Late Lewis Winner Spares NYCFC

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NYCFC logoNew York City FC is not getting better at not leaving it till late.

Nonetheless, the club was able to turn one of its worst performances at home into a late 2-1 win against the New England Revolution Sunday evening with Jonathan Lewis scoring the winning goal in second-half stoppage time. It is the second game-winning goal Lewis scored in as many games and it keeps NYCFC (14-7-4, 46) firmly in second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, four points behind Toronto

“We have charisma,” Lewis said. “We’re going to keep battling, if we’re not playing well, we’re going to work. The fact is that we all know that we can play so once we’re working hard, we can beat any team.”

Lewis was the last sub Coach Patrick Vieira made after Vieira watched his attack struggle against a compact Revolution (8-11-5, 29) defense that used four center backs to physically prevent City from finding a breakthrough. The Pigeons could not muster a shot on target until the 73rd minute and only had three for the entire game. Scoring twice, however, proved to be enough.

“We didn’t play our best football because of New England,” Vieira said, “but at the same time, we wanted to win. We have a positive attitude. We try to create chances and we try to play forward and at times we can do it. At the end, we scored the goals and our strength was the players who came from the bench and brought something to the team.”

The first half was a dull lullaby only marked by Kelyn Rowe forcing Sean Johnson to make a diving save on a shot from range. The Revolution kept numbers back and looked for chances on the counter with their attackers in space but were largely unable to threaten City. Still, they found a breakthrough on 57 minutes when Johnson mishandled a curling shot from Andrew Farrell spilling the rebound to Teal Bunbury in front of goal. It was a sudden drop-off for Johnson after his outstanding performance against the LA Galaxy but he said he took it in stride.

“It’s great the guys were able to put together a performance in the last little bit to get two goals after being down a goal,” Johnson said. “I’m a big believer in things happening. Life happens and it throws things at you that you can’t control. You can control the things you can control and you do what you can to help the team. It may not be that moment but other than did that I did what I can to help the team so you’ve got to take the good and the bad with a grain of salt and not get too high or too low when mistakes happen.”

Moments after the goal, NYCFC made adjustments starting with the insertion of Khiry Shelton for Jack Harrison. Shelton brought energy attacking inside from right wing and his runs allowed for R.J. Allen to make more overlapping runs and get involved in the attack. Still, City struggled to create chances as New England hounded David Villa whenever he was in the final third. Ugo Okoli came on to relieve the pressure but it was Shelton who occupied three defenders allowing Villa to run onto a Ben Sweat cross and equalize in the 78th. Villa’s 19th goal leaves him eight off the MLS regular-season record with nine games left.

“I saw this week some reports about breaking the statistic for most goals in the season and I hope to break it because it will lead to a lot of points for the team,” Villa said. “My focus is resting tonight and focusing on scoring number 20. I’m not thinking about scoring number 27 or 28. I try to do my best and score the most goals possible because I know if I score the goals, New York City will get a lot of points.”

Okoli could and should have given New York City the lead a minute later but he missed from the edge of the six-yard box. However, City were able to play wider and with more fluidity for the final ten minutes. Lewis came on in the 85th and was able to stretch play with his dribbling. All this allowed for Villa to drift left and receive an Allen cross three minutes into stoppage time. With no options, Villa laid off for Sweat who dragged a cross to the far post where Lewis was unmarked, composed and able to bury the finish.

“We’ve shown it all year that we find ways to win,” Mikey Lopez said. “It’s big that it’s becoming a culture in our team. It’s been one of the things that’s grown this year that we just find ways to win.”

Sunday was the seventh time City won a game it trailed and is now four points ahead of the Chicago Fire for second place in the East. They will finish their season series with the New York Red Bulls on Friday evening in New Jersey without Yangel Herrera who received his fifth yellow card of the season for an off-ball incident and will be suspended. Should NYCFC complete the sweep against the Red Bulls, they will win their fifteenth game, equaling their total from last season.

NOTES

Rowe appeared to have sustained a knee injury during the final moments of the game and needed the help of two Revolution staffers to walk into the locker room. … Ronald Matarrita attended the game and briefly told EoS that he is feeling better but will not be ready to return from his broken foot for another month. He is aiming to be fit for the end of September and the October World Cup Qualifiers.