(David Villa surrounded by the red of the Chicago Fire – USA Today Sports)
New York City Football Club gutted out a crucial 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
After a scoreless first half, one marked by NYCFC having a player sent off in the 12th minute leaving the a man down for the rest of the game, they wasted no time getting on the board in the second half.
In the 47th minute, Jonathan Lewis fired a pass from the right corner to David Villa at the top of the key. Villa got the ball in midair and sent a rocket into the net to make it 1-0.
A key on the play was Maxi Moralez screened the goalkeeper, giving him no chance to corral the Villa strike.
Two minutes later, off a free kick by Maxi Moralez, it was Frederic Brillant who headed one in to make it 2-0 NYCFC.
Chicago wasn’t done, and they got one back just a few minutes later, in the 54th, when Michael de Leeuw slipped one by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson to make it a 2-1 game.
In the 61st minute, Moralez was taken down just outside the box by Chicago defender Johan Kappelhof. A free kick was awarded, but NYCFC couldn’t take advantage.
In the 66th minute, Johnson was caught out of the net and it was defender Ethan White who made a big stop to preserve NYCFC’s lead.
Brillant took a yellow card in the 86th minute, and Chicago had a free kick just outside the box on the left side. Juninho took it and shot it over the bar into the first-base line seats behind the net.
In the 91st minute, Juninho rang one off the post from 30 yards out. That brought up memories of Wednesday night, when Toronto tied it in the final minutes to walk out of Yankee Stadium with a 2-2 draw.
With the win, NYCFC improves to 11-6-4, with 37 points, now just within one point of second-place Chicago, who drops to 11-4-5.
Villa said of the win, “It’s amazing…This was a very important day for the club. I think in the three years (of NYCFC), this is one of the best performances of the team…I think we showed to everybody today that watched our game that we are strong.”
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira said, “I saw a team who didn’t want to lose the game, even when we went down with 10 men.”
A lot of the early focus was on German international star Bastian Schweinsteiger, in his first year with the Chicago Fire.
Fans in the crowd could be seen wearing Schweinsteiger’s various jerseys with the German national team and Bayern Munich, and he received the biggest ovation in pregame introductions.
Just 12 minutes into the game, he was part of an early game-changing moment, as he got clipped by Yangel Herrera at midfield and went down.
Herrera was given a yellow, his second of the match, equaling a red card, and he was done for the afternoon, leaving NYCFC a man down for the final 80 or so minutes of the match.
NYCFC defender Ben Sweat was injured in the 37th minute, falling to the ground outside the box, and had to leave the game. He was replaced by Mikey Lopez.
In the 38th, Chicago’s Michael de Leeuw was trailing NYCFC’s David Villa and fell onto him. They looked for a penatly on de Leeuw, but the referee called nothing.
Villa drew a yellow in the 43rd when he was taken down by Chicago defender Joao Meira.
The attendance was 26,025 on the sun-drenched afternoon.