New York City Football Club won 2-0 against the Philadelphia Union after NYCFC scored first for the third time this season.
Alfredo Morales got his first Major League Soccer start today when he lined up for NYCFC. Sebastien Ibeagha also got his season debut for The Blues tonight against the Union. Both got yellow cards in their debuts.
Early NYCFC goal sets foundation
The first half started off strong for NYCFC as they showed up just after four minutes into the game. Maxi Moralez had the ball at midfield after shaking off a challenge. He passed it to Jesus Medina after getting into the final third. Medina waited for Anton Tinnerholm to run by him on the right wing and laid it off right to Tinnerholm as he passed. The pass made both Jack Elliott and Matt Real attempt to cover the Swede, which left Medina open. Tinnerholm would return the ball right back to Medina, who shot right under Andre Blake to net the first goal for NYCFC.
Just about ten minutes later, at the 16th minute, Jose Andres Martinez challenged Valentin Castellanos in the midfield. Castellanos was holding out his arm to try and block Martinez, so Martinez attempted to swat it away multiple times. One of those swats got Castellanos right in the face. The challenge was reviewed under Video Assistant Referee. Martinez was shown the red card after the review finished, putting the Union down to 10 men.
Chances for Philadelphia were few and far in between. Any chance they got was shut down just before the final third. Alexander Callens held the line alongside James Sands as the Union would continue to attack the left wing. Sean Johnson only got one save in the first half, which was an easy catch off of a light cross from Alejandro Bedoya. Ball movement and possession were the focus in this half.
Major possession, minor finishing
The majority of the half would be under NYCFC’s control. At the end of the first half, NYCFC had 69.4% possession, with nine shots and 90.2% passing accuracy. Three of those nine were on target. The Union had no shots in the half.
NYCFC just needed to score one more goal to put the game away. Coming back from 1-0 with 10 men down is much easier to swallow than 2-0 down.
The early second half brought chance after chance. NYCFC struggled to put any of these chances away though. Castellanos particularly had trouble putting away chances given in the first half and didn’t improve in the early second. The lack of finishing shined a spotlight on NYCFC’s weak spot. That’s their lack of a proper number nine in the team. Someone to put away chances when given the opportunity.
Philadelphia started to attack more with some crucial substitutions in the 61st minute. Kacper Przybylko and Leon Flach came on to put some vigor in the side down a man. It almost worked too when they the Union were able to get their first real chance all second half around the 63rd minute. Johnson was stretched a bit, but the play ended in a goal kick.
NYCFG finally take their chance
Just a couple minutes later, at the 65th minute, Castellanos would finally take an opportunity. Gudmundur Thorarinsson crossed a ball in, which was hit up by Elliott. As it came down, Jakob Glesnes tried to hit the ball off his chest to Blake, but it was too weak. Castellanos took advantage of the soft touch, dribbled it past Blake and Robona’d it into the net to put NYCFC up 2-0.
From then on, NYCFC would continue to hold their lead while keeping Philadelphia to a limited number of chances. Nicolas Acevedo and Malte Amundsen came on to keep the energy high for the Blues. Quinn Sullivan, just 17 years old, came on for Philadelphia at the 85th minute as well. Two final subs came in Andres Jasson and Vuk Latinovich at the 91st and 92nd minutes respectively.
NYCFC ended the game with 66.9% possession, 23 shots with seven on target and 89% passing accuracy. While the game showed the Blues outstanding ability to keep the ball moving throughout the pitch, it also showed how much a proper finisher is needed in this team.
New York takes on Orlando City Soccer Club at Exploria Stadium on May 8. The broadcast can be watched on ESPN.