The hosts had entered the evening undefeated at Orlando City Stadium. They left with their first loss to NYCFC since July 2015.
Here’s how the Bronx Blues lined up:
GK: Sean Johnson
DEF: LB Ben Sweat, CB Alexander Callens, CB Maxime Chanot, RB Ethan White
MID: CM Alex Ring, CM Mikey Lopez, CAM Maxi Moralez
FWD: LW Rodney Wallace, CF David Villa, RW Jack Harrison
With Wednesday evening’s tragically rotated squad almost entirely back to normal, the visitors got the mojo working early. With the run of play clearly in their favor, Rodney Wallace grabbed the ball in the box and noticed Orlando star man Kaka’s outstretched arm. The talented Tico fired it right into the Brazilian’s elbow to earn an obvious penalty for New York City.
And of course, you-know-who sprung into action:
It was Villa’s seventh strike of the year, and marked just the second time in nearly two hours of 2017 game action that NYCFC managed to put something, anything past Joe Bendik. But the Blues weren’t done placing their stamp on the first half.
21 minutes after opening the scoring, Alex Ring had plenty of room up the middle to boot it out toward Jack Harrison, who noticed Ethan White absolutely bombing his way down the right wing just behind him:
(White killed so hard on that one that he had to come off right after with a groin issue.)
The sliding finish was Rodney Wallace’s fourth time among the goals this year, and a continuing reminder that there’s no such thing as having too many right-place-right-time guys. Call it “grit,” “want-to,” or just good ol’ footballing IQ; whatever it is, Ruthless Rodney has it.
Through his timely industry, the visitors took a 2-0 advantage into the break.
With New York City still in command at the hour mark, Jason Kreis opted for a double-change to jump-start the Lions, with elder statesmen Kaka and Antonio Nocerino giving way for Giles Barnes and Matias Perez Garcia. The energy boost appeared to pay off just three minutes later, as Scott Sutter gained the upper hand on Ben Sweat on a run into the box and hit the deck after some minor contact. Referee Mark Geiger pointed to the penalty spot despite some sincere protestations from Sweat.
As Cyle Larin stepped up to take it, NYCFC fans let out a collective groan. There go that man again. Right on cue, FS1 commentator John Strong announced to the national television audience that keeper Sean Johnson hadn’t saved an MLS penalty in three years.
Then, before Geiger had finished whistling the go-ahead, Larin opened up his right foot and blasted his attempt off the right post.
(Shout-out to Sheed.)
When Miguel Camargo relieved the ever-bulldogging Jack Harrison in the 80th minute, it was clear that Patrick Vieira wasn’t ready to clamp down and nurse the two-goal advantage. And true to form, two minutes later, his captain put a bow on it in masterful fashion:
All eyes were clearly on Maxi Moralez after Villa stabbed it back to the diminutive Argentine. That turned out to be a grave mistake for Orlando; Villa timed his run to perfection to get on the end of the dare-we-say-Pirlo-esque ball, and that was that. It was a wrap. Seriously, have a cigar.
As el Gauje made his way to the bench in the 85th minute to give way for Tommy McNamara, he did so as a conquering hero. His elegant wizardry was the driving force behind NYCFC’s second victory in nine tries against their purple-clad expansion cousins.
And after taking just one point in their last two games, this extended road trip suddenly feels like a joyride.
UP NEXT FOR NEW YORK CITY: A visit to Bobby Dodd Stadium next Sunday, May 28th, to take on Atlanta United FC. The match kicks off at 5:00pm ET on ESPN.