New York City FC traveled to the StubHub Center to take on the LA Galaxy for the first and only meeting between the two sides this season on Saturday. NYCFC were forced to play without their star playmaker, Maxi Moralez. Replacing a player of his calibre would not be easy, but luckily the blue side of New York had Thomas McNamara who finished the 2016 MLS season with five goals and nine assists to replace the Argentinian creator.
NYCFC won the most recent meeting between the two about a year ago at Yankee Stadium. That match saw David Villa score the only goal in a 1-0 win. Los Angeles headed into the match hoping to improve on a very weak home record in the 2017 MLS season.
Scoreless First Half
NYCFC started brighter than the home side but LA had the better of the opening 45 minutes. The New York side held a large bulk of the possession to the start match but struggled to create any real chances due to Maxi Moralez's absence. LA eventually grew into the match and had the better of the first half.
Los Angeles had five corner kicks in the opening half hour and unlike New York, did not struggle to create chances for themselves. Romain Alessandrini was a large part in his sides success as he created chance after chance.
Fortunately for NYCFC, goalkeeper Sean Johnson brought his A-game to Los Angeles and stopped every chance created by the Frenchman. The heroics of Sean Johnson made it nearly impossible for the Los Angeles side to break the deadlock.
NYCFC Strike First
Patrick Vieira must have had a fiery speech for his NYCFC side at halftime as his boys came out with a new look. Just nine minutes into the second half Jonathan Lewis scored his first MLS goal. The rookie picked the ball up, took on three LA Galaxy players and got the ball up and over LA Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe. It took a moment of true individual brilliance to beat the Galaxy backline. Lewis ran off in celebration before eventually being taken off for Khiry Shelton, who recently returned from injury.
Following Lewis' beautiful goal and a few more key saves from Sean Johnson, the captain showed why he leads the golden boot race. El Guaje cut the ball back onto his left foot and placed the ball out of Brian Rowe's reach. This was David Villa's third goal in three meetings with LA but this was without a doubt the best of the bunch. It was the first real chance of the match for the 2016 MVP and with no surprise, he converted. David Villa's 18th goal of the season has fans wondering if he can break the single season goalscoring record.
Despite two brilliant goals from NYCFC, the lead would not be possible without some heroic saves from Sean Johnson. He put in what was unquestionably his best performance in an NYCFC kit. The former Chicago Fire keeper came up big any time a question was asked of him.
Again, even with two moments of individual brilliance from both David Villa and Jonathan Lewis, Sean Johnson delivered a man of the match type of performance to put his side second in the MLS standings. Sean Johnson is exactly what NYCFC have needed since the club's inaugural season, a goalkeeper that can bail them out in tight games.
New York Keep Rolling
NYCFC have lost just two MLS matches since the end of May and Saturday's performance tells you just why. Having a player like David Villa in your XI promises goals. Having players like Yangel Herrera and Alex Ring in the middle of the pitch promises trouble for any midfield in the entirety of MLS. Oh, and of course if you can cope with all of this, you still have to get the ball past Sean Johnson.
The last two games for NYCFC proved that the side are contenders and not pretenders. On the back of a come from behind victory including a David Villa hat-trick in the most recent edition of the Hudson River Derby, NYCFC proved once again on Saturday that they can be the best. Despite missing a key player in Maxi Moralez, the team began creating chances in the second half of the match. NYCFC have multiple players who can create and plenty players who can score, and the rookie Jonathan Lewis proved on Saturday that he can do both.
After Saturday's win in Los Angeles, NYCFC will fly home and prepare to take on the New England Revolution at Yankee Stadium. After two straight impressive performances the New York side will head into the Revs match with confidence. Following that, NYCFC will travel to New Jersey for the third and final MLS meeting between Hudson River rivals, the New York Red Bulls.
LA Galaxy, who are low on confidence will now travel to Columbus to take on Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium. Despite Saturday's loss to NYCFC, with just one home win for the Gals in the entirety of the 2017 MLS season, maybe they'll be more comfortable at Mapfre. Whether they're more comfortable or not, this LA side is desperate for points and will hope they leave Columbus with all three.