Vieira was understandably delighted at this evidence he’s built a squad in his image.
The Frenchman told reporters: “Today I’m really proud of my players because we had a long run away from home, we went one nil down and we found the desire to come back and win the game.”
Case for the Defense
In dire situations, the heroes aren’t always the obvious ones…
Both Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot didn’t have an MLS goal between them until the last ten minutes of this dramatic encounter.
NYCFC had tried everything up to that point and so, in retrospect, a set-piece routine seemed a more likely source of the equalizer than a beautifully constructed, patient team goal.
Chanot is one of the best players at the club when it comes to winning balls aerially and his run to the front post to steal a yard on his marker was perfectly timed and earned a huge collective sigh of relief.
Callens actually started out his soccer career as a striker as a boy and he demonstrated this cold, unerring eye for goal when he turned home the rebound for the winner in the 85th minute.
A likable, positive presence in the locker room, the delight of the Peruvian’s teammates showed what a popular goalscorer he was too.
All of the players who came off the bench to try and rescue the win had a decisive impact but perhaps Ronald Matarrita’s long-awaited return from injury was the most significant.
Entering the game in an unfamiliar attacking role on the left wing, the Costa Rican’s interplay with Ben Sweat down the flank seemed to overwhelm a tiring Philadelphia defense.
Even though neither of our goals came directly from this source, all of a sudden NYCFC were able to force overloads and get in behind a previous staunch, obdurate backline.
The cheer that greeted his introduction told you just how much fans have missed seeing Mata in action – one of the league’s best in his position and surely a contender for the MLS All Star team (vote for him here).
On the eve of his 20th birthday, Jonathan Lewis showed just why NYCFC traded up the order at the MLS SuperDraft in January.
An explosive cameo had fans off their seats as he twisted the opposition full-back inside and out to help his team turn the tide on Philadelphia.
It was a performance that delighted his coach too…
Vieira said: “All credit to him because he’s been working really well and he needed the opportunity to show he’s working well. He had it today and when he came on he gave pace, he was direct, and when Jonathan is like that he can give a lot of problems to a lot of defenses.”
Taking a Break
NYCFC now have ten days before they return to action for the US Open Cup match at Red Bull Arena.
It’s been a hectic schedule for the boys in blue over the past couple of months but now, as a handful of players disperse over the globe for international action, the rest will have the opportunity to rest tired legs before continuing work on the training field.
Before Sunday’s games, NYCFC lie in second place in the Eastern Conference after a couple of favorable results in Saturday’s other games.
Where they will be at the end of the weekend remains to be seen but it sure is good to be signing off for the break on a positive note…