New York City came away the winners in an ugly, rain-soaked game that arguably should’ve been postponed. Players ran, slipped and fell in comical fashion. The ball skidded, then stopped, as both teams struggled to adapt to the conditions.
Seattle — who won 3-1 in their last visit to Yankee Stadium two years ago — came into the game winners of four out of their last five games. New York City, meanwhile, was smarting from a Hudson River Derby defeat to the Red Bulls on Wednesday. Even worse: they lost midfield architect Maxi Moralez to injury in that game.
With Moralez missing, Jack Harrison stepped into his role as the number 10, giving manager Patrick Vieira a chance to start Tommy McNamara in Harrison’s usual right wing position.
Despite the rain, the Blues had the better of the possession, as they looked to carve up the Sounders’ back line. But the rain kept coming down, forcing both teams to scrap to maintain possession, let alone create anything on offense.
In the 22nd minute, Jack Harrison looked as if he was fouled in the box, but referee Robert Sibiga waved the furious calls for a penalty away and allowed play to continue.
As it turned out, it was Seattle who hit first. Sounders midfielder Cristián Roldán took advantage of a turnover, then trucked forward. He shot towards the far post, and scored.
New York went immediately into the attack; but Villa, searching for his 50th MLS goal, was denied by the crossbar, just as he was denied by the goal post on Wednesday. As the half ended, left back Ben Sweat collided with a Seattle player, and had to be helped off the field.
The rain continued to cascade down as the second half began. At times, the ball came to a complete stop as the Yankee Stadium field resembled more a pool than a pitch. Five minutes into the second half, Sibiga whistled for a penalty kick, charging the Sounders’ Oneil Fisher with a foul on David Villa.
Looking at the replay, it’s hard to see where Villa gets fouled. Nevertheless, the Spanish legend calmly took the penalty and scored. With the goal, Villa became the fifth fastest player to notch 50 goals in league history, doing so in 77 games.
New York City kept striving for the win, but the elements weren’t cooperating, as both teams struggled to play a more direct style. Looking to change things up, Vieira introduced Ugo Okoli into the match to replace Tommy McNamara, but to no avail.
Finally, in the 77th minute, the breakthrough came for the Blues. Villa crossed to Jack Harrison in the box. Harrison held off a bevy of Sounders’ defenders, then looped a cross back to Villa, who volleyed the ball home for his second goal of the game and the 51st of his MLS tenure.
The exchange of crosses between the two players left Seattle’s defense flat-footed, and allowed Villa to be literally unmarked as he swept into the box.
In the 86th minute, Okoli nearly notched his second goal of the season, blowing past a Seattle defender, but keeper Stefan Frei smartly denied the Washington native.
With scarce seconds left, Seattle had one last opportunity to draw the game level, but came up just short as the ball caromed away from Chad Marshall.
So the game came mercifully to an end. With the win, New York City remain in third place in the East at 27 points, trailing leaders Toronto FC by two points with a record of 8-5-3. Next up for the Blues: another visit to Red Bull Arena for the second of four Hudson River Derby clashes this season.