By CHRISTIAN ARAOS
New York City FC won a well-contested game of soccer Friday night, defeating the host Philadelphia Union, 2–0. Jack Harrison scored the game-winning goal, David Villa scored the unforgettable goal.
The Pigeons (3-2-1, 10 points) found it difficult to create opportunities against a desperate Union (0-4-2, 2 points) team that gave them problems throughout the match. NYCFC was too deep in the first half allowing Harris Menjunjanin to dictate the play, Coach Patrick Vieira told ESPN at halftime. The Union were also able to successfully defend up the field pressuring goalkeeper Sean Johnson into several turnovers. Johnson did keep the game scoreless with two saves.
City again struggled to create chances from its possession but found opportunities through vertical passing and direct running from Harrison. Harrison’s agile dribbling was almost impossible for the Union to handle as he was able to create opportunities for himself on right wing. It would be, however, Harrison’s running off the ball that would lead to his goal.
Ronald Matarrita was able to surge upfield all game and the 52nd minute was no different. Matarrita forced a turnover in front of the Union penalty area and cut inside to his right. He spotted Harrison calling for the diagonal run and with the outside of his left foot, played the ball to him. Harrison took a hard touch with his right foot and then used his left to roll the ball into the far corner past Andre Blake.
The Union fought hard throughout the match and contested NYCFC in the midfield. They were held without a shot on target, however, for the final 63 minutes of the game. The rookie Adam Najem could not make the difference in his professional debut. Neither could Jay Simpson, the former League 1 striker who has been called the next Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Centerbacks Maxime Chanot and Alex Callens overcame slow starts by making timely interventions in the second half. Chanot made a clean tackle from behind inside the area. Callens laid his body out to block a golden opportunity for Fabian Herbers from the top of the area. Matarrita was able to answer Vieira’s call for him to get farther forward and created opportunities by forcing Union turnovers from within their own half. Ethan White had a quiet, effective game staying home at right back but made a timely run into the area to get on a Villa pass but Blake stopped his shot as well.
Blake, however, could not stop Villa’s sorcery. He was alone, just inside the Union half with two defenders on him. He said after that he was tired so he just turned his hip swinging his right foot to hit the ball first time. The ball arced above the agonizing Union fans into the lights where it disappeared from Blake’s eyes into the net behind him.
Khiry Shelton and Yangel Herrera each came off the bench late to seal the result. Herrera replaced Andrea Pirlo making it three consecutive games in which Pirlo was substituted. Herrera was more comfortable in his second appearance at defensive midfield and narrowly missed Shelton with a through-ball. Shelton made his second appearance in three weeks and answered Vieira’s calls to be a constant nuisance for the Union’s wide players when they were on the ball.
It was City’s first road win in three attempts this season. The club returns to Yankee Stadium in nine days to face Orlando City in an afternoon match.