Three games, three draws for New York City FC.
The Bronx Boys have been unable to hold two leads, the latest resulting in a 2-2 draw versus LAFC at a chilly Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Three games do not a season make, but NYCFC will want to improve on its ability to close out matches and to hold onto leads. It was just two weeks ago in the season opener that NYC blew a 2-0 lead against Orlando City, another 2-2 draw.
Cooling Off a Hot LAFC
Red hot LAFC came into a chilly Yankee Stadium in the Bronx sporting a perfect 2-0 record to face a New York City team still looking to find its feet in the wake of the departure of David Villa.
New York’s backline looked vulnerable in the early exchanges with star striker Carlos Vela momentarily left open in the second minute, before a last-ditch tackle snuffed out his chance. Moments later, Vela’s cross found Walker Zimmerman wide open steps from Sean Johnson’s goal, but the center back missed badly on his golden opportunity.
The home side survived those early troubles and began to show some menace of their own with newcomer Alexandru Mitrita and Maxi Moralez providing the impetus. Mitrita repeatedly brought the fans to their feet with his dribbling prowess, and it looks like New York scored well with its newest DP.
Still, for all their huffing and puffing neither team really tested the goalkeepers until Sean Johnson came up huge to deny Vela on a shot that was destined to dip under the N.Y. crossbar if not for Johnson’s intervention at the half-hour mark.
With Sunday’s news that USMNT presumptive number one Zack Steffen has been withdrawn from the U.S. squad for a pair of upcoming friendlies with what is being called a minor injury, Johnson’s continued good play will give U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter something to consider.
The breakthrough finally came in the 39th minute from Mitrita with the first goal of his MLS career, and what a first it was.
The diminutive Romanian took a pass from Moralez and turned on the jets to run at the left side of the LAFC defense. When Mitrita slammed on the brakes his markers flew past and Mitrita blasted his chance past a helpless Tyler Miller in the L.A. goal.
Even more frustrating for NYCFC was that they gifted the goal to L.A. with Maxine Chanot heading a clearance directly to Latif Blessing. When Blessing found Vela unattended the goal was on despite Mitrita’s best effort to close down the star striker.
That 1-1 scoreline held up until the short whistle setting the stage for a dramatic second half.
Second Half Changes, Same End Results
LAFC coach Bob Bradley removed an ineffective Christian Ramirez at the start of the second half in favor of Adama Diomande, while NYC boss Dome Torrent oddly waited until the 49th minute to yank midfielder Ebenezer Ofori for fullback Ben Sweat, a move that saw Ronald Matarrita slide up to midfield with Sweat taking over left fullback duties.
Both teams had chances in the early going of the second half with Mitrita denied in the 60th minute by a key block from L.A. defender Danilo Silva. But Silva could do nothing to prevent New York captain Alex Ring from blasting to the net just one minute later.
In fact, New York substitute Sweat victimized Silva with a strong run to the end line, keeping the ball in play despite Silva’s close attention, before his pass found Ring in front of Miller’s goal.
But once again New York could not hold the lead. This time the culprit was Sweat, who took a wild swing at the ball in a mad scramble at the NYCFC 18 yard box, connecting with Blessing rather than the ball. This gave LAFC a penalty kick in the 74th minute.
Johnson has a good record on saving pks, but Vela sent the big keeper the wrong way and cooly leveled for the second time.
In the end, Torrent may have been happy to escape with a draw, with two late L.A. chances coming close. First, in the 89th minute, L.A. defender Eddie Segura flashed in front of Johnson’s goal but his sliding shot sailed high.
Nervous times for New York but it nearly got worse when a miskicked clearance from Chanot fell to Diomande just a few yards from goal. Chanot was spared from his mistake when Dio blasted wide, saving the defender further blushes and allowing NYCFC to claim at least one point for their afternoon’s work.