There was no way NYCFC should have come out with the 2-2 draw that they did against EMELEC. Their defense leaked from the corners and errors grew from the back like unwanted weeds in a rose garden. But the Blues took something away that they can draw on in 2017, heart.
They willed their way back against a team that was opening their new park, the Estadio George Capwell in front of 40,000 partisan fans who sang non-stop for hours before, during and even after the game.
The first half of the contest was a video of everything that was wrong last year. A soft defense that was a step short despite having Matarrita and the newly arrived Peruvian Alexander Callens. The goal play of Sean Johnson was dangerous as he tried to short pass to defenders who were guarded tightly and his refusal to kick it out nearly caused goals early on.
But these are thebirth pangs that must come before a blessed conception.
“We’re very happy, obviously the result is not what we’re looking for, but we’re not ready yet,” David Villa said, “They are a really good team, physically they are better than us because they are playing in the league and we have only 15 trainees.”
Emelec was that for sure keeping David Villa and Jack Harrison off the coresheet while generating smooth transition on offensive counters coming close to scoring a few times until finally hitting one with Ayrton Preciado scoring in the 41st minute with NYCFC down to ten men when James Sands was getting treatment on the sidelines after an impressive game as the16-year old along with Andrea Pirlo handled the midfield, the only area that looked solid this evening.
But when Preciado scored again in the 54th minute, NYCFC went to the reserves. They responded. In goal, Erik Johannson kept Emelec off the board the rest of the game and in the last twenty minutes, the Blues drew a line in the Ecuadorian sand and fought back.
Sean Ugo Okoli, the 2016 USL MVP fed off the atmosphere and thrived in a setting that normally should make young players timid.
But Okoli found space and shot a lefty rocket from way out there and with such velocity that it deflected off off goalie xx shoulder and into the nets.
“I just wanted to make an impact and after the first run I peeled off the defender,” Okoli said, “He played me in and I took a touch to prepare myself. I love the outside curling shots so I just went for it and lucky it went in.”
The goal that evened matters came off of the foot of 27-year old John Sterzer who didn’t get much of a chance in four years with Real Salt Lake took full advantage of an R.J Allen cross to John in front of goal where he handled it and popped in to score putting a smile on NYCFC head coach Patrick Viera’s face.
“I quite liked the answer which we gave in the second half,” Patrick Vieira said, “The young players came through and didn’t show no fear and played the game respecting what we tried to do the last fifteen games.”
All in all it could have been a depressing night but NYCFC found a way and the youth movement was the key as the blues leave Guayaquil in good spirits. David Villa was satisfied with the result.
“We’re happy, we played well and we are on the road. It was a great game and experience for us.”
Now NYCFC returns home as conquering heroes of sorts to rest some then head to Tuscon, Arizona where they well play in the Diamond Desert Cup against the New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids.