Pigeons Avoid Disaster in a Comfortable Win

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By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

NYCFC logoNew York City FC turned a disastrous start to the evening into a solid result Thursday defeating Minnesota United, 3–1, on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.

Alex Callens scored in the first half to cancel out Christian Ramirez‘s early goal. Jack Harrison scored the game-winning goal for the second time this week in the second half and David Villa added to the highlight reel with a solo goal that put the Pigeons in clear control and onto their fourth consecutive win.

“I enjoyed this game more than the last one against the Red Bulls,” Coach Patrick Vieira said. “The way we fought back, the way we kept our concentration and the character we showed. When you look at all the teams who’ve won titles and teams who’ve been successful, there are times where it will get tough, it will get bad but what they have in common is the character and the personality. If we are consistent at that level, that can be really good for us.”

NYCFC’s night began ominously when R.J. Allen and Ethan White were disciplined for running late to a pregame meeting. Allen was removed from the starting lineup and placed on the substitutes bench, White was left off the game day roster. Then Murphy’s Law struck during the ninth minute. Ronald Matarrita aggravated his ankle injury and was forced to leave the game and Mikey Lopez came on to replace him.

Seconds later, Eirik Johansen, in his first start of the season, reminded everyone why City acquired Sean Johnson when he failed to control the rebound of a Miguel Ibarra shot, spilling the ball in front of Ramirez who easily finished for his 10 goal of the season. Johansen was untested for the rest of the half and received ironic cheers the next time he picked up the ball. Vieira said the mistake was a result of Johansen’s rustiness.

“The goalkeeper when you don’t play often it can be difficult in the first 20 minutes to just get used to the game,” Vieira said. “The goal that he conceded, he could have done better but I was really pleased with the reaction that he had. He came out a few times at very important periods for us and I was really pleased with his reaction. He showed a lot of character and that’s good.”

New York City was on the front foot for the rest of the half, holding the ball in the Minnesota half of the field, but struggling to keep shots on frame. Yangel Herrera narrowly missed the near post, then Thomas McNamara skyed an effort from 12-yards out that came off a clever corner. The Pigeons found the equalizer through Callens and Ben Sweat working a two-man combination on the left. Sweat appeared to lose possession inside the area but Callens made an overlapping run to finish at the near post.

“We gave up the first goal but the team showed great character to improve and get the three points,” Herrera said. “We had a great attitude and we played a great game.”

The Pigeons came out late for the start of the second half but took the lead early. McNamara led a four-man attack and played Rodney Wallace on the overlap down the left. With time, Wallace whipped in a cross that Harrison nodded into the net for his second goal of the week and eighth of the season. Nine minutes later, David Villa picked up the ball on right wing then treated the Loons like dribbling cones before finishing into the far corner.

“I don’t like to comeback,” Villa said. “I like to score the first goal but this is soccer. The team showed good character and we wanted to win after the Minnesota goal. This is great for us but we want to score the first goal and not have to come back again.”

Villa’s goal put the game and New York City was in such control that Andrea Pirlo made his first appearance since May 17. Every touch Pirlo made was met with applause as the crowd enjoyed a New York City team that turned the early deficit into a comfortable. Minnesota was unlucky to have the offside flag go up and disallow a Ramirez goal.

New York City has won 10 of its first 18 games and is seven points ahead of Orlando City for third playoff berth in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, two points behind Toronto for first in the conference and the Supporters Shield. NYC will play its last game before the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Wednesday at the Vancouver Whitecaps.