(NYCFC’s David Villa with a header on Sunday night in LA – USA Today Sports)
New York City Football Club tied Los Angeles FC, 2-2, on the road Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium.
NYCFC is now 6-3-2, with 21 points, tied for second place with the Columbus Crew and four points behind Atlanta for the top spot in the East.
In the 12th minute, NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm took a shot from outside the box that struck LAFC’s Edward Atuesta’s outstretched hand, resulting in a penalty confirmed by Video Assisted Review.
David Villa took the penalty kick, and LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller made the stop, but Villa followed up with a diving header to earn the 402nd goal of his career to make it 1-0 NYCFC.
NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira said of the handball being missed by the official, “I’m not going to complain today about it, but I think we want the referee to make the right decision. I think what was really smart about the referee’s decision is that he went to go check himself and he decided it was a penalty. Today it helped us, and maybe the next game it will be against us, but it allows the referees to try to make the best decisions for the sake of the game, and it is good.”
LAFC put on a lot of pressure after that, and in the 23rd minute, a header from Walker Zimmerman deflected off NYCFC’s Sebastian Ibeagha and past goalie Sean Johnson to tie the game at 1.
A few more chances started to pop up with the game becoming more and more open as the first half wore on, punctuated by a big block by NYCFC’s Alexander Callens to deny Diego Rossi an open look on goal from close range in the 34th minute.
During the final few minutes of the opening 45 minutes, NYCFC’s defense held firm as LAFC parlayed their home field advantage into some dangerous opportunities.
It was NYCFC came out quick to start the second half, breaking into the final third and creating a big chance on a quick counterattack. In the end, Villa flashed a curler just wide of Tyler Miller’s net in the 49th minute. Just a few minutes later, a similar situation would arise, with Villa sliding a pass across the box to Maxi Moralez, whose shot nearly skimmed the crossbar on its way over.
Both sides creating scoring opportunities in transition would become a theme as the night progressed, with the second half proving a considerably more wide open affair than the first.
LAFC very nearly found the back of the net in the 62nd minute, as Laurent Ciman’s long-range free kick blast took a deflection and clanged off the outside of Sean Johnson’s post, while NYCFC threatened from corners through the first twenty minutes of the half.
LAFC broke through in the 66th minute, when Carlos Vela reacted quickest to a loose ball scramble in the box to score from close range.
NYCFC would have a comeback in them. In the 75th minute, a quick brea resulted in a deflected Anton Tinnerholm cross, which Ismael Tajouri-Shradi pounced on at the back post, and smashed his shot off the bottom of the crossbar to equalize.
On NYCFC’s very next trip down the field, Jesus Medina found himself one-on-one with Tyler Miller with a chance to take the lead, but Miller made an excellent save to deny Median after he was slipped through by Villa.
NYCFC would continue to pose a major threat on the counter in the final ten minutes of the second half, and a blizzard of chances at both ends would cement this match as a nail-biter right to the very end.
LAFC got a major chance in the 90th minute as Carlos Vela’s header was just barely redirected over the bar by goalkeeper Sean Johnson, and once again in stoppage time when the Vela sent one across the mouth of goal to no avail.
Vieira said of LAFC providing a good test and his thoughts on their new facility, “It’s a really good stadium, a really good football (soccer) stadium. It was unbelievable. What I love about the stadium is the feel – the feel to play and to allow the fans to see a good game of football. They’re the type of games fans deserve to see. I think it is one of the best teams we’ve played so far in this league. They possess the quality and the pace and the ability to create. I am really happy going back to New York with the point – it’s a really good sign.”
Villa said afterwards, “The game was difficult. We played against a good team. I think good soccer was played between both teams – there was a lot of intensity and at the end of the game, I think we saw what both teams were capable of on the field.”
On how the team bounced back after their 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls in their prior game, “Yes, it’s hard. It’s been a difficult week after everything that happened the other day with the Red Bulls. The team reacted well after a difficult week. We are trying to forget what happened there every day, but it’s always going to be complicated. But what’s important is that the team came out playing energized and has had moments in the game where it has stepped in and taken its place on the field. It’s important for us to get this point.”