NYCFC Goals: Villa 43mins
Chicago Goals: Nikolic 18mins
A Quick Look
It’s as you were in the race for the second bye to the Eastern Conference semifinals following an intense 1-1 draw between New York City FC and the Chicago Fire.
Nemanja Nikolic struck first for the hosts on 18’ before David Villa leveled with his 20th goal of the season just before the break, completing the scoring at Toyota Park.
Following Atlanta’s draw with New England earlier in the night, the standings remain the same with NYCFC three points clear in second place with just two Regular Season games left.
This one is going to the wire…
In the second meeting between two of the most consistent sides in the East, there lay before both teams a huge opportunity to boost hopes of clinching the all-important second seeding in the MLS Playoffs race.
With the Supporters Shield secured by Toronto in Canada on Saturday, all eyes in New York, Atlanta and Chicago turned to that automatic bye to the Conference semifinals and the size of the prize was evident from the first whistle.
Not one for the faint-hearted, the first five minutes were a heavyweight tale of crunching duels and hard running.
On Sean Johnson’s first return to Toyota Park as an NYCFC player, there was an early scare in store as Nemanja Nikolic had the ball in the 28-year old’s net on 8’ but the linesman had his flag up for offside, bringing a premature end to the celebrations.
Ten minutes later, the Fire faithful were on their feet again and this time it did count.
Nikolic was the man who got it, sliding home after Maxi Moralez had been dispossessed by a physical challenge from Matt Polster just in front of goal.
Tommy McNamara and David Villa were incensed, believing the Argentine was fouled but the referee waved away the protests and Vejlko Paunovic’s side had seized the early initiative.
It was a bitter blow but NYC have form for coming back after conceding first, boasting a 5-7-2 record when allowing the first goal – good for the best in MLS.
The response was positive from Patrick Vieira’s men as they went on another comeback trail, with David Villa just missing the target courtesy a venomous daisycutter from range which had Matt Lampson scrambling across his goal.
There was nothing Lampson could do four minutes before the break when Moralez atoned for his role in the opening goal with a stunning ball over the top which put Villa through one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
The Spanish international had plenty of time to choose the best course of action but the result was never in any doubt as El Guaje rounded Lampson and stabbed it into the back of the empty net.
It was his 20th goal of the season.
Buoyed by that equalizer just before the interval, NYC flew out of the traps in the second half and almost took the lead when Villa attempted one of his trademark lobs from distance but, unlike his miracle goal vs. Philadelphia earlier in the campaign, this one just cleared the bar.
Rodney Wallace was sent on by Vieira with an hour on the clock to try and conjure some magic which would put NYCFC back in charge of their destiny for that second seeding after Atlanta United had tied with New England earlier in the night.
However, it was Jack Harrison who nearly created something on 64’ with a delicious touch across the face of goal but there were no takers.
Khiry Shelton soon followed Wallace onto the field but it was Villa who had the final opportunity to secure the three points but he skewed his shot high and wide following a nice cut-back from Ben Sweat.
Honors even in the Windy City, meaning this race for the bye will now likely go all the way to Decision Day.
In such a high-stakes game which was so eagerly contested, mistakes were inevitable from both sides but there was nothing Chicago could have done to have prevented the equalizer.
A goal of the highest quality, Moralez’s ball over the top was perfect and there was no one more qualified to receive it than the reigning MVP who did the rest, rounding Lampson and leveling the game.
Man of the Match
The Peruvian defender's partnership with Frederic Brillant continues to impress in the absence of Maxime Chanot.
The pair seem to have developed a great understanding in this run of games together and Callens certainly caught the eye with some exceptional last-ditch interceptions to keep Chicago well away from their former goalkeeper for most of the night.
Social Post of the Game
Stats and Milestones
- NYCFC now have a 16-8-8 record through 32 games
- Sean Johnson played as a visitor at Toyota Park for the first time
- Yangel Herrera returned to the XI for the first time in seven games
- Andraz Struna started back-to-back games for NYCFC for the first time
- El Guaje went back to the top of the Golden Boot race, tied with Diego Valeri on 20 for the season
- Maxi Moralez completed his eighth assist of the season
- NYCFC have conceded just three goals in their last five road games, going unbeaten over that period of time (W2, D3)
How They Lined Up
Yangel Herrera returned to the XI as one of three changes to the team which beat Montreal Impact 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Elsewhere, Ben Sweat also returned, along with Villa who came on as a substitute in Canada.
NYCFC XI: Johnson, Struna, Callens, Brillant, Sweat, Ring, Herrera, McNamara, Moralez, Harrison, Villa (C)
NYCFC Subs: Johansen, White, Matarrita, Lopez, Pirlo, Wallace, Shelton
Our final road game of the campaign is next up as NYCFC travels to New England after the international break on October 15 before we host our last home game of the Regular Season a week later. Get your tickets below...