By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms
To expect a home opener as good as this one would have been hubris.
Last week, I mentioned the major takeaway was that if nothing else, New York City FC looked comfortable. No early season jitters to be found, plenty of confidence, just some unfortunate luck in front of the goal. Turns out it wasn’t a fluke!
NYCFC had it all this week. Possession, space, patience, hunger, and goals. Rodney Wallace opened the score sheet just eight minutes in, attacking the ball Jack Harrison ricocheted off the woodwork. For the third consecutive year, David Villa scored in the home opener — and for the second consecutive year, he scored a brace at that. What a mighty fine captain. And just as everyone was getting comfortable with all this talk of how Maxi Moralez contributes everything but goals, he picked up a gem of a pass from Villa and snuck it coolly into the net.
I ceased to exist on this physical plane somewhere around Sean Johnson‘s fourth save of the day. Not to get too presumptive, but I have to wonder if he really is the answer to NYCFC’s goalkeeping woes (all the love in the world to Josh Saunders, of course, but let’s be honest).
While he’s still working out how to best communicate with his defense — on top of the defense still learning how to gel into a cohesive unit — I’m already impressed by his skills and can see that he’s going to be a key man in many matches. A self-assured, stalwart keeper can do everything to boost the morale of the whole team. If Johnson keeps putting on performances like that shutout, the trickle-down effect will be glorious.
Five of the starting eleven were making their debut appearances at Yankee Stadium. Aside from the goals by Maxi and RodWal and the brilliance of Johnson between the sticks, Alexander Callens and Alex Ring also put on a stunning show for their first match at home. Ring was everywhere, making beautiful recovery runs like they were easy as breathing, and Callens proved solid in defense. Welcome to Yankee Stadium, boys!
Our home matches are a blessing and a curse. Everyone is well aware by now that we have the smallest pitch in MLS. That means one well-placed pass can take the players practically from box to box. When that works in our favor, as it did this week, it’s great. But when we get a taste of our own medicine and get caught on a counter, it can be disastrous. Good news: That didn’t happen this time! Defense put in work. I’m so proud.
As always, here are a few random thoughts that struck me throughout the match:
- Rónald Matarrita reminded me, for the umpteenth time, that I really need to buckle down and write a profile on him before he inevitably takes his prodigious talent to another club. Mata was easy to mistake for one of our attacking players in this match, and yet he never wavered on his defensive duties. He’s the whole package. He’s perfect. I guess I should confess that he’s my favorite NYCFC player! (Also, his celebration dance with Wallace was adorable. Pura vida!)
- I respect Frank Lampard, and I appreciate everything he did for us, but I can’t say I miss him much. This squad is already looking much stronger than last year’s.
- Thomas “T-Mac” McNamara in the captain’s arm band. That is all. Powerful heart eye emojis over here.
- Special shout out to Ethan White, who replaced RJ Allen at right back as the only change from last week’s lineup. While his style of play isn’t as thrilling as other defenders, I’ve always appreciated his quiet, steady presence. There’s no player more willing to step into any role NYCFC needs and do his level best. (Including photographer!)
- I feared for Maxi’s life several times throughout the match, but none more so than when he was swarmed by his own teammates after scoring. As a fellow vertically challenged person, I’m well aware that the Group Hug Forest can be a terrifying and unwieldy place. So many torsos and limbs at face level. Be careful with frasquito, guys.
- No, you cried when everyone chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” after Villa’s second goal.
Kick your feet up and settle into Yankee Stadium, folks, because we’re here through the rest of the month. On Saturday we face Montreal Impact before the first international break of the season. (Which reminds me, I have a list of Croatian internationals I’d like to see on NYCFC, but that’s an impassioned plea for another time.) Until then, keep soaking up the win! We earned it.
Featured image courtesy: @NYCFC
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