Mancuso: No Villa But NYCFC Has Johnson

Last season it was David Villa for NYCFC. The captain scored separate goals in two contests against D.C. United in a draw and loss. But NYCFC has moved on without their MVP. Villa  is playing elsewhere. In the home opener at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon, NYCFC continues to understand that Villa is not commanding their offense after the first two matches of their season.

It is evident that NYCFC is in this transition with new players. Scoring and taking charge was not evident as they played to a 0-0 draw on a cold field at Yankee Stadium.

They still have Sean Johnson. The All-star goalkeeper was crisp. Johnson made three saves and one against Luciano Acosta in the 83rd minute of play may have been a difference as the match remained scoreless.  Other than Johnson in goal, the offense, and without Villa, was not evident in the Bronx.

 New York City FC midfielder Alexander Ring collides with D.C. United defender Frederic Brillant as they fight for the ball during the second half at Yankee Stadium.Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This does not mean that  head coach Domenec Torrent will not make adjustments. Game three is next Sunday at Yankee Stadium against los Angeles FC and there could be another roster addition. For now, NYCFC can rely on Johnson to keep the games close.

“I’m very happy with Sean, not because his job is to stop the goals,: Torrent said, “He has improved every single day when we are trying to build from the back especially here at home.”

But for the last few years it was Villa who built this franchise. Fans chanted his name and he became the star in a city that has a share of many.  NYCFC reached the MLS Eastern Semi-finals the past two years but Villa did not re-sign. The striker from Spain opted to play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe and the Spain national team.

Without Villa, NYCFC started the transition. They are fortunate to have Johnson who frustrated D.C. with saves. His counterpart on the other side, Bill Hamid, was just as good. A draw is not as good as the win but a clean sheet from the goalkeeper prevented a loss.

“Bill and I go way back ‘till when we came in the league in 2010,” Johnson said. “We’ve been together along the way, so it was good to see him do well as well. I think it was a solid performance. I think it’s necessary when a team needs big moments, I think it’s important we keep teams off the scoreboard.”

However, Johnson can’t do all the work. Perhaps another striker is on the way for NYCFC and in the MLS players come and go. It’s not out of the question with this transition and without Villa commanding the offense.

We need to play much better,” Torrent said. “I prefer to play quickly, one to two touches, but I prefer to keep the ball and not play the long ball like the last game in Orlando.”

 D.C. United forward Paul Arriola  and New York City FC defender Alexander Callens fight for the ball during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last week in the season opener, NYCFC left Orlando after a 2-2 draw.

“If you keep with ball, with the idea to attack it’s good,” Torrent said. “You can’t pass the ball to pass the ball. Especially against a team like this, DC defends really well, they are one of the best teams when they defend and you have to play quickly.”

Johnson, thoug,h is in mid season form. He dove to his right in the opening minutes and made a stop. A few moments later, it was Johnson and his right leg stopping a right foot attempt from Paul Arriola.

Johnson said about his first and third goal saves,“They were all different. The first one was holding your ground as long as possible. The third one was tough, you’re moving one way, he tries to go back the other way. Just fortunate I was balanced and able to drop my knee and make a save. But important moments of the match helped us get a result today.”

However, NYCFC is aware the early schedule is important. Two draws are not wins and six points in those standings could mean a difference down the wire in early October. And with a team in transition, wins are that much better.

But one thing is certain, and after two matches it is known, NYCFC with Sean Johnson in the goal always has that opportunity for that one or three points gained in the standings.

They will try and get those three points next Sunday in the Bronx.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso





About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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