It’s done. New York City won their first road game of the year. But that wasn’t the big news of the night; the big news was David Villa’s goal in the 90th minute. More on that anon.
In my preview, I mentioned that tonight’s game was the definition of a trap game: clearly, the Union are a bad team, but they’re not so bad that they couldn’t defeat a team like New York City, particularly if the Blues left a lot of chances on the table.
Granted: Philadelphia was never really in the game. They had a decent scoring chance in the first half, but the reality was — and is, really — that the Union don’t have a legitimate scoring threat on the roster. Manager Jim Curtin had a perfectly good game plan for the team tonight, and the Union even executed it competently in the first half. But lacking that goal-scorer, Philadelphia never threatened.
That left goalkeeper Andre Blake —- arguably the league’s best shot-stopper — to keep the Union in the game under intense pressure. Blake delivered.
It wasn’t until the second half that New York City scored. In the 52nd minute, left back Ronald Matarrita took the feed off the corner, then slipped an exquisite pass to Jack Harrison inside the box. Harrison dribbled, then wrong-footed Blake to put the Blues ahead 1-0.
A blizzard of chances — left un-scored — then followed. The trap game script was playing out the way you’d think it would. Then this happened:
Yes. That happened.
David Villa really did lob Andre Blake from midfield in stoppage time. That is And-1 mixtape levels of deviltry. It’s the kind of goal that defines a team’s season, both for good and for ill.
For good: it demonstrates for the world that the Blues demand your attention and your respect. It’s the kind of goal that makes you stand up, mouth agape, wondering at the sheer impossibility of it all.
For ill: a lob goal is cheeky. A lob moonshot from midfield? That’s Villa disrespecting your goalkeeper for days, not to mention your team. And the really bonkers thing is that Villa nearly pulled it off a year ago in the same situation -- and he only missed by a foot.
Giving up a goal like that can be a backbreaker, psychologically. You get the sense that the Union is under epic amounts of pressure — from bench players all the way through Curtin. That pressure is a self-feeding monster, and with the Union now winless in six, and having surrendered a goal like that?
Don’t be surprised if Earnie Stewart pulls the plug on Curtin, if not this week, then really soon. It’s not entirely his fault; like I said, they lack talent. But it’s also arguable that Curtin’s failed to get the best out of his players.