After New York City FC fell to Philadelphia and had the Hudson River Derby rained out last week, they turned their focus to a difficult match against the league-leading New England Revolution. Few expected the Revs to put together such a strong season, but they came to Yankee Stadium with a 15-point cushion atop the Eastern Conference, with eight wins and a draw in their previous nine matches.
New England came out on top 3-2 when the two sides clashed at Red Bull Arena earlier this season, with former NYCFC player Tommy McNamara scoring a winner in the 88th minute, shortly after New York had leveled the match. With the season now well underway and the playoff picture more clear, a lot more was on the line as New England returned to New York City.
The Revolution lineup had a few obvious absences, missing talented youngster Tajon Buchanan and Carles Gil, who was well on track to an MVP award before an injury sidelined him for all of August. Both were suspended one match for not appearing in the MLS All-Star Game, though Gil was recovering from injury and Buchanan was in the midst of signing with Belgian side Club Brugge.
Two Revolution players returned from the All-Star Game in LA, Gustavo Bou and GK Matt Turner, who helped the MLS All-Stars beat the Liga MX All-Stars in a penalty shootout.
James Sands also returned to the lineup for City, a solid defensive piece in a strong lineup.
Chances came quickly and often on both ends of the pitch, with New York and New England both sending shots over the bar in the first three minutes. Each side put together a handful of attacking moves, and while the game remained scoreless, both clubs threatened to strike first.
Just past the half-hour mark, it was Taty Castellanos who put New York ahead. A clever give-and-go to fellow Argentinian Maxi Moralez set up a perfect ball over the Revolution defense. Castellanos got his head to the ball, lifting it over Matt Turner and into the net. The linesman’s flag came up to call Taty offside, but a lengthy video review determined the goal would stand.
Past halftime, Castellanos found his second goal of the match. Once again it was Moralez setting him up, this time a perfect cross from the right side. The ball sailed right to Castellanos, who tapped it home just a foot off the goal line. This time no review was needed as Castellanos celebrated in front of the fans.
The brace brought Castellanos’ goal total up to 10 and Moralez’s assist total to eight, both leading the City squad in their respective categories. They’ve been consistent parts of a solid offense that now sits third in Major League Soccer in goals scored.
The New York defense has also been impenetrable, with Sean Johnson recording his 6th clean sheet of the year. City have conceded just 19 times all year, tied with Seattle for the best defensive record in the league. That puts them at a MLS-best goal difference of +17, a key part in New York’s success this season.
While they still sat 15 points behind the Revolution after the match, NYC is climbing the table quickly, still with extra games left to play. If they win all games in hand, New England’s lead could disappear quickly, especially with another contest between the two on September 11th. It will be the first and only match of the regular season in Massachusetts, where NYC have rarely found positive results.
New England will be back to full strength by the time they take on NYCFC, with the season series on the line. If New York can scrape out another win against the Revs, a favorable playoff seed is well within grasp.