Photo by Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
By MICHAEL PENG
NEW YORK — New York City FC could not have found a better way to pick itself back up.
Just days after getting swept by its crosstown rivals Red Bulls and miring below the playoff line, NYCFC picked up a crucial win on Thursday night, defeating Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United, 3-1, at Yankee Stadium.
Two goals in the final 10 minutes turned the game around for the hosts as David Villa and Kwadwo Poku provided a crowd of 28,262 some electricity down the stretch.
Villa’s game-winner came in the 80th minute when Andrea Pirlo intercepted a D.C. pass near the midfield and connected with Villa, who was working his way into the box. Villa quickly launched a shot, despite being sandwiched between two defenders and beat goalkeeper Bill Hamid to the bottom-left corner. Pirlo also registered his first MLS assist in the process.
The exclamation point came eight minutes later when Poku made a long run into the box and unleashed a shot that slipped under Hamid to provide NYCFC with some insurance.
The outcome certainly came as a pleasant surprise to the home supporters, considering D.C.’s goal that opened the scoring put the home team in a familiar, compromising position.
Chris Rolfe’s interception in the 36th minute led him to a 2-on-2 situation down the field along with Alvaro Saborio. After Rolfe worked around NYCFC defender Jason Hernandez, he calmly laid the ball over to Saborio, who put it away to give D.C. just its eighth away goal on the season.
NYCFC had its first chance to equalize the contest shortly, though, when Poku made his first significant impact on the game.
After receiving a long pass from the backfield, Poku powered his way into the box and cut around two D.C. defenders before he passed to a wide-open David Villa on his left. Villa’s shot, however, went to the only place it shouldn’t have as it was cleared off the line by Bobby Boswell.
NYCFC went to the break down 1-0 but Poku’s influence spilled into the second half, and it did not take long for the home club to finally capitalize on his brilliance.
Working from the midfield, Villa launched a swerving pass down the field and found Poku on the run. The Ghanaian midfielder dribbled into the box and worked around a sprawling Hamid before he found Tommy McNamara in front of the net for the equalizer in the 50th minute.
Poku’s assist on the score upped his season total to a team-leading seven, despite the 23-year-old midfielder making just four starts on the year.
The win snapped a short two-match losing streak but put NYCFC in optimal position to fight for a playoff spot again.
NYCFC returns to action on Wednesday, Aug. 19 when it travels to Columbus to take on the Crew, while D.C. resumes league action on Aug. 22 when it hosts San Jose.