NYCFC Held at Home on the Road

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NYCFC logoEAST HARTFORD, Conn. — They tried to make Pratt & Whitney Stadium as much like Yankee Stadium as possible, but New York City FC never looked quite at home Saturday afternoon.

An sixth minute Maxi Moralez goal was canceled out 10 minutes later by Marlo Manotas as NYCFC (15-8-7, 52 points) was held to a 1–1 draw with the Houston Dynamo (10-10-98, 39) that eroded the club’s safe standing in second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. City struggled to create chances until late in the second half, but ultimately produced seven shots on target. Though he addressed the fans and thanked them for making it feel like a home game, Coach Patrick Vieira admitted Saturday’s game was not a home a game.

“Because of the distance between here and New York, we got here on Friday so we needed to do training on the field just for players to get used to the field and the stadium so we treated like it was an away game,” Vieira said. “The atmosphere was good, the fans turned up and I think you can see the support we have at our football club is quite positive and it was good to see fans traveling to support the team.”

NYCFC decorated the stadium and laid out the field with the same dimensions as in the Bronx, but they only attracted an announced attendance of 10,165 and they brought their current struggles with them as well. For the third consecutive game, City allowed a goal from a mental mistake. They committed a foul just outside the area and Alex Ring remained on the ground after a collision. While City was waiting for a clarification on the call, Vicente Sanchez put his hand on the ball and resumed play with a quickly taken free kick that found Manotas behind the defense in position to slot a finish beneath an oncoming Sean Johnson.

“I was still lying on the ground, so I don’t know how I should’ve stopped that ball,” Ring said. “For me, I thought it was a foul on me before but the referee didn’t see it and that’s how the game is.”

Andraz Struna got his first start for the Pigeons and played 71 minutes at right back. He set up Moralez’ goal with a run down right wing and cross that goalkeeper Tyler Deric misread opening the space for Moralez to redirect the ball in at the near post with a flicked header. Struna created the most chances out of any NYCFC player who played this afternoon but was also out of sync with the rest of the backline creating space for the Dynamo to exploit. Vieira said those type of mistakes are expected from a new signing.

“That is normal, he just arrived and has had a few weeks training with the team,” Vieira said. “That was his first start and I didn’t expect things to be perfect. I was really happy with the game he had and offensively he brought us a lot. Of course, he needs to work on his connection with the other players on the field but he will be somebody that I can count on for the rest of the season.”

The game opened up as both teams pursued an equalizer though Vieira was forced to substitute David Villa in the 84th minute admitting that Villa was tired from his first start since his injury. Villa received treatment and did not speak with reporters after the game. Jack Harrison finished the game at center forward, and is likely to play that position again with Villa’s minutes due to be managed for the coming week. Harrison said he’s come to enjoy playing as a false nine.

“I found myself being able to turn and run at the defense which I like doing,” Harrison said. “I thought I was able to create a couple of things in the final minutes so that’s why I like getting on the ball, turning and being able to run at defenders.”

NYCFC have gone winless in three games for the first time this season and it is the longest winless streak since May-June 2016. NYCFC is now only six points ahead of Atlanta United, which has two games in hand. The lead over the Chicago Fire could be reduced to one point if Chicago wins its game later on Saturday. NYCFC will play the Fire next Saturday, but a game at the Montreal Impact comes first on Wednesday. Ring said the quick slate of games will help the team find its rhythm.

“We need games now,” Ring said. “The playoffs are starting soon and that’s why we need to get our guys as fast as we can. Little by little, today was a start and we still have time. I’m not worried because everyone knows when we have all our guys what a team we have. This is a chance for us to show that we can cope with it so we just have to continue.”