(Portland’s Larrys Mabiala after he scored on Sunday – USA Today Sports)
New York City Football Club suffered its first loss of the season as they were shutout, 3-0, by the Portland Timbers on the road on Sunday night.
NYCFC, in first in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 5-2-1, with 17 points, one ahead of Atlanta (5-1-1, 16 points). Portland improved to 2-2-3, eight points, and they are in ninth place in the Western Conference.
Portland got on the board in the 27th minute when Sebastian Blanco dropped in a looping header that NYCFC defender Alexander Callens and goalkeeper Sean Johnson could only watch dip under the crossbar and into the far corner of the net.
It didn’t take long for the Timbers to double the lead, as Fanendo Adi tapped in the rebound at the back post after Diego Valeri had worked Johnson with a rip across goal in the 38th minute to make it 2-0.
David Villa got the start in this one for NYCFC, and he is chasing his 400th career goal. He came close in the 41st minute when he got off a solid chance, but it was tipped wide of the target by Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella on 41’.
In the second half, Portland had a set piece in the 66th minute, and Larrys Mabiala headed in the kick from Valeri to give them a 3-0 edge.
This was the first time NYCFC was shutout this season, and this was their largest defeat since Toronto beat them 4-0 last July.
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira:
On conceding so many goals in the last two games(2 in Atlanta on April 15 and 3 in Portland: “I think the first reason is the quality of the teams that we’ve played against. You have to give credit to the opposition team, how well they’ve been playing. I think today, we played against a team that prepared for the game well, who were well organized. We had the possession, but it was difficult for us to find space and they made it difficult for us. They scored goals in the period that it was difficult for us. All the credit to Portland.”
On the difficulty of playing in Portland: “Really tough. The atmosphere was really good. Today I think, when you have the home fans making that noise, it always gives that extra to the home team. The support that they had was really good today. I understand why they are really good at home.”
On dealing with Portland’s counter attack and making adjustments in the second half: “I think it was really difficult for us. They were defending quite well. They executed their game plan well. We were really vulnerable in the counter attack. With the quality of players they have, they scored three goals, but overall it was a really difficult game for us to find space. When they went into counter attack, they made it really difficult for us. I think our defensive transition wasn’t good enough. It was a day where we didn’t find the way to perform. I still believe that we have a good team and we’ve been doing some really good stuff since the start of the season, but of course, we think the game today shows that we still have a lot of work to be done.”
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson:
On the team suffering a first loss of the season: “Credit to Portland. They put away their chances today. I thought they didn’t have many shots on target, but the ones they did, they converted. We were punished in moments where we made little mistakes and it’s the first time we’ve really been punished as a team. There were a lot of positives in the match and we have to take a hard look at the match and analyze what went wrong and what went right. I don’t think it’s really a big step backwards for us. It’s more so a wakeup call. We have a little bit more to work on, actually a lot of things to work on. We can always improve, but on the day they were the better team and they came away with the win.”
On anything specific the team learned after today’s result: “Our mentality as a group. We knew the first half wasn’t good enough. To go down two goals on the road in a place like this, it’s not easy to come out of that hole. For us to have a bit more bite as a group. We take that responsibility on us as players because we were given everything to be prepared for the match, but we just have to find it within to come out everyday and compete the way we train every single day of the week. It wasn’t a match that defines us as a team and we’ll look to improve and more forward for next weekend.”
Portland Timbers Head Coach Giovanni Savarese
On his overall thoughts on the match: “[NYCFC is] a fantastic team and we knew it was going to be a very big challenge. They have been doing very well. I was very happy with the discipline, the maturity, of our team – in how they approached the match and especially how they worked through the entire match to get a complete result. Very proud of the guys today.”
On the game plan and how it was effective in this one: “We felt that we needed to change something for this match especially because of the way they play. But also we understood that when we had the ball we had to create the things we did well in the past few games. And the guys were able to execute in a very good way. There were some moments in the second half where they threw some different things at us. They pushed their fullbacks higher. The middles defended a little bit deeper. Overall the guys were very disciplined and I was very content and proud of the work they put in.”