NEW YORK —The dash to the finish line could have been much easier, but New York City FC made things more difficult than they needed to be.
NYCFC won for the second straight week, defeating the LA Galaxy, 2-1, at Yankee Stadium on Sunday evening. While collecting three more points in the home opener was the biggest takeaway, NYCFC stressed after the match the need to close out games better.
Behind a stunning goal from Anton Tinnerholm and rebound effort from David Villa, NYCFC jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half vs. a Galaxy team that was largely lackluster. New York City was in cruise control and continued to create scoring chances, but a failure to put them away kept the Galaxy within striking distance.
Then, the Galaxy struck at the hour-mark to make things tighter.
“In this league when you don’t close the games, that happens,” said NYCFC captain David Villa, who netted the winner in the 33rd minute. “I don’t think Galaxy deserved the goal, because they scored when we are controlling the game, but they scored, they are only one goal down and they can hurt you.
“In this moment, some nerves kicked in for us.We need to learn about that and when we have a lot of chances we need to score to close the game because we could have closed the game in the first half probably. We have chances in the first half to close the game and make it 3-0 and make it much easier and no (pressure) in the last minute.”
It was not just a failure to finish that made for nervy moments for NYCFC on Sunday. The club also shot itself in the foot with two miscues on one play, which led to the Galaxy’s goal in the 60th minute from Jonathan dos Santos.
Playing to NYCFC’s trademark style of building out of the back, defender Ben Sweat got caught on the ball deep in his own third. Emmanuel Boateng then played a low ball into the 18-yard box that should have been claimed by Sean Johnson, but the goalkeeper’s hesitation to come off his line and attack the ball allowed for dos Santos to get to it first with a stabbed finish that beat Johnson at the near post.
“We complicated things for ourselves,” said NYCFC midfielder Yangel Herrera. “We played a great defensive game and then one error cost us.”
NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira did not share concerns over his team’s inability to close out the game in a stronger fashion. Instead, Vieira stated that the Galaxy’s talented players were the reason why the game was so close in the waning moments.
“I’m not concerned at all about that situation in the game,” said Vieira. “I think you have to give credit to the Galaxy’s front players. I think they worked their socks off, they make it really difficult for ourselves, and the quality of players they got, they’re always going to create chances.
“Sean made an unbelievable save in the first half, and you will concede. What is important for us is to keep creating those chances, because you will concede goals and when you manage to score one or two goals more than the opposition team then of course you have more chances of winning games.”
For NYCFC’s players, however, Sunday’s victory at home will serve as a lesson that can be applied during the rest of the season. The club knows it has to finish the job much easier when it has an opponent by the scruff of the neck, especially if NYCFC is live up to high expectations and potential.
NYCFC did not do a good enough job of icing the game on Sunday, and suffered to get over the finish line as a result. The club may have gotten the three points, but the hope now is that struggling to close out games does not become a habit.
“This will serve as experience for us,” said Herrera. “Now we just have to keep working and think about what’s to come.”