NEW YORK — New York City FC still needs a little help this weekend, but the second-year club did its part on Friday night in hopes of clinching its first playoff berth.
Behind a brace from David Villa and tallies from Jefferson Mena and Steven Mendoza, NYCFC topped the Chicago Fire, 4-1, at Yankee Stadium to temporarily reclaim the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Results from several other conference teams on Saturday will determine whether City gets early claim on one of the six postseason spots, but in the meantime, Patrick Vieira’s squad has stretched its unbeaten streak at home to seven matches, winning six of them.
NYCFC got off to a flying start on Friday night as goals in the eighth and ninth minute got the home crowd of 25,011 fired up early.
Ronald Matarrita sent well-placed lob into the box off a corner by Andrea Pirlo and connected with an airborne Khiry Shelton. Shelton’s headed pass back across the middle found Mena, who volleyed home the opening goal.
On the reset following the opener, a miscue in the backfield saw Shelton — who was making his first start since May 29 — set up David Villa for his 18th goal on the season.
City was knocking on the door for a third goal, but it was the visitors who broke through next as Luis Solignac headed home a cross from Arturo Alvarez in the 35th minute.
NYCFC’s offense slowed down considerably following that tally, but in the 45th minute, Villa was able to break away off a corner in the backfield before finding Mendoza in stride just outside the box. The 24-year-old Colombian forward had options on both sides, but opted for a long-range effort with his left foot and curled the shot past a lunging Sean Johnson to restore the two-goal advantage for the home team.
The second half saw the Fire play on their heels most of the way with NYCFC threatening to increase the lead on several occasions. Villa finally found the fourth goal for the home side in the 83rd minute when he curled a shot past Johnson for his 19th goal on the season.
City will go on a two-game road trip beginning at Houston on Friday, Sept. 30. The Fire, on the other hand, will head to Seattle for a mid-week tilt with the Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
MAN OF THE MATCH
After tallying a goal and two assists in his previous three matches as a substitute, Khiry Shelton got his first starting nod in almost four months and made an impact immediately. His assists on both goals — with a chance for a score of his own in the second half — showed the importance of his pace and delivery in the NYCFC lineup.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
David Villa‘s goal in the ninth minute happened so quickly that most of those in attendance at Yankee Stadium might’ve missed it. Just seconds after the reset following Jefferson Mena’s opener, the NYCFC captain doubled his side’s lead, setting the tone of the evening for the home team.
MATCH TO FORGET
The Chicago Fire backline was exposed in more ways than one by NYCFC on Friday night. Michael Harrington and Rodrigo Ramos had trouble stopping attacks from either flank and the center backs of Joao Meira and Johan Kappelhof struggled to read the City’s passes in the attacking third.