New York City FC traveled to the Mile High City to take on the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night. A weakened NYCFC lineup was on the field, as multiple players remain on the injury list. One name did come back to the fold, and it was an important one in David Villa.
NYCFC's most recent match saw the end of a lengthy unbeaten streak snapped when they lost against the Portland Timbers in Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, Colorado won their first match since July, so the teams were in different moods heading into the match on Saturday.
The visiting side had no fear of the infamous altitude in Colorado. NYCFC, who are known for their possession based game, did well to control the tempo early in the match. Andrea Pirlo linked with Maxi Moralez and both combined to create chances.
In fact, Pirlo and Thomas McNamara combined to get the games first goal. Pirlo made a simple, routine pass in the middle of the pitch to NYCFC's temporary captain Thomas McNamara. McNamara, who is known for his ability to strike a ball from distance, proved why he earned this tag.
McNamara picked up the ball, turned his body towards goal and took advantage of the empty space that the Colorado defenders left for him. The midfielder can pinpoint the corner of a goal better than almost any other player in MLS, and defenders continue to not shut him down. McNamara won't complain, and either will the rest of his club as they ran off celebrating the opening score.
The First of Many
NYCFC were heavily criticized for their lack of work in the academy system prior to the startup of the senior team. However, it did not take long for the academy to catch up and at this point exceed most other academies in the nation.
James Sands signed a homegrown contract earlier in the season, and on Saturday, he made his debut. The 17-year-old replaced Andrea Pirlo in the 67th minute and had an impressive showing. The U-17 USMNT player slid right into the midfield with confidence and completed passes with ease. A player of his age playing with what looks like a decade of professional experience is rare, and that is what has Patrick Vieira and everybody else involved in the NYCFC organization very excited.
Colorado's persistence paid off as they grabbed a late goal and won themselves a point with little time remaining. Just minutes after Sean Johnson made a huge save on Shkëlzen Gashi, the Rapids finally managed to beat the New York City FC goalkeeper.
Dominique Badji went on an excellent solo run and placed the ball expertly into the back of the net. Badji and the rest of his Rapids teammates celebrated their way to the midfield line as they were able to head home with a point in their back pocket.
Following the match against NYCFC, Colorado will travel to BC Place to take on the high-flying Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After the tough match up North, Colorado will go further south to take on FC Dallas at FC Dallas Stadium. Both tough games off the back of a match with a tough NYCFC side, Colorado will be hoping for as many points as possible over this tough stretch.
New York City FC will also be hoping to be picking up as many points as possible as they are one of few clubs who can still catch Toronto FC in the Supporters Shield race. First, they'll controversially host the Houston Dynamo at Rentschler Field. Following that, they'll travel to Saputo Stadium to take on Igancio Piatti and the rest of the Montreal Impact. Again, NYCFC believe they can catch the uncatchable and still win the Supporters Shield despite Toronto's impressive 11 match unbeaten streak and this stretch is the most important of the season for the Cityzens. Leaving Colorado with just one point though could greatly hurt their chances of lifting the Shield.