Leading up to New York City FC’s game against Los Angeles FC this past Sunday, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who would have considered NYCFC to be the favorites against the Carlos Vela-led Black & Gold. And how could you blame anyone for that? Through their first two games of the season, City had looked like a team still finding its way after having to adjust to life after David Villa. The offense was lackluster, with their only two goals coming from defensive-minded midfielders. The defense had looked strong at points, but were prone to puzzling mistakes. Everything about NYCFC just shouted “transitional phase.”
To everyone’s surprise, however, City looked like they had found their form against the dangerous LAFC. The offense was more threatening, the midfield was impenetrable, Alexandru Mitrita netted his first MLS goal... everything was looking mighty fine for the Blues.
Unfortunately, the story of the game was the defense. Despite asserting themselves for much of the game, NYCFC would have two defensive blunders that would allow LAFC to tie the game, each coming shortly after New York City would leap ahead. Though Mitrita’s banger and Alexander Ring’s opportunistic pounce brought the crowd at Yankee Stadium to their feet, costly mistakes from Maxime Chanot and Ben Sweat would be the difference as NYCFC and LAFC would eventually tie 2-2 in a game that feels more like two points lost as opposed to one gained.
The first 10 minutes of the game featured nothing but chaos, with both teams threatening goal. One of the more dangerous of these chances was for NYCFC when Taty Castellanos played a sublime ball into the box. Mitrita ran onto it, but his finishing touch just wasn’t there as it was skied into the stands.
In the 39th minute, however, NYCFC would finally break through.
Following a good one-touch link-up between Ebenezer Ofori and Maxi Moralez, the ball found Mitrita who took a big touch past his marker and began a full-speed sprint towards the opposing box. Covered closely by three LAFC defenders, the Romanian made a sharp cut to avoid the pressure before firing a far-post ripper past a helpless Tyler Miller to give NYCFC a 1-0 lead and their first home goal of the 2019 season.
Mitrita almost doubled the lead and goal total moments later when his free kick bounced off the crossbar.
Unfortunately, City’s lead wouldn’t last much longer.
In the 42nd minute, Maxime Chanot would make a costly turnover to LA’s Latif Blessing. With NYCFC lacking the numbers to guard against the counter, Blessing would pop the ball over the back line to a relatively unmarked Carlos Vela who would convert his easy 1-v-1 opportunity to level the game at 1-1.
City would have one last chance to rectify the defensive lapse in the 44th minute when Moralez would get in behind on a nice pass from Castellanos. The diminutive Argentinean’s shot, however, would be saved by LAFC’s Miller ensuring the deadlock going into the half.
Coming into the second half, Domé Torrent made an early change by subbing off Ofori for Ben Sweat in the 49th minute. This substitution would prove pivotal as it would lead to both a massive positive and an equally massive negative.
The positive came first.
In the 62nd minute, Sweat received a throw-in in the attacking third before he began tussling with defender Walker Zimmerman. The struggle saw Sweat being guided to the end line. Just before he ball crossed over the line and out for a goal kick, the American left back mustered enough willpower to get around Zimmerman and play the ball into the middle of the box where Alex Ring lay in wait. The fiery captain took a powerful left-footed shot which flew by Miller and into the back of the net, once again giving NYCFC a one-goal advantage.
But, Ben Sweat giveth. Ben Sweat taketh away.
NYCFC found themselves on defense in the 74th minute. In a frantic series of events, LAFC’s Latif Blessing took a shot which was blocked in front of net by Alexander Callens. On his follow up, Blessing attempted a cheeky pass to his right before being taken out by Sweat, causing referee Armando Villarreal to point to the spot for a penalty. The subsequent penalty kick would be taken by Vela, who would easily guide it into the goal to once again level the game at 2-2.
Matters were almost made worse for NYCFC when in the final minute of stoppage time, Chanot whiffed on a clearance giving Adama Diomande an easy try at goal. Mercifully, the ball went wide of the target, ensuring the 2-2 draw and a share of the spoils for both sides.
Next up: NYCFC take a 12-day international break before travelling up north to take on the surprisingly hot Toronto FC at BMO field on March 29. That game will be broadcast on YES and kicks off at 8 PM (EST).