Moralez on Both Ends of NYCFC’s Draw

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NYCFC logoMaxi Moralez was involved in both goals as New York City FC drew, 1–1, with the Chicago Fire on Saturday night in Bridgeview, Ill.

Moralez gifted the Fire’s goal and created NYCFC’s goal that secured a valuable point for the visitors who continue to struggle in front of goal. City has scored six goals in its last seven games and by failing to collect all three points can now fall to third in the Eastern Conference should Atlanta United win its next game.

Moralez gave Chicago the lead in the 20th by turning and dribbling toward his own goal while inside the City penalty area. Matt Polster forced a giveaway and the loose ball rolled to Nimanja Nikolic who happily turned it into his 21st goal of the season. For the next 15 minutes, City’s buildup play fragmented as Moralez continued to struggle and then suddenly it all came together. Moralez was on the ball in a pocket of space in the Chicago end of midfield and spotted David Villa‘s run and perfectly placed a chipped pass into his path. Villa rounded an oncoming Matt Lampson, turned his hip and tucked the ball inside the near post for his 20th goal.

While the first half was a frenzy, the second played as a chess match with both sides well-positioned and careful not to give opportunities to the other. Harrison caused problems with inside runs while Nikolic’s runs kept the City defense occupied. Chicago was held to two attempts on goal in the second half while the Pigeons had six, but only put one of those shots on frame — a Moralez effort from distance that Lampson dove to parry. Villa, Ben Sweat and Frederic Brillant all misfired on opportunities in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Neither team was particularly pleased with the draw and the single point doesn’t help either team. NYCFC failed to extend its lead over Atlanta for second place despite Atlanta’s draw against the New England Revolution. The Fire could have moved into second place with a win. Now Chicago has Columbus Crew breathing down their necks for fourth place and home-field advantage in the play-in round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The Fire lost forward Michael De Leeuw to a knee injury in the 30th minute and early tests suggest that he sustained a serious knee injury when he collided with Yangel Herrera. Herrera played the full 90 minutes for NYCFC and stabilized the midfield with his strength and composure on the ball. Alex Callens had a similar effect on City’s defense and made a crucial intervention to stymie a 3v2 break for the Fire in the second half.

City will see at least Herrera, Rodney Wallace, and Ronald Matarrita join their national teams for the coming international break while they are out of action for the next two weeks. They travel to the Revolution on Oct. 15 for the penultimate game of the regular season.