Standing atop of the Eastern Conference standings, D.C. United travelled to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for their first-ever meeting against New York City Football Club. D.C. United had just came off a historic 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact. In the process, United became the first team in MLS history to win a game while taking only one single shot on goal. NYCFC instead was licking its wounds after two consecutive losses. Coming into the match in 8thplace, NYCFC were fighting to push forward for a playoff spot. Late in the day, NYCFC midfielder Frank Lampard was ruled out of the match due to a quad injury.
D.C. United started on the front foot as Perry Kitchen played a delightful through ball to Connor Doyle, who’s shot was saved by Josh Saunders yet it almost rolled in the net only to be cleared off the line by Shay Facey. NYCFC found a chance through David Villa in the 21th minute but United goalie Bill Hamid made a good save. In the 36th minute, an unusually poor back pass in the middle of the field from Andrea Pirlo led to the first goal of the game as Chris Rolfe picked up the errant pass, dribbled past Jason Hernandez and played a ball across the box to find Alvaro Saborio inside the box for a tap in. In the 38th minute Kwadwo Poku went on a 50-yard run into D.C.’s box and cut the ball back to find David Villa wide-open 11 yards from the net but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked off the line by Bobby Boswell. For the second match in a row, Jason Kreis and his players were down 1-0 at halftime.
The first half was quite even but D.C. was able to capitalize on one of their chances. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders did a quality job of coming off his line to smother two opportunities for D.C. NYCFC completed a total of 255 passes compared to D.C.’s 216 in the first half. The white board in NYCFC’s locker room said, “Our backs are against the wall… Are we ready to fight???” Jason Kreis certainly got his men to fight coming out for the second half.
NYCFC started the 2nd half on a much better note and it only got better for them as the game went on. Bill Hamid got down low to make a good save on Poku’s shot in the 50th minute. Just 30 seconds later, David Villa played an absolute gem of a through ball to Poku who proceeded to dribble around Hamid and found Tommy McNamara inside the six-yard box for a tap in to equalize. It was all NYCFC from then on. The New Yorkers did a good job of keeping possession and creating chances but good saves from Hamid and the post kept denying the home team. Eventually NYCFC found the go-ahead goal. Andrea Pirlo picked up the ball at midfield, playing a marvelous ball over the top to split two defenders and David Villa did a great job to bang home a left-footed shot. Villa scored his team-leading 14th goal as Yankee Stadium erupted in jubilation. NYCFC didn’t sit back and close up shop; instead they continued playing their game. And it paid off two minutes from full time. Kwadwo Poku picked up a pass from McNamara, got past Bobby Boswell 1v1 and finished his shot low into the net. With the game sealed, 28,262 fans celebrated a vital 3 points in NYCFC’s run for a playoff spot.
NYCFC showed more urgency right from the start of the second half. You could see they had more purpose going about themselves. NYCFC did a much better job of not only keeping possession but also getting more out of that possession. Kwadwo Poku was buzzing all around the field, showing his strength and looking dangerous almost every time he got on the ball. NYCFC’s first two goals were created by Villa and Pirlo respectively and those assists really show their world class quality. At times the two World Cup winners pick out such creative passes but their teammates have some trouble reading the play. This is something lacking in MLS compared to the top leagues in Europe: the ability to read the play at a very top level. New York City truly dominated the second half and importantly was able to find the back of the net for a great comeback win. For a Thursday night the crowd at Yankee Stadium was absolutely fantastic, which hopefully is a sign of how MLS is growing. NYCFC will hope to use this match as momentum towards making the playoffs as they are now only 1 point off the last playoff spot.
From the press conference room:
Coach Jason Kreis:
“For me it was an all or nothing situation. We made it clear to the guys that had to have 3 points tonight so to get them is extremely important and I’m very happy with it.’”
On Poku: “He was instrumental in almost everything good that happened for our team tonight.”
On Pirlo’s assist to Villa: “For me, that pass was out of this world.”
“I think it’s an important win. I think this could be a really huge win for us and a season changer for us and a momentum changer for us and I hope the locker room feels the same way.”
From the locker room:
Andrea Pirlo: "We didn't play a bad game on Sunday in New Jersey either but we never managed to score, whereas tonight we started off the same way but we managed to score so there was great reaction so the team as a whole is improving.”
"I needed to get forgiven for the bad pass that led to the first goal in the first half but then Villa was truly good at picking up on it."
Mix Diskerud on Pirlo: "He's one of the best players I've seen around. Every single day I learn from him, in games and also in training. Here's come here to MLS and he wants to be a part of something big and we all do. You know how we see the touches he has and spinning people around. It's a joy sometimes when you're out wide and you just look at him with awe."