Jack Harrison (left) made the most of his opportunity against Kansas City. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX, N.Y. — No Villa.
And no problem.
Despite missing those four players to World Cup commitments and injuries, New York City FC demonstrated its depth, talent and fortitude Wednesday night, grinding out a 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City in the rain before an announced crowd of 19,353 at Yankee Stadium.
Forward Jack Harrison struck off a RJ Allen cross from 12 yards for the game’s only goal to give City a big, big, big win as the side was missing nine players due to international duty, injury or suspension.
“What really made me proud about the win today was the consistency of the performance,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “It didn’t matter who was playing.”
The most promiment were four regulars who participated in World Cup qualifiers — David Villa (adductor muscle), defensive midfielder Alex Ring (toe), forward Rodney Wallace, in a double jeopardy because of a yellow-card suspension, and midfielder Yangel Herrera, who started in Venezuela’s 1-1 draw at Argentina Tuesday.
“Yeah, I mean, David is our captain,” said midfielder Tommy McNamara, who was the team captain, at least for one game. “He’s the best player in the league, so obviously we’re going to miss that. But it is what it is. These things happen in soccer and it wasn’t going to be an excuse for us.
“It was always going to be that the next person comes in and we believe in who we put on the field. And I think that everybody worked incredibly hard and I think that everybody preformed incredibly well today.”
Also injured were defenders Maxime Chanot, Ronald Matarrita and Ethan White, midfielder Mikey Lopez and forward Miguel Camargo.
That forced Vieira to be creative with his attacking positions, deploying a starting forward line that averaged 21.6 years — Sean Okoli (24), Harrison (21) and Jonathan Lewis (20). To fill out his bench, he used both back-up goalkeepers.
“I want to give credit to the team because the players didn’t give up,” Vieria said. “We’re always trying to play forward and score the goals and we managed to do that in the end.”
Even former Italian international Andrea Pirlo, who hadn’t started or played since the 4-0 shellacking at Toronto FC July 30, started.
Asked how Pirlo and McNamara performed in the midfield, Vieira replied, “Both of them played really well and worked really hard. They’ve been really smart with the way they’ve been defending and I want to give them a lot of credit because it’s not easy when you don’t play and you come in the game like that and you perform the way they did today. In the end, I’m not surprised because you have to see how those players work during the week. They just play the way they’ve been working this week and that’s what makes me so proud as a coach.”