Jack Harrison tallied his second goal of the year for NYC FC. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
CHESTER, Pa. — New York City FC moved into first place in the Eastern Conference while the struggling the Philadelphia remains firmly ensconced in the basement.
Goals at the start and end of the second half made sure of that, boosting City to a 2-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium Friday night.
Jack Harrison scored seven minutes into the half and David Villa connected on a 53.5-yard chip shot over goalkeeper Andre Blake in the 90th minute that will make the highlights of many sports reports in the world. It is the longest goal ever scored in Major League Soccer since date has been kept by ESPN.
NYC FC (3-2-1, 10 points), which recorded its first road win of the season, is actually tied on points with the Columbus Crew (3-2-1, 10), but gets the nod over superior goal differential (plus five to plus two).
The Union, which was booed by the crowd of 16,553 after the final whistle, remained winless (0-4-2). The team hasn’t won a regular season game since last August.
“Philly, in the first half, made it really difficult for us,” City head coach Patrick Vieira said. “We were trying to play, but the way they were closing us down. They were going to be aggressive and we needed to be patient.
“In the second half, we found a bit more space because they ran a lot in the first half. We knew that in the last half hour, we’d create more chances because of the way [Philadelphia] was working in the first half. That was part of our game plan and I’m glad that it worked.”
The teams battled to a halftime scoreless tie, but the game certainly deserved at least one goal.
Both goalkeepers were called into action.
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NYC FC’s Sean Johnson gathered in a 22-yard roller by Chris Pontius in the 23rd minute and was forced to parry away Alejandro Bedoya’ blast from distance four minutes later.
Blake was just as sharp, as he dove to the left to deny Jack Harrison in the 19th minute and Maxi Moralez in the 30th minute. Villa started the latter sequence when he smashed a shot from the middle of the box that was blocked by Jackie Marquez’s hand while the defender was falling to the ground. But there was no hand ball call for a penalty kick, much to the amazement of the 2019 World Cup champion.
In fact, Villa certainly wasn’t too happy with the officiating as he twice was kicked in the ankles in the opening half. On the first occasion, Jack Elliott, getting his first Union start, was slapped with an obvious yellow card in the 25th minute. Villa fell to the ground when he was kicked in his left ankle in the 30th minute, but no foul was called.
At halftime, Patrick Vieira said he liked what he saw from the Union.
“They are working really hard, fighting really well,” he told ESPN. “I think we gave them too much room with the ball. The midfield is too deep.”
Harrison finally broke the ice in the 52nd minute, connecting on a nice through ball by the overlapping Ronald Matarrita for his second goal of the season. The 20-year-old Englishman penetrated deep into the area and beat Blake.
“It was a brilliant ball by Mata,” Harrison said. “I made the run hoping he would see me and I saw us connect eyes before and he played a brilliant ball through. It was perfect and I just hit it hoping for the best and luckily for us it went in.”
It was Matarrita’s third assist in six matches this season, a huge number for a defender.
City had several opportunities to add to its lead within a six-minute span midway through the second half.
Blake denied defender Ethan White with a two-handed save in the 64th minute. Forward Rodney Wallace had to rue the fact he failed to put more mustard on his shot from inside penalty area that a Philly defender knocked away before Moralez fired his attempt into the stands in the 69th minute.
Blake continued to demonstrate why he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper in the league, stopping Villa to keep the hosts within striking range in the 83rd minute.
But in the 90th minute, Villa caught Blake standing too far out of the net and scored a golazo to seal the victory.
“I had a feeling [it was going in],” Harrison said. “I looked at it and then we all stood up on the bench and it went in. It’s just incredible.”
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NYC – Jack Harrison (Ronald Matarrita) 52’
NYC – David Villa (unassisted) 90’
PHI – Jack Elliott (caution) 25’
NYC – Alexander Ring (caution) 43’
NYC – Ronald Matarrita (caution) 55’
Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Ilsinho (Jay Simpson 78’), Roland Alberg (Adam Najem 71’), Chris Pontius (Fabian Herbers 60’); CJ Sapong
Substitutes not used: Jake McGuire; Raymon Gaddis, Oguchi Onyewu, Derrick Jones
New York City FC: Sean Johnson; Ethan White, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ronald Matarrita; Alexander Ring, Andrea Pirlo (Yangel Herrera 77’), Maximiliano Moralez; Jack Harrison (Khiry Shelton 71’), David Villa, Rodney Wallace
Substitutes not used: Eirik Johansen; Frederic Brillant, Ben Sweat, Thomas McNamara, Miguel Carmago