On a warm night in the Big Apple, Minnesota United FC got a police escort to Yankee Stadium for its first ever match against New York City FC. Minnesota came into the game playing its fifth match in 16 days. NYCFC also had to deal with a short week, having defeated New York Red Bulls 2-0 on June 24.
New York City FC, which struggled in its first season, came back strong and was right in the mix to lead the Eastern Conference. At 9-3-5, NYCFC sat just third behind Toronto FC and Chicago Fire. The home side featured such players as first overall pick Jack Harrison, Sean Johnson, Andrea Pirlo, and star striker David Villa.
NYCFC had been very strong at home, winning five of eight games, drawing two and losing just one at home this season. Minnesota, on the other hand, had lost six of eight away matches, drawing two and winning none. The Loons hoped to turn that around and nick their first away win of their MLS career.
Minnesota coach Adrian Heath was forced into making a defensive change, replacing an injured Brent Kallman with Jermaine Taylor. Beyond that lone switch, the lineup for the Loons was the same as the 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Ismaila Jome came onto the bench in Taylor’s place.
Ibson and Sam Cronin patrolled the midfield for the visitors, while Christian Ramirez spearheaded the attack. Miguel Ibarra, Kevin Molino, and Johan Venegas played supporting roles in the attacking midfield.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) June 29, 2017
NYCFC made two changes from its 2-0 victory. Defender Rónald Matarrita came into the back line, making his first start after an ankle injury held him out since April 14. The Jamaican international lined up at left back, with former NASL player Ben Sweat at right back.
Sean Johnson missed out due to international duty, so backup keeper Eirik Johansen took the sticks. David Villa started up top, flanked by Rodney Wallace and Harrison. A midfield of Yangel Herrera, Tommy McNamara, and Alexander Ring completed the 4-3-3 favored by head coach Patrick Vieira.
Smoke blew across the pitch as the Loons got the ball rolling. It was all New York City FC in the early stages of the match, with the Loons being forced into frantic clearances and last-ditch defending in the box. In the seventh minute, however, things started to unravel for the home team.
On Minnesota’s first attack of the game, NYCFC defender Matarrita went down and was slow to get up. After just eight minutes of his return from injury, Matarrita was subbed off for Mikey Lopez; Minnesota faced yet another back line scrapped together from backups due to injury and international duty.
Perhaps sensing blood in the water, Johan Venegas put a long shot on goal which was easily saved by Johansen. The second string keeper couldn’t hold onto the ball, though, and Christian Ramirez easily put the rebound home to give the visitors an early lead.
New York restarted the match and immediately pushed forward in search of an equalizer. The game was stopped again when Johan Venegas stayed down after falling to the turf. The Coasta Rican international was able to stay in the match, however.
NYCFC continued to dominate possession and set up camp in Minnesota’s half. The home team failed to create moments of real danger, as the preferred tactic was to send in crosses. While these crosses often found New York players, they seldom resulted in a shot on goal. The moments of most danger came when New York was able to work the ball into the box on the ground. This happened notably twice in the first half hour; once off a low corner and once on a chipped pass to Villa, who was still unable to put his shot on target.
Johan Venegas, in perhaps his strongest showing as a Loon, continued to have a good night. After creating the first goal via long shot, the attacker broke free of his marker down the left side and sent in a cross that just missed Molino. While not a glorious scoring opportunity, it certainly was a moment of danger for Minnesota. New York continued to press forward.
In the 38th minute, NYCFC’s continuous pressure broke through. Not surprisingly, the equalizer came not through a cross, but through working the ball in on the ground. Sweat was able to run into the box with control of the ball. Taylor was unable to keep up with the defender’s cutback, and Ibson’s sliding tackle fell short. Sweat lost control of the ball, but it rolled to Callens, who cooly slotted a shot past Shuttleworth to level the game.
As half time approached, Shuttleworth was called into action. He made a diving stop on a shot after Wallace lost his markers in the box. Johan Venegas stayed down after contact in midfield, inciting anger from Villa (who had been clipped by Kevin Venegas in the Loons’ box). The kerfuffle resulted in both Villa and Johan Venegas being cautioned.
That saw out the half, with the match even at one goal apiece. Minnesota spent the vast majority of the time defending in its own half while creating a few chances on the break. New York consistently pressured Minnesota’s back line, and the second half looked to have all the makings of a nervy, tense affair as the teams made their way back onto the field.
After an early foul led to a free kick for NYCFC, the home team earned a corner. As the kick went out for a goal kick, Cronin stayed on the ground clutching his right shoulder. After leaving the pitch for treatment, Cronin rejoined the team and stayed in the game.
Carrying over momentum from the first half, NYCFC took the lead just seven minutes into the half. In the 53rd minute, Wallace ran past Kevin Venegas on the left flank and sent an unmarked cross into the box. Harrison, with plenty of space as Jérôme Thiesson had drifted inward, headed the ball past Shuttleworth to give the home side the lead.
The Pigeons continued to dominate both possession and field position; the Loons’ only two attacks in the first 15 minutes were stopped due to fouls committed by the Minnesotans.
Things went from bad to worse for Minnesota in the 63rd minute. Villa latched onto a flicked pass, dribbled past Francisco Calvo and Thiesson before firing a shot past Taylor, Cronin, and Shuttleworth to double New York’s lead.
In hopes of turning the match around, Heath made his first and only change in the 73rd minute. Ismaila Jome came in for Miguel Ibarra. As the Minnesotan was making his entrance, Molino sent a through-ball to Ramirez, who slotted home. The goal was correctly called back however as Ramirez was offside.
Minnesota pressed forward, possessing the ball more than they had in the first half. New York sat back, content to defend the two-goal lead and play on the counter. Despite this tactical shift, United continued to look rather toothless compared to NYCFC, which continued to create the better chances of the two teams.
As New York defended and United pressed forward, the visitors were unable to threaten Johansen’s net. The official blew full time after four minutes of stoppage time. United took its sixth loss on the road, and continued to search for its first away win in MLS. The Loons face another short week, as they host Columbus on July 4.
Minnesota never looked like winning the match after Callens equalized in the first half, and never looked likely to gain a point after Wallace took the lead for NYCFC in the second half.
Adrian Heath put the blame for the loss on his defensive line. “We couldn’t cope with [David Villa] all night…. We can’t keep turning this [kind of performance] in away from home… The goals have been too easy for them.”
It’s hard to disagree. Though the Pigeons threatened throughout the game, all three goals came from defensive breakdowns by Minnesota. The first was poor marking from Taylor, the second poor marking by Kevin Venegas and Thiesson, and the third a refusal to tackle Villa from several of United’s outfield players. Christian Ramirez said as much to Jamie Watson, describing the build-up to New York’s goals as “a couple mental lapses.”
With one more match before the transfer window opens, United will hope to return to its winning ways on July 4, when it hosts the Columbus Crew.
Our budget three stars of the match! All NYC.
1. Alexander Ring
2. Jack Harrison
3. David Villa #NYCvMIN
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) June 30, 2017
New York City FC 3 – 1 Minnesota United FC
Stadium: Yankee Stadium
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. (CDT)
Weather: 79°, Partly Cloudy
Christian Ramirez (9’)
Alexander Callens (38’)
Jack Harrison (52’)
David Villa (63’)
Kevin Molino (23’, Unsporting Behavior)
David Villa (45’+4’, Unsporting Behavior)
Johan Venegas (45’+4’, Unsporting Behavior)
Rodney Wallace (68’, Unsporting Behavior)
Submit your match ratings for Loons away to NYCFC here: https://t.co/2eCOXWid6x
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) June 30, 2017
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