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NYCFC Ends Regular Season Well With 3-1 Win vs Philly

Villa NYCFC 10/28


October 28th – Bronx, NY – Coming into the final game of the regular season, major playoff implications were on the line for both NYCFC and Philadelphia.  If NYCFC won this game, they would earn a home playoff game against the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference.  Philadelphia would also earn a home playoff game with a victory in this one, so both teams came into the match with their best lineups and a desire to help their MLS Cup chances.  Former Yankee great Bernie Williams played the National Anthem on his guitar, and Yankee Stadium got very loud very early to help motivate the squad.

City got a huge boost to their lineup and their playoff chances as Midfielder Yangel Herrera made his long awaited debut back from his bad injury suffered on May 25th.  When Yangel is on his game, the City Midfield is pretty much unstoppable, boasting All-Star quality talent in Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring, and the defensive minded Herrera.

New York has been struggling as of late, so they were keen to get off to a quick start and put pressure on the Union’s back line.  In the 3rd minute, City started a counter attack up the left flank as Midfielder Alex Ring played a chipped through ball to David Villa and he took on the right back 1 on 1.  Villa faked inside and then smashed the ball with his left foot off the outstretched arm of keeper Andre Blake and out for a corner.

Just a few minutes later though, City would be rewarded for their pressure.  Maxi Moralez swung a high ball in on a corner kick and defender Maxime Chanot got in a great position in the box to head it past Blake and into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute. The ball skipped in front of the keeper but it was headed across his body so he couldn’t react in time and Philadelphia was not happy with their sluggish start.

NYCFC would double their lead just two minutes later on a very lucky play and some help from the Union.  Wing back Ben Sweat received a pass from Ronald Mataritta on the left wing and he swung a cross into the box looking to finis David Villa.  The Philly defender Aaron Trusty swung his leg in an attempt to clear the ball, but he accidentally guided it into the top corner of his own net past the diving Blake to give City two goals in 120 seconds.

Just two minutes later again, City were on the verge of putting the game to rest.  Maxi chipped a ball in for the surging right back Tinnerholm who found Jesus Medina in the center of the box.  Medina had his shot blocked by the defender, but it fell right to the feet of Mataritta who struck a strong low drive aimed for the bottom corner, but it was saved quickly by Blake.  The amount of pressure City applied in the first 15 minutes of this match was extraordinary and it would have made any defense in the league uneasy even on their best day.

Philadelphia though would strike back quickly in the 13th minute and score to halve the deficit after a mistake by the NYCFC defense.  Corey Burke found himself wide open inside of the box and the striker slid it on the ground past Sean Johnson to make the score 2-1.

For the next 20 minutes, the game was played at a much slower pace as both teams settled into the situation.  The Captain David Villa had a different idea though, and he was searching to give his team a much needed insurance goal.  In the 34th minute, City started a big counter from the back line.  Mataritta swung a long through ball that found Jesus Medina 1 on 1 with the keeper.  He touched the ball past Blake, but the defender got back to the ball in time to stop the goal.  They couldn’t clear the ball completely though, and Tinnerholm received the ball in full stride as he entered the box.  He swung a cross in that found Medina who unselfishly passed to the Captain who had his initial shot saved.  Villa is resilient though, and he raced after the rebound and stuck it with a toe poke into the back of the net for his 14th goal of the season and a 3-1 first half lead for the Citizens.

In the second half, Philly came out swinging and they almost scored on a set piece in the 50th minute.  Sean Johnson was called into action as he made an incredible jumping save off a header in the 6 yard box that got Yankee Stadium on their feet with applause.  This wouldn’t be Johnson’s final moment of greatness in the match though.  Johnson fouled CJ Sapong in the box in the 59th minute and the Union were awarded a penalty, but Sean had a chance to redeem himself.  Fafa Picoult fired a great penalty low and into the corner but Johnson guessed right and saved the penalty before it went past the line and kept the 2 goal lead intact for the squad.  The fans gave Johnson another well deserved standing ovation for stepping up in a key moment.  That was the last great chance of the match, and City held on for a huge 3-1 victory on Fan Appreciation Night.

After the Union scored their early goal, Yangel Herrera took it upon himself to start playing out of this world.  He made tackles all over the pitch and was a thorn in Philly’s side all night as he bruised them up in the midfield and stopped countless attacks, turning them into counter attacks for his own team.  He was certainly my man of the match with the way he dominated the opposition for 90 minutes and the way came back from injury looking like he never missed a beat.

With the victory, NYCFC clinched the 3rd seed in the East and Philly dropped to the 6th seed in the East.  Oddly enough, the result means the teams will meet again in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Halloween Night, October 31st at Yankee Stadium in a winner take all matchup.  City will surely feel confident after their comprehensive victory, but Philly will be looking to strike back quickly and earn revenge on the road Wednesday Night.

– Chris Fichtel, PureSportsNY


Upcoming Matches – MLS Playoffs

Wednesday, October 31st @ 7 pm vs Philadelphia

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Photo Credit: NYCFC