Coming off of a much-needed 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew earlier in the week, New York City FC took to Red Bull Arena on Saturday with one goal in mind — silence detractors and put on a complete performance against the Chicago Fire. Though they had been by far the better team against the Crew, City still lacked in chance creation and instead pounced on a severe defensive miscue to grab only their third goal of the season.
But on this warm August night in New Jersey, NYCFC would not be denied a statement-making 3-1 victory in which they played what it is perhaps their best 90 minutes of 2020 thus far.
With star playmaker Maxi Moralez on the bench to start the game, NYCFC retained their 4-3-3 shape from their previous game with Alexander Ring being the midfielder responsible for filling in the gap at the center attacking mid.
City applied pressure from the rip, with a promising goal-scoring chance coming in only the 2nd minute of the game. Following a violent carom off of a defending Fire midfielder, Alexandru Mitrita would touch it past his marker to find space in the channel before slipping Héber through on goal. The Brazilian forward attempted to chip Chicago’s Connor Sparrow, but the MLS debutant was able to make himself big enough the slap the shot away. Keaton Parks would have an opportunity to capitalize on the rebound, but the follow-up shot would be blocked in front of the net by a defender.
NYCFC would find the opening tally in the 16th minute. After a corner would be valiantly defended by Chicago, Mitrita would again play the architect as he would play Parks in behind. The American midfielder would take the shot on the first touch, guiding it ever so easily past Sparrow and just inside of the far post to give City an early 1-0 lead and put them on the front foot.
Moments later, City again would look dangerous on a corner set play when an unmarked Maxime Chanot would threaten to put the team up 2-0. His header, unfortunately, would collide with the post.
The Blues would continue to control the game until first half stoppage time when Sean Johnson would be forced into a spectacular kick save on a Fire counter-attack. Unfortunately, Johnson’s efforts would prove futile as Chicago would find an equalizer from Mauricio Pineda on the ensuing corner, ensuring a 1-1 deadlock going into the half.
The real magic for NYCFC would start in the second half as star playmaker Maxi Moralez would make his return at the opening whistle of the second round of 45’. And from the moment he touched the pitch, you could tell City were a different team than the one we had just seen moments prior.
The diminutive Argentinian genius would find pass after pass and immediately opened up New York City’s attack and in only 52nd minute, the rapid fire distribution would find the end product.
After a failed Chicago clearance from Miguel Navarro, Moralez would stutter before finding right back Anton Tinnerholm at the right flank on a brilliant diagonal ball. The Swede would find his strike on a solitary touch before driving it hard and low past a helpless Sparrow in a goal that was almost identical the Parks’ in the first half, giving NYCFC a 2-1 lead.
Despite controlling the pace for a majority of the second half, City would almost concede a second equalizer in the 74th minute when miscommunication from Johnson and Alexander Callens would gift the ball to the Fire’s Elliot Collier in a dangerous position. Despite Johnson being in no man’s land, Callens would make a terrific recovery as he would block Collier’s shot to the open net, preserving the Blues’ 2-1 advantage.
Shortly after that, NYCFC would get their insurance goal and solidify a very good outing in spectacular fashion.
Tinnerholm would be played in behind on a ball by Jesus Medina before brilliantly shedding a Fire defender with a fake cross before embarrassing another with a nifty nutmeg and crossing the ball across the face of goal. There, captain Alexander Ring lay in wait as he delicately redirected the ball the other way past Sparrow and into the net, capping off a 3-1 win for the Boys in Blue and giving them their second consecutive victory.
Next up: NYCFC head on the road essentially for the first time in Phase 1 to take on the New England Revolution at Gillette Field on Wednesday, September 2.