(NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
New York City Football Club got a huge win over the MLS Eastern Conference leaders, DC United, 3-1, on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium in what New York City FC Head Coach Jason Kreis called an “all or nothing situation.”
Kreis said of the importance of the win, “I made it clear to the guys that we had to have three points tonight. To get them is extremely important and I’m very happy with it.”
NYC FC goaltender Josh Saunders said of this being an “all or nothing” game, “I mean, if you’re building on this, say you have to win seven of the last 11, why not win the first one of the 11? It was huge for us, I would say all of them are must-wins from now on.”
This was a huge victory for NYC FC, as it came just four days after a bitter loss to the Red Bulls, the second-best team in the East, on Sunday night. With the victory, NYC FC improved to 7-11-6, 27 points, just out of the playoff picture, one point behind Montreal and Orlando City for the final playoff spot. They are down to the final ten games of the season, with six of those on the road.
The first half saw a few chances early, from DC’s Conor Doyle in the third minute, and NYC FC’s Mix Diskerud (16th minute) and David Villa (21st minute).
DC United broke through in the 37th minute when Chris Rolfe came down the left side of the field and sent it to the top of the box to Alvaro Saborio, who buried it to make it 1-0.
A minute later, NYC FC came very close to responding when Kwadwo Poku, on the right side, found David Villa, at the top left of the crease. Villa got it by DC goalie Bill Hamid, but Bobby Boswell was on the goal line to kick it away. That kept it 1-0 DC, and that was the score at the half.
NYC FC came out firing, as Poku blasted one from the top of the crease that Hamid made a big save on. A minute later, Villa sent a long pass from the NYC end to Poku, who was in alone, and he found Tommy McNamara, who drilled it to tie the game at 1 in the 51st minute.
NYC FC kept knocking on the door, with Villa getting a big chance in the 62nd minute, a shot that he took from the right side and just missed slipping inside the left post. A couple minutes later, Poku hitt a point-blank shot off the right post.
In the 80th minute, NYC FC got the kind of play they dreamed about. Andrea Pirlo was at midfield and he sent a long pass in to David Villa at the top of the box. Villa slipped between two defenders and got it by Hamid to make it 2-1 NYC.
Kreis said of that goal, “Spectacular, spectacular. Pirlo played a very similar ball to David (Villa) last week which was onside, which got ruled offside against the Red Bulls, so I think that we can expect to see more of that. Certainly, they have an understanding that has proved to be quite special on that goal. For me, that pass was David’s goal.”
In the 88th minute, Poku finally broke through and got a goal, as he slammed one home from the right side to make it 3-1 NYC.
Kreis said of Poku, who had a goal and an assist, “He was instrumental in almost everything good that happened for our team tonight. He should have had an assist in the first half, made a special play to set up David (Villa), unfortunately didn’t take his chance. In the second half, Poku was again involved in a lot of really, really good stuff, so for me, it was important to see him play well again and it was important to see him last through the 90 minutes. It looked like he had gas still to go, except for maybe those last couple minutes, but I think fitness-wise, and the difference that he’s making for us are both very good tonight.”
Poku said of scoring, “It was great because I missed a chance like 5 minutes before that chance and I was so mad. It was 2-1 and what was going on in my mind was like ‘man, you’ve got to finish this game somehow before they tie this game.’ So, I was upset for a little bit but when I got that goal it was like, finally, I can breathe now.”
Poku started this one in place of Frank Lampard, who was out with a quad injury, and he said of starting, “I wasn’t 100% sure, but anytime, I’m ready. We keep training every day. I’m ready as always. I don’t need anything. You just need to get your mind straight and when he told me I was starting this game, I was ready.”
Kreis said of what changed in the second half with regards to NYC being able to break down DC’s defense, “I think, for me, in the first half, we played quite well. We were unfortunate to not score the goal and to at least be level at halftime. It was discouraging that we had to go into another halftime and talk to the players being down a goal. We tried to encourage them and say that they were doing things well. I didn’t think that we were getting the right numbers of players involved in the penalty box. There were two or three balls that rolled right by the six-yard box where guys needed to be on the ends of those. I think tactically our outside backs weren’t getting forward at the right time, and I think that the introduction of (Andoni) Iraola (52nd minute) helped that situation a little bit because we need those guys forward if we want to have quality, attacking chances, and if we want to maintain possession in their half of the field.”
Poku said of what clicked in the second half between himself, Villa, and Pirlo, “They have been talking to me a lot and been telling me what I can do and where I need to improve and what I can do to come into the team more. I’m listening to them and I’m doing it. It’s working.”
McNamara said of NYC FC coming back in the second half, “We did a little bit better in the final third. I think in the first half, we got into a lot of good areas in the final third, but the last ball’s lacking or the decision on the last play in the final third wasn’t there. I think in the second half, we made real good decisions and we executed the final pass.”
NYC FC midfielder Mix Diskerud said of NYC FC coming back from a one-goal deficit at halftime, “It would be nice to start leading every now and then, instead of being down a goal, but it says a lot about the team, you know, it helps tremendously with the supporters, they just cheer on the whole time. Coming back every single time, it’s difficult, but we can do it, but of course, that’s not how we want to play, we want to score the goals and not let them score, but today was a game that we had opportunities. We had a lot of chances, we could have scored more than we did, but we won in the end, that’s the most important thing.”
NYC FC goaltender Josh Saunders said of their defensive effort in this one, “I mean, obviously, it’s a couple of execution plays, you make some good tackles, good defensive tackles. Jay (Jason Hernandez) made some good defensive plays in the back and cutting down on mistakes, cutting down on putting the ball in bad stops, and we did that tonight. We had good cover for each other, the fight was there, the will was there, so I think our intensity was good and that helped a lot.”
In the first half, Saunders played aggressively in going after some loose balls, and he said of that, “I think I changed my play a little bit after I got suspended in that Portland game. It’s faster for me to get quick direction to the ball with my feet, so I made a conscious decision to get back to being aggressive and going back and scaring people.”
Saunders said of the difference in having R.J. Allen starting in this one, “He played really well, kind of ran out of gas a little bit, but did his job, did a really good, and then Andoni (Iraola) came in and did a great job as well for us on the right side, so I think both of them did the job for us.”
Kreis said of the recent run of form, “I think our team has been doing some really nice things. I think attacking wise we’ve been quite good for many games now. We’ve let ourselves down defensively a bit, and I think that comes from having new players that have not played a lot together. I think 3 out of the back 4 are new players that are brand new to the team. We have Andrea Pirlo who is brand new to the team. We have Frank Lampard now who is brand new to the team. So obviously there are going to be some tactical changes. I am hopeful that we are sticking our flag in the ground right now and will move forward positively.”
Kreis said of this game being a measuring stick, “I think it’s an important win. It could be a huge win for us, and a season changer for us, and a momentum changer for us. I’m hopeful of that, and I’m hopeful the locker room feels the same way.”