David Villa scored his 20th goal to give NYCFC the draw. (Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Everything remained status quo or the battle for second place and a wildcard game bye in the MLS Eastern Conference Saturday night.
Second-place New York City FC overcame a one-goal deficit as it played a 1-1 draw at the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
Third-place Atlanta United (15-8-8, 53 points) wound up in a scoreless draw at the New England Revolution.
City (16-8-8, 56 points) earned a road point, remained three points ahead of Atlanta and frustrated the fourth-place Fire (15-10-7, 52), which needed the full three points in its quest for the second spot.
NYCFC and Chicago have two games remaining in the Major League Soccer season, Atlanta three.
“There are three, even four teams that can get that second spot. It’s really open,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said.
A questionable decision by City midfielder Maxi Moralez helped give Chicago the lead in the 20th minute. With the ball in the penalty area, the Argentine backtracked toward his goal and had the ball taken away by defender Matt Polster in the penalty area as Nemanja Nikolic pounced on the loose ball and scored a gift goal past Sean Johnson, his league-leading 21st of the season.
Moralez, however, atoned for his mistake in the 43rd minute as he set up David Villa’s 20th goal of the season. Villa danced into the penalty area. As defender Joao Meira and goalkeeper Matt Lampson fel to the ground, the NYCFC captain rounded both and knocked the ball into the empty net for a 1-1 tie.
“If you look at the first half, I think it was a really difficult game for us to play through,” Vieira said. “The way they organize themselves made it a tough game for us.
“We created a few situations, we had a few crosses where we were dangerous, and I think we created enough where we were at least trying to score a goal.”
In the 73rd minute, Moralez incurred a yellow card, which meant he will miss City’s road match at the New England Revolution Oct. 15 with a yellow-card suspension.
“After the international break, we need to get back ready to challenge in our last few games,” Vieira said.
“When you look at the last international break, we had a few players come back with injuries and it was a problem for us. I hope this time they come back where they left off.”