It took only ten minutes for New York City to take their first lead of the season. Eighty minutes and seven goals later, the Blues had their first win of the season - a 4-3 win over the Chicago Fire.
The Fire didn't lack for chances; David Accam repeated shredded right back Ethan White, pressed into service after both RJ Allen and Andoni Iraola suffered injuries. The New York City back line still have a lot of work to do; Frederic Brillant was every way short of that in his first MLS game, and was directly responsible for two of the goals Chicago scored.
But what matters is that Patrick Vieira's reign in the five boroughs begins with a victory. Vieira's first starting eleven revealed his predilection for youth:
Matarrita and White on defense, Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton on the wings, McNamara and Mix Diskerud in the midfield; Vieira cares not a whit for the size of your legend or your pay stub. One of the things I harped on last season was the desire to see more of New York City's young players. The best stretch of the season came early in the summer, when the Blues' lineup was flecked with youth. It seems Vieira agrees.
Both teams got off to a blazing start, but New York City struck first. McNamara scored the first goal of the MLS season on a beautiful, looping golazo that Chicago's keeper could do nothing about.
That lead lasted all of nine minutes. Chicago's Razvan Cocis tied things up on a lovely chip at one apiece, but on 29 minutes, Tony Taylor gave the lead back to New York City. The Blues never looked back; Khiry Shelton scored on 36 minutes to make it 3-1, and that's how we went to halftime.
Four minutes into the second half, the Fire's David Accam pressured Frederic Brillant near the Blues' penalty area. The pressure forced the defender into a howler of an error, giving up the ball to Accam, who then crossed to Kennedy Igboananike for an easy goal. But Mix Diskerud, who was everywhere during the game, volleyed home a peach of a goal to restore the two-goal cushion.
With 18 minutes to go, New York City gave up an incredibly dubious penalty; referee Armando Villarreal called Khiry Shelton for a handball, despite Shelton's efforts to dodge the ball. Accam slotted home the penalty, but Chicago couldn't manage to score the equalizer, despite getting six minutes of injury time. And so it ended.
Vieira's bet on youth pays off. We didn't get to see much of Tony Taylor last season, thanks to a horrific knee injury. Today, though, we saw why Vieira gave him the start; he's got a striker's eye for goal. His goal came off a sneaky good give-and-go with Andrea Pirlo, which made two Fire defenders run into each other. Finding himself clean and clear, he shot - and scored. He wasn't the only one; McNamara acquitted himself well - he's my Man of the Match - and Khiry Shelton was instrumental on both offense and defense, scoring and breaking up Fire attacks as well.
Diskerud showed up to play. Lord knows I've been tough on Mix. I called for him to be traded last season. There were way too many times when his energy and desire caused him to be all over the place, except where he needed to be. That wasn't the case today. He set Shelton's goal up with an exquisite ball over the top of Chicago's defense. Then, in the second half, he unleashed a fierce volley off a McNamara cross that became the game-winner. If Diskerud can replicate this performance over the next 33 games, he'll be worth every bit of his $750,000 salary. It's on Mix to remove that "if", and make performances like today's the rule, not the exception.
Will the defense come together? Frederic Brillant, brought in to steady New York City's defense, had a rough outing today. It didn't help that he was constantly bailing out Ethan White, starting in emergency duty at right back. But before we start wailing and gnashing our teeth, let's remember a couple of things. One, this was Brillant's first MLS game; two, White isn't a starter. Once either Iraola or Allen start on the right, I'd expect Brillant to adapt and be a key contributor.
Next up for New York City: Toronto FC, who whipped the Red Bulls 2-0 at Red Bull Arena. They'll be playing the Reds in the home opener at Yankee Stadium. That's a nationally televised game on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.