NEW YORK — With a kick-off temperature of 29 degrees Fahrenheit and supporters chanting about how cold it was, the cold-weather looked to put a damper on NYCFC’s home opener against D.C. United. Unfortunately for the weather and D.C. United fans, NYCFC put in a phenomenal 90 minutes of work and convincingly won by the score of 4-0.
Despite Yankee Stadium not being as packed as normal, 24,259 fans in attendance (2016 season average was 27,196,) NYCFC aggressively came out to play right from kick-off. After only eight minutes of attacking pressure, NYCFC found the back of the net.
NYCFC’s first goal of the season was scored by Costa Rican-international Rodney Wallace, as Wallace scissor kicked home a rebound off of the crossbar following Jack Harrison’s Arjen Robben-like left-footed far past shot. Wallace’s goal not only got the fans out of their seats but also put a happy smirk on Patrick Vieira’s face.
“From the first minute I think the team worked really hard,” said Vieira. That hard work didn’t stop, as twenty minutes later, NYCFC scored again as the Captain finally got his goal.
Wallace transformed from scorer to provider as he chipped a ball into the box right to Villa as Villa headed the ball back across goal to beat the outstretched arms of D.C. United keeper Bill Hamid.
Following in the footsteps of Wallace, Villa turned provider after scoring in the 40th minute, when he played new designated player Maxi Moralez through on goal with a lovely inch perfect through ball. Moralez slotted the ball far post past Hamid as calm as you’d like to score his first ever NYCFC goal along with putting the “Boys in Blue” up 3-0 heading into halftime.
Before the end of the game, the second half showcased the defensive improvement of NYCFC, as goalkeeper Sean Johnson had two big one-on-one saves to earn his first clean sheet in his tenure at NYCFC. Along with that, the Captain decided he wanted another goal and slotted home his second of the contest and the team’s fourth in the 75th minute, thus securing a 4-0 win for NYCFC.
After watching and analyzing NYCFC over the past two years, two traits stick out about the club. First, blown leads in the second half were all too familiar. Second, defensively, the team’s back-line had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.
In this match and for most of the season-opener against Orlando City, NYCFC didn’t show or possess either of those two traits.
Heading into the season, everyone expected the back-line would be better. With the addition of Alexander Callens and Sean Johnson in net, the team on paper is immediately better. So far, defensive lapses have in short supply, and the number of quality chances opposing teams have had has been limited, especially today.
“Maxime and Alex were great,” said Johnson following the game today. “They got blocks in areas that were dangerous, denying clear goalscoring opportunities.”
Throughout the match, Johnson yelled and cheered on Callens and Chanot as they put in a gritty performance. After the game, Johnson was on the receiving end of cheering this time, as Vieira praised him in his post-game press conference.
“Sean looks really calm and composed,” praised Vieira. “Every decision he made was a good one.”
It is, without a doubt, way too early to say that NYCFC is a team to beat in the MLS after only two games. You can make a claim though that after today’s dominant win, NYCFC is certainly going to be a team to watch going forward the rest of the year.
If NYCFC can maintain their composure when they have the lead along with continually playing solid defense, there is no telling how far NYCFC can go in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
However, if there is one thing sure, it is that no matter the result, NYCFC need to create chances.
“We have to play the way we did (in Orlando,)” said Vieira. “We created chances. What is important in football is to create chances. We know we are going to score goals.”
Is this the best team NYCFC has ever had? In my opinion, yes it is the best team in the brief history of the club. Now it is up to the team to prove to us that they are the best team in NYCFC history. With performances like this today, one can only dream about how good this club can become.