by Christian Araos
New York City FC had a chance to field a full-strength lineup and came away with a victory on Saturday afternoon in Tucson, Ariz., defeating Sporting Kansas City, 1–0.
David Villa scored the game’s only goal, heading in a Maxi Moralez cross in the 51st minute. NYCFC was able to generate more chances than it had in previous games and was more effective in playing out of the back. There were still turnovers, however, and an Alex Callens miscue resulted in Ronald Matarrita giving away a penalty. Sean Johnson, matching the attack, marked his strongest performance of preseason by stopping Soony Saad’s attempt.
Saad’s day would end early with a straight red card for a tackle from behind on James Sands who had replaced Yangel Herrera. Herrera made his preseason debut for City after his loan from Manchester City and was mostly comfortable playing in defensive midfield against Sporting’s midfield, which was led by Benny Feilhaber. Alexander Ring also made his debut in midfield in a box-to-box role. Ring’s touch and passing were heavy but he covered ground effectively and provided an outlet for the defense to play to and support for the attack.
City’s attack was fluid with Villa, Jack Harrison and Rodney Wallace combining well and pressing the Kansas City defense. Wallace debuted at left wing and combined well with Moralez and Matarrita in attacking moves while remaining in a good position to intercept passes without the ball. He, along with Moralez, were able to start attacks with well-played diagonal passes from deep. Harrison was a threat with his dribbling and determination which overshadowed his misplayed passes. Villa set the pace and was able to occupy the center backs’ attention with his movement in attack and by closing down on them in defense.
With its preseason over, NYCFC will return home, but without Sands who will join the United States U17 team in Honduras on Sunday and Mix Diskerud who trained with the team but did not play in any of its games. Diskerud’s impending departure must be completed in the next week for City to avoid its contractual obligation for the coming season. City will begin its 2017 MLS regular season season at Orlando City on March 5 at 5 p.m.