Though questions still remain as to whether Patrick Vieira’s team has the killer instinct to mount a deep playoff run, fans in the Five Boroughs will be content to enter the weekend with the second-best record in Major League Soccer— and the team’s highest-ever regular season point total.
Here’s how the boys lined up:
GK Sean Johnson
LB Ronald Matarrita, CB Alexander Callens, CB Frederic Brillant, RB Andraz Struna
LCM Tommy McNamara, CAM Maxi Moralez, RCM Alexander Ring
LW Rodney Wallace, CF Jack Harrison, RW Khiry Shelton
Plenty of chances went unanswered in the game for both sides, including multiple tantalizing looks for Rodney Wallace and second-half substitute David Villa. Fortunately, Wallace managed to pick out Jack Harrison coming down the left in the 28th minute and put a sky-blue stamp on the proceedings.
New York City would hammer 22 total shots in the game, and managed things well up the middle through Maxi Moralez and Harrison despite their captain and reigning MLS MVP starting the game on the bench as he works his way back to full fitness.
Mission accomplished— even if things felt anxious as dynamic midfielder Blerim Dzemaili and, suprisingly, center back Laurent Ciman grew more and more threatening for the home team as things wore on.
When Villa came on at the hour mark, acres of space started to open up, with he and Moralez playing some fancy one-twos that put serious strain on the Impact’s back four. Villa managed to smack one off the crossbar for good measure, and while he couldn’t manage to bag the goal that would put him even with Portland’s Diego Valeri in the MLS Golden Boot race, NYCFC supporters will feel that much better about Saturday’s upcoming trip to Chicago given the instant danger Villa brought with him during the 30-minute feature.
As the final whistle came, it was more relief than jubilation for the Boys in Blue. But all told, three well-earned points mean that Atlanta United’s designs on the Eastern Conference’s second seed — and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it — will have to wait at least a while longer.
And that’s good enough for now.