Villa, Vieira Ejected in NYCFC’s Preseason Loss


by Christian Araos

New York City FC is probably not feeling video replay after a preseason loss to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night.

David Villa and Patrick Vieira were both ejected by the video assistant referee during the first half of NYCFC’s 3–1 loss after separate incidents that required the referee to consult with the assistant. Video replay showed Villa had raised his hands to A.J. DeLaGarza’s face in an off-the-ball incident leading to a red card for Villa. Earlier in the half, Vieira had walked onto the playing field to protest a hard challenge and was told to leave the sideline.

Villa’s red card ended what was a promising start to his partnership with Maxi Moralez. Moralez made his preseason debut in central midfield at the top of the midfield triangle. Wearing the No. 10, Moralez effectively filled the space between midfield and attack allowing Villa to stay forward more often. Villa finished the counterattack Moralez started as the two combined with Jack Harrison for a quick three-man break that ended with Villa finishing into the bottom left corner from the right of the area.

That equalizer was as good as it got for City. Fielding three regulars on the backline, City struggled to play from the back and conceded twice off turnovers inside its own half. Maxime Chanot tripped and miscued a pass that led to a quick Dynamo break that Romell Quioto finished in the second minute. Houston regained the lead in the second half after Chanot, Frédéric Brillant and James Sands each lost out to Alex for a loose ball allowing him to slip through and beat Sean Johnson.

Sands was given the start but struggled for much of the match under heavy pressure from the Dynamo’s midfielders and forwards. He was caught in possession several times and gave away possession too easily. Calm on the ball during his first two preseason appearances, the 16-year-old appeared frantic as he tried to keep up with the high tempo of play.

The trialist Ben Sweat played the first half at left back and the unsigned draft picks Jalen Brown and Kwame Awuah each came off the bench during the second half. Brown once again put in a lively performance on the wing and took on defenders similar to his game against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. Awuah was partnered with Andrea Pirlo in central midfield for the latter part of the second half. Awuah’s miscued clearance in the 88th minute allowed the Dynamo trialist Memo Rodriguez to score from inside the six-yard box.

NYCFC will play the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Both City and the New England Revolution lost their first two matches in the Desert Diamond Cup, which will guarantee a fifth- and sixth-place finish in the standings. The teams will play in the final round of matches on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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