New York City FC continued its impressive climb up the Eastern Conference table with a comfortable 2-0 road victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy Saturday afternoon in Carson, California.
New York was the better team from the jump, building a well deserved 2-0 lead with goals from Heber in the 44th minute and from a penalty kick from Maxi Moralez six minutes into first-half stoppage time.
NYCFC takes advantage of tired Galaxy
Playing their third game in seven days, the Galaxy looked lethargic, in particular, L.A’s 37-year superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who would finish the match in feisty form after a sluggish first hour or so.
L.A. came into this game looking for a little home cooking on the heels of a disappointing road trip that saw the Galaxy fall 3-2 at the New York Red Bulls and 3-1 at Columbus.
New York, on the other hand, appears to be a side that is finding itself thanks largely to the arrival of striker Hebert and the introduction of a three-back formation featuring James Sands, Alexander Callens, and Maxime Chanot.
With Sands back in the team sheet after missing the City’s 2-0 win last Saturday in Montreal, both elements were in place against the Galaxy in front of an announced attendance of 22,806 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Sands rebounds from U20 disappointment
Sands was playing with the disappointment of being passed over for the United States U20 World Cup team still fresh, as was L.A.’s 17-year-old wingback/fullback Julian Araujo and both players got the start.
High Press Soccer spoke to Sands about his U20 World aspirations following NYCFC’s 1-0 win over Chicago in late April at Yankee Stadium and the mature youngster was straightforward with his reply.
“Yeah, it’s in the back of my mind,” Sands conceded at the time, “but I haven’t really been part of that group.” “I’m trying to make a strong case for it,” Sands said, “but it’s not my decision.”
The man who made the decision, U20 coach Tab Ramos, told reporters in Manhattan on Friday, “I think Julian was a strong consideration, because in theory, when you look at the right back position where (Sergino) Dest is, there’s a possibility that if there’s an injury there, that’s the one position, probably out of the whole field, in which we have the weakest spot.”
As to Sands, Ramos has confidence in the players he selected, leaving Sands out of the picture despite his status as a regular senior player, a rarity among the central defenders on the U.S. U20 World Cup roster.
Moralez makes good after misses
After NYCFC dominated the first half, Heber broke the deadlock when he followed an Anton Tinnerholm blast that had been saved David Bingham in the L.A. net, beating the stationary Galaxy defense in the process.
Tinnerholm was at the heart of things again when his cross was handled in the box to set up a NYCFC penalty. Up stepped Maxi Moralez, despite having missed twice from the spot already this season, but this time Moralez got it right and the goal would be enough to secure a third win on the trot for the Pigeons.
L.A. would eventually get untracked when they began to rely on a simple game plan of pumping crosses into their big striker. Of course, Zlatan being Zlatan, he did get a couple of chances.
First Ibrahimovic was robbed by Callens with NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson in no man’s land, then in the 80th minute, the Galaxy striker rattled the crossbar.
Things got physical late, with Ibrahimovic lucky to stay on the field when he and Johnson got into a wrestling match in the New York goalmouth.
Each player received a yellow card but some – this writer for instance- would say that Ibrahimovic deserved the harsher penalty for some sort of choking, pinching move on Johnson’s neck.
Johnson was still unhappy with Ibrahimovic after the match, trying to get at him after the final whistle. In true villain style, Zlatan seemed to laugh off Johnson’s outrage but when all cools down Johnson and his teammates will be delighted with the three points while the Galaxy needs to figure out how to get back on track.