Mauro Manotas celebrates Houston’s first-half goal. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — New York City FC is still looking for its record-breaking 16th win of the season.
City played the Houston Dynamo to a 1-1 draw before an announced crowd of 10,165 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field Saturday.
NYCFC (15-8-7, 52 points) was forced to play a home game 118 miles away from its usual venue, Yankee Stadium, because the Yankees have to play a make-up game against the Kansas City Royals there Monday. The stadium grounds crew needs 72 hours to turn a soccer pitch into a baseball field, so the game was moved.
“We had to travel from New York to here on Friday and got some training on the field just for players to get used to the field and the stadium and we treated it like an away game,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “But it was good I think the fans turn out you can see the support that we had in our football club is quite positive and it was good to see fans traveling and coming to support the team.”
Regardless how the third-place Chicago Fire (14-9-6, 48) fares at the Philadelphia Union in a later game Saturday, NYCFC will remain in second place in the Eastern Conference.
City started off strong, enjoying more opportunities in the first half, but walked into the locker room deadlocked at 1-1.
The hosts drew first blood in the sixth minute on midfielder Maxi Moralez’s fifth goal this season. Right back Andraz Struna, making his first NYCFC start, lofted the ball to Moralez, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Tyler Deric for a 1-0 lead.
Only five minutes later, forward Jack Harrison almost doubled the scored as he powered a shot off the crossbar.
The Dynamo (10-10-9, 39), however, equalized in the 16th minute on a quickly taken free kick. After Alex was fouled by Alex Ring, Vicente Sanchez immediately put the ball into play and found Mauro Manotas on the left side with Struna chasing him. With keeper Sean Johnson coming out of the net to cut down the angle, Manotas slipped the ball into the lower right corner.
“I think it was really smart, they just put their hand on the ball and played it quickly,” Vieira said. “We didn’t have anybody in front of the ball and I think we could avoid that goal, but I think you have to give them credit because they played that really well.”
Added defender Ben Sweat: “We just turned off for a quick second. We were confused. We were going to play from his whistle.”
Another close encounter in the 35th minute left NYCFC frustrated as David Villa fired a close-range shot over the crossbar.