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RECAP: NYCFC 2, Montreal 2

David Villa nets a brace in New York City FC’s compelling preseason finale.

MLS: Montreal Impact vs. NYCFC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Though not without flaws, New York City FC finally showed some offensive prowess in the club’s final preseason matchup Saturday against the Montreal Impact at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. The match — which finished as a 2-2 draw — was defined by a David Villa brace and a poor defensive turnover.

NYCFC lined up with what could very well be their preferred Starting XI moving forward:

GK: Sean Johnson

DEF: Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, Ronald Matarrita

MID: Maxi Moralez, Alex Ring, Yangel Herrera

FWD: Rodney Wallace, David Villa (c), Jesus Medina

Bench: Andre Rawls, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Sebastien Ibeagha*, Ryan Felix*, Ben Sweat, James Sands, Kwame Awuah, Ismael Tajouri, Esad Mackic^, Jonathan Lewis, Vini Lansade^, Dante Polvara^

*= trialist

^= NYCFC academy player

NYCFC got off to a flying start and constantly put Montreal’s defense against the ropes within the game’s opening minutes. Captain David Villa nearly found the net in the 10th minute after clanging the ball off the crossbar on a free kick from 20 yards out. It wouldn’t take much longer for El Guaje to find the back of the net though, as Villa was able to put up a tally just two minutes later. Following Jesus Medina dispossessing a Montreal defender, Maxi Moralez made a lovely through pass to Villa at the top of the box. The Spaniard then classily chipped the ball over Montreal keeper Evan Bush, giving City an early 1-0 advantage.

The Impact quickly adjusted after conceding and proceeded to gain some offensive cohesion. Following a decent Montreal counter, goalkeeper Sean Johnson was forced into a great fingertip save on Ignacio Piatti in the 27th minute.

Villa almost gave City a two-goal cushion in the 39th, but was denied by Bush on a close-range save. By the time El Guaje was able to re-establish possession of the ball, his angle had been severely compromised and he could only bang it off the near post.

After both teams mounted promising chances, the first half came to an end with City remaining up 1-0. It wouldn’t take long for the Blues to strike again, however.

Minutes into the second half, Villa — who had already flirted with a goal on his previous set-piece — bent a beautiful free kick near side past Bush to give New York City a 2-0 lead.

The two-goal advantage would not last, however, as the Impact rallied to get two quick tallies to level the game, including a 52nd minute banger by Saphir Taider and an opportunistic tap-in by Piatti — following a Ronald Matarrita turnover — in the 55th.

That would be it for the scoring, with the game finishing in a 2-2 draw.

Game Notes

  • Despite blowing a two-goal lead, NYCFC looked to be in strong form throughout. Unlike previous preseason contests against the LA Galaxy and Atletico San Luis, the Bronx Blues dictated the pace of the game and — with the exception of Mata’s uncharacteristic turnover — effectively played from the back all afternoon.

  • Right back Anton Tinnerholm really looked to gain confidence throughout the matchup. The Swedish international was a constant presence on the right flank, making good passing decisions and even nutmegged Piatti at one point. I wasn’t sold on Tinnerholm before, but I am a believer after this performance.

  • Is David Villa really 36? Because he looked to be in top form against Montreal and bagged a brace on two world-class goals. Though I could never really bet against El Guaje, I’ll admit I was concerned that his offensive contributions could become a bit more limited this year. But if Saturday was any indication, Villa is just as dangerous — if not more so — as he was when he first arrived in the five boroughs.

  • Don’t let the result fool you, the defense looked really solid for 95 percent of the match and really only made one significant mistake which Piatti — being the player he is — was able to capitalize on. There is definitely room for improvement, but I fully expect NYCFC to have it together come next week.

Next up: The wait is over! No more friendlies. NYCFC travel to the midwest to take on Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, March 4 in their 2018 MLS season opener, which will be nationally broadcast on Fox Sports 1.