Jesus Medina and Maxi Moralez scored for NYCFC (Amy Kontras/USA TODAY Sports)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — David Villa still hasn’t scored against Sporting Kansas City, but it certainly didn’t matter Sunday night.
Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina did the honors, leading New York City FC to a 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City in the MLS season-opener for both teams at Children’s Mercy Park.
NYCFC survived a nail-biting finish.
In the 79th minute, center back Maxime Chanot appeared to have taken down Daniel Salloi in the penalty area, but referee Mark Geiger, with the help of the Video Assistant Referee, ruled that it was not a penalty.
However, nine minutes later, Chanot fouled Gerso Fernandes just outside of the box and was given his marching orders, forcing the visitors to play the rest of the way with 10 men. The Luxembourg international will miss next week’s home opener against the LA Galaxy.
On the ensuing free kick from 19 yards, Felipe Gutierrez drilled a shot that goalkeeper Sean Johnson knocked off the crossbar, one of his many fine saved that perserved the clean sheet.
The win certainly went against the grain for two reasons.
NYCFC hadn’t beaten a pro team during preseason, going 0-2-2 and SKC had allowed less than a goal a game last season, no mean feat in any league, especially against a team that finished 10-1-6 at home in 2017.
Moralez lifted City into a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
Villa sent the midfielder a weighted ball from the left flank and Moralez managed to split a pair of defenders and slot the ball past goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Leading a 3-on-0 break, Villa almost gave the visitors a two-goal margin at the stroke of halftime. However, the Spanish striker’s shot was blocked by Cristian Lobato.
Johnson enjoyed a strong opening half, denying Gutierrez in the 13th minute and Roger Espinoza’s six-yard header in the 20th minute.
Only 54 minutes into his debut, Medina struck. Overlapping left back Ben Sweat crossed the ball into Medina at the far post and the Paraguayan midfielder slotted it past Melia to give any visiting team a rare 2-0 lead in KC’s home venue.
32’ – NYCFC – Maxi Moralez (Assisted by: David Villa)
52’– NYCFC – Jesus Medina (Assisted by: Ben Sweat)
23’ – NYCFC – Jesus Medina (YC)
34’ – NYCFC – Alex Ring (YC)
59’ – NYCFC – Sean Johnson (YC)
88’ – NYCFC – Maxime Chanot (RC)
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Meila; Cristian Lobato (73’ Jimmy Medranda, Matt Besler (C), Ike Opara, Graham Zusi; Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio (62’ Daniel Salloi), Yohan Croizet (57’ Gerso Fernandes)
SUBS UNUSED: Adrian Zendejas, Gerso Fernandes, Seth Sinovic,
New York City FC: Sean Johnson; Ben Sweat, Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinenrholm; Yangel Herrera, Alex Ring, Maxi Moralez (’89 Sebastien Ibeagha); Rodney Wallace, David Villa (85’ Ronald Matarrita), Jesus Medina (69’ Ismael Tajouri)
SUBS UNUSED: Ben Stuver, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kwame Awuah, Thomas McNamara