New York City FC’s home openers — even in their poor first season — have provided fans with boundless optimism for the year to come with dominant offensive performances. By scoring at least twice in every game, and drawing just once, the first home game being a great performance has been one of the few semi-constant things in the wild, brief history of the club. Only a retooled, well-coached LA Galaxy squad stood in the way of logging another great performance in the home opener.
Luckily for NYCFC, history repeated itself.
City took down the LA Galaxy on Sunday by a score of 2-1. For the first time in franchise history, NYCFC have won their first two games to start the MLS season.
Chances were few and far between early on. The best chance came from Sebastian Lletget’s try from the edge of the 18-yard box that just sailed over the bar. Yangel Herrera had a try from distance, but his shot just knuckled away from former San Jose keeper David Bingham. Both squads spent the early part of the game getting their bearings in Yankee Stadium’s snug dimensions.
In the 11th minute, NYCFC had a major injury scare. Jonathan Dos Santos was carded after a hard challenge in which his cleats dug into Anton Tinnerholm’s ankle. After a minute of the sky blue shirts collectively holding their breaths, the Swedish defender was back on the pitch.
Through 20 minutes NYCFC were dominating possession, holding the ball 77 percent of the time, but had yet to produce a clearcut scoring opportunity. That all changed in the 22nd minute.
Jesus Medina led the attack, leading David Villa into the box with an inch-perfect pass. Villa tried to cross across the face of goal, but Michael Ciani deflected the ball out. It fell right to Tinnerholm, who responded with a thunderous volley past Bingham for his first goal in MLS.
LA wasted no time trying to score one their own. Emmanuel Boateng’s cross into the box could have been trouble, but a heads-up play by Sebastien Ibeagha knocked it away. In the 27th minute, Ola Kamara came centimeters away from tying it. Kamara tried to finish a Lletget cross from inside the 6-yard box, but Sean Johnson parried it away for a highlight-reel save. The second 15 minutes were played at warp speed, with each side trading chances on goal.
In the 33rd minute, it was Medina again that served as the catalyst for an NYCFC goal. After a beautiful first touch, followed by some blistering pace to get past Ashley Cole, Medina picked out Ben Sweat with a through-ball. Sweat’s shot was saved by Bingham, but it landed right at the feet of David Villa, who commemorated his 100th MLS match with his 66th goal.
Galaxy had a hard time staying healthy against the Boys in Blue, let alone threatening to go for goal. Giovani dos Santos, who had to see more of the ball with Romain Alessandrini on the mend, was limping in the final third for much of the first half. An errant Sweat elbow caught Lletget in the side of the head. Center back Ciani pulled up with a leg injury, and had to be replaced by Daniel Steres.
Tinnerholm and Villa were excellent in the first half, as their goals show, but the best player in blue may have been Medina. The Paraguayan dynamo set up both goals in sequences that began with him personally orchestrating the attack. Ibeagha had a tall task in his first start, as he had to keep NYCFC nemeses Kamara and dos Santos under wraps, but he was extremely impressive. The Galaxy, meanwhile, never seemed to get out of first gear. The loss of Alessandrini’s pace and creativity was clear, as the French DP’s moments of individual quality that kick-start Los Angeles’ attack was missing. City held possession for 70 percent of the time. They also had nine shots, with three on goal, as compared to the Galaxy’s one shot.
Los Angeles already had a tough task ahead if they wanted to secure at least a point, but it was made infinitely harder due to the absence of their main facilitator. Gio Dos Santos was subbed off before the second half began, replaced by Servando Carrasco. NYCFC had the best chance early in the half, as a flick from Villa to Maxi Moralez could have made it 3-0, but Moralez cut it just wide. Herrera uncorked a powerful shot in the 53rd minute, but Bingham’s face steered it away, resulting in a corner that didn’t end with an NYCFC goal.
Rodney Wallace, who has been hesitant to go for goal of late, had a good opportunity in the 58th minute, but his shot had too much on it, and it almost flew out of the stadium into Westchester County. Wallace disappointed once again, despite a very good performance from his squad as a whole.
Galaxy cut the lead in half in the 60th minute. Poor positioning from Sweat gave Emmanuel Boateng too much space, and picked out Jonathan dos Santos for his first goal of the season. Los Angeles were playing more up-tempo in the second half, and Sweat’s miscue wouldn’t go unpunished.
In the 67th minute, Medina received a deserved standing ovation as he was subbed off. Ebenezer Ofori, on loan from Bundesliga’s Stuttgart, made his debut. This signaled that Patrick Vieira was more than happy to get defensive in an effort to preserve the lead. Still, given Medina’s superb performance, some were puzzled by this substitution.
The pace of LA on the wings continued to plague NYCFC. Boateng had another nice run, but his attempt was just a tick too strong for dos Santos and was collected by Johnson. NYCFC had a nice chance in the 75th minute when Herrera was cut down by the notoriously physical Cole. Moralez’s free kick, however, looped right into Bingham’s chest.
Galaxy continued to threaten, as right back Rolf Feltscher’s cross to Boateng in the 83rd minute narrowly missed the mark. Their momentum had been steadily increasing, but their captain took all the wind out of their sails in the 85th minute. Cole picked up a second yellow card, putting them a man down with 5+ minutes left. Villa was subbed off in the 87th minute, making way for the speedy Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Ronald Matarrita was brought on for compatriot Rodney Wallace in the 88th, as Vieira gave him a run at left wing.
Despite Galaxy’s frenzied attempts to equalize, NYCFC held on for a 2-1 victory. The Boys in Blue had a strong, organized first half that was enough to buoy them to a victory.