Things finally feel like they’re clicking!
New York City FC were dealt a good test on Saturday when they were to travel all the way to the West Coast and take on the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led LA Galaxy. Despite the fact that LAG were coming off of a two-game losing streak, NYCFC needed to be at their very best in order to take point off of a team that is — statistically speaking — one of the better squads in MLS right now.
Sure enough, the Boys in Blue delivered in 2-0 win in which their defense was on full lock-down mode, allowing Héber and Maxi Moralez to score the needed goals for the win.
Throughout the first half, the game was business as usual for NYCFC. City were controlling the play, holding possession and creating a few odd chances, forcing the Galaxy to play on their back foot. Ronald Matarrita and James Sands had returned to the XI, which provided a much-needed boost for both the back-three and the midfield.
It took some time for the Pigeons to finally crack the code. But at the very end of the first half, they finally put it together.
In the 44th minute, Alexander Ring found Anton Tinnerholm who had cut in behind LAG’s defensive line on a gorgeous curled run. The Swedish wingback then centered himself before launching a shot toward’s Galaxy keeper David Bingham. Bingham was able to parry the initial shot, but Héber was right there to clean up the trash as he delicately tapped in the rebound, giving NYCFC a 1-0 lead.
The late flurry didn’t stop there either.
Only moments later, at the death of first half stoppage, Tinnerholm again found himself in the mix as he attempted to cross the ball into the center of the box when it made contact with the hand of Uriel Antuna. After consulting with the VAR, referee Chris Penso awarded NYCFC with the penalty kick.
Maxi Moralez — who had missed his last two shots from the spot — was then called over by teammates to take the penalty. Eager to make amends for past disappointments, the Argentinean fired a shot into the lower-left corner, narrowly beating Bingham and giving the Blues a 2-0 advantage going into the half.
From there, NYCFC’s attack slowed down and the defense were handed the spotlight. And boy, did they deliver.
The trinity of Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, and the aforementioned Sands were a powerhouse and effectively kept Zlatan quiet throughout.
In the 80th minute, goalkeeper Sean Johnson was caught off of his line due to a miscommunication with Chanot. After the clearance was blocked by Emmanuel Boateng, Zlatan found the ball at his feet and attempt a chip from distance. Luckily, Callens was able to rush back to made the goalline rescue and keep the clean sheet intact.
Ibra would get another decent chance on goal in the 86th minute when he was able to beat Chanot on a good lobbed ball from Emil Cuello. Zlatan’s shot then hit the bar with Chris Pontius’ follow-up sailing over the target. At this point, Zlatan seemed to show a pretty violent display of frustration when he grabbed Sean Johnson by the neck as both went to ground. Both Ibra and SeanJohn were issued yellow cards for the small scuffle.
After that, the game pretty much settled as NYCFC ran out the clock and solidified an important 2-0 win on the road.
Next up: NYCFC have one week off before resuming play against the Chicago Fire in the Windy City on May 25.