NYCFC Leaves It Late in the Rain

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NYCFC logoIt was a cool, windy Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium so naturally the Englishman provided the difference for New York City FC.

Jack Harrison received a R.J. Allen cross alone inside the area, chested the ball and swung a left-footed half-volley into the bottom corner six minutes from time to give NYCFC a 1–0 win over Sporting Kansas City. City (15-7-5, 50 points), which entered the game without nine players, strengthened its hold on second place with Harrison’s ninth goal of the season.

“The team played great tonight, the conditions made it a bit difficult but I like playing in the rain,” Harrison said. “The team did brilliantly tonight.”

The first half can succinctly be summed up as a midfield stalemate. Both teams completed about the same number of passes, were equally as accurate with NYCFC holding slightly more possession. They also had the only two shots on target for the half. Frederic Brillant rose to meet a Harrison cross and forced a lunging save from Tim Melia and Maxi Moralez had a shot from distance parried moments before halftime.

After failing to record a shot on target for the first 45 minutes, Sporting KC (10-6-10, 40) needed just 45 seconds of the second half to test Sean Johnson. Johnson parried a Roger Espinoza shot toward Benny Feilhaber, but Feilhaber was unable to keep the rebound on frame. That would be the only shot on target Kansas City recorded.

“This was one of our best defensive performances of the year,” Johnson said. “I think collectively we were on the same page. Guys worked behind the ball during stretches where they had spells of possession and we had nine players behind the ball and one or two working extremely hard up front for us.”

The rest of the half went to NYCFC, which failed to convert on two golden opportunities. Moralez played a ball across the frame of goal that only needed a faint redirection to become a goal but the ball mischievously bounced under Ugo Okoli and off the back of Khiry Shelton‘s leg. Moments later, Harrison charged toward a Ben Sweat cross but his volley went right into an onrushing Melia.

“[Okoli] looked solid,” Coach Patrick Vieira said. “He showed that he can play at this level and he showed me that he is somebody that I need to count on a little bit more for the rest of the season. I was really happy with the way he sacrificed himself for the team and the way he worked for the team.”

Thomas McNamara started the move for Harrison’s goal by cutting inside and letting go a shot that Melia had to dive to prevent it from finding the bottom corner. The rebound stayed in play allowing Allen to run onto and position himself to cross from right wing toward Harrison who was unmarked inside the area. A cool swing of his left foot gave New York City the three points.

City was only able to list 14 field players on its game day roster because of injuries and international duty. David Villa and Alexander Ring each sustained injuries while with their national teams, but both are in contention for Saturday’s game against the Portland Timbers. Yangel Herrera and Rodney Wallace were also unavailable for the game though each is expected to be available for the weekend. New signing Andraz Struna needs his visa approved before he can play.

With the win, New York City stretches it home unbeaten streak to 10 games and moves six points ahead of the Chicago Fire for second place in the East. City is also six points behind Toronto FC for first in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference and the Supporters Shield race. Allen said as long as City can keep its form at home, they have a chance at catching Toronto.

“We know in this league that you have to win your home games,” Allen said. “If you win your home games that puts you at least in the playoffs but for us we want more than that. Tonight’s win keeps pace with Toronto. Hopefully they can drop points but they’re incredible right now but hopefully they can drop some points and we can catch them.”