New York City FC traveled to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on Saturday night. Both teams had a lot to play for as NYCFC currently posses the number two seed in the Eastern Conference which will give them a first-round bye and they'd like to hold onto that. Chicago was just four points behind the New York club heading into the match and was hoping they could claw back and get the first round bye instead.
New York City FC proved back in July that they were probably the more serious contenders of the two as they beat Chicago 2-1 despite playing with 10 men for 78 minutes. The match took place at Yankee Stadium and was the only prior meeting between the two clubs this season.
Nemanja Nikolic entered the match with the Golden Boot race on his mind and meant business. The Hungarian found the back of the net for the home side in the opening 10 minutes but the flag had gone up and the goal was disallowed. The offside goal didn't stop his hunger as he continued to search for the game's opening goal and finally, he found it.
A huge mistake from NYCFC's Maxi Moralez allowed Nikolić to grab one of the easiest goals he'll score in his career. Moralez picked the ball up at the corner of his box, attempted to avoid pressure by dribbling around in his box while being harassed by Matt Polster and eventually lost possession in front of goal and Nikolic slotted the ball in from five yards out.
New York City FC, who looked lackadaisical for a majority of the first half, found their equalizer with just minutes remaining in the first half. As the half progressed, the side got better and better and inevitably found the back of the net.
David Villa scored his first goal since returning from injury and like Nikolic is still in the race for the golden boot as he slotted home his 20th goal of the season. David Villa picked up an injury while on international duty with Spain earlier in the month and has seen a goal drought since his return. Fortunately for him and his team, the drought has ended.
Maxi Moralez, who was at fault for Chicago's goal, made up for his poor half with a wonderful assist to David Villa. Maxi played a wonderfully weighted ball over the top of the Chicago defense which was chested down by David Villa in the box. The 2016 MLS MVP displayed his patience by rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home for his 20th of the season and more importantly for NYCFC, the equalizer.
Scoreless Second Half
Once again, NYCFC's attacking ability seemed a little dim tonight as the club has not scored multiple goals in a game since August 20th. Fortunately for them, Chicago failed to create many opportunities in the second half as well and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The second half was a snoozefest as not many chances were created, and the chances that were created were half chances for the visitors. Ben Sweat charging down the left flank and crossing the ball in was a common occurrence. Unfortunately for NYCFC, another common occurrence was the lack of a finishing touch.
Jack Harrison created a chance for David Villa that also lacked the final touch but none of these chances every really felt like the ball was going to end up in the back of the net. Chicago's lone chance was a counter attack led by Luis Solignac that was cut out by NYCFC defender Alexander Callens. A goalless half that forced both clubs to go home with just one point was the result.
Following the match against NYCFC, Chicago will prepare to host the Philadelphia Union, and if they want any chance to catch NYCFC, they'll view both the NYCFC game and the Union games as must wins. After that, Chicago will close out their regular season with a game at BBVA Compass Stadium as they take on a Houston Dynamo side who will likely be fired up as this game could determine if they'll be in the playoffs or not.
New York City FC, on the other hand, will have a pretty eased up schedule following the match in Chicago. First, they'll travel to Gillette Stadium to take on a struggling New England Revolution side which they'll hope to gain all three points from as they will continue to hold on to the first round playoff bye if they do so. Following that, they'll welcome Columbus Crew SC to Yankee Stadium to close out the season. This will be the first time in over a month that NYCFC will play at Yankee Stadium and they'll be hoping to reward their fans with three points.