Maxi Moralez might have been down, but he certainly was not out as he tallied NYCFC’s second goal. (USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — With an injured David Villa sidelined, New York City FC managed to record its third win of the young Major League Soccer season Saturday.
Ismael Tajouri took advantage of a gift and turned it into a goal and Maxi Moralez added an insurance tally to lift City to a 2-0 win over Orlando City SC and former coach Jason Kreis at Yankee Stadium.
It was the first time in NYCFC’s four-year history that it won its opening three matches. City has scored three goals in each of its three victories, with a 6-1 margin over its opponents this season.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who has been in the net for every minute this MLS season, registered his second shutout.
“I think this game made me more happy than the other games we’ve played so far because in this one we kept our organization, we kept our discipline on the field and we waited for the right time,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “When they made their mistakes we took our chances and I don’t think it was our fault, I thought it was Orlando making it really difficult for us.”
Tajouri, playing for the injured Villa, struck in the 62nd minute, taking advantage of a blunder by the visitors. Midfielder Yoshimar Yotun sent goalkeeper Joe Bendik a slow backpass from the left side. Bendik misplayed and miskicked the ball and Tajouri intercepted his pass as the forward moved toward his right to find some space. When he did he fired home for a 1-0 advantage.
Moralez gave the hosts some breathing room in the 74th minute as he scored his second goal of the season, a 12-yard shot into the lower left corner.
The game seemed to be jinxed prior to kickoff as Orlando City SC arrived late to the stadium as it was caught up in St. Patrick’s Day traffic. The start of the match was moved back 16 minutes to 4:06 p.m.
NYCFC realized it was going to be an uphill offensively as Villa, the team captain, and defender Anton Tinnerholm were ruled out of the match just before kickoff. Villa had a low grade calf strain and was listed as day to day. Tinnerholm who had a lateral ankle sprain, also was day to day.
“It is difficult because we know what that means,” Moralez said about playing without Villa. “We have a very competitive team. Our coach can count on us that whoever is on the pitch will play hard. It is hard without Villa but today we did very well.”
There was little to write home about in the opening half although forward Rodney Wallace came closest to pay dirt as his right-sided header bounded off the right post in the 34th minute.
The match seemed to pick up in the early moments of the final half as Justin Meram barely missed the left post in the 52nd minute before Moralez came within inches of hitting the right post with a nine-yard shot two minutes later.
Will Johnson came close to spoiling Johnson’s clean sheet as he banged an attempt off the right post in the 86th minute.
Kreis felt Orlando City was doing just fine until it allowed its first goal.
“I think they were doing pretty well until we gave them the goal,” he said. “Unfortunately for me that is three matches that I think we are giving things away. The first match we gave up a goal from a throw in, then we end up with an ejection that was a poor decision. The second game we did the same thing, we couldn’t achieve a goal, and this game we smashed the ball to our goalkeeper and gave away our first goal. If we correct those small errors I think we will be okay.”
62’ – NYC – Ismael Tajouri
74’ – NYC – Maxi Moralez (Assisted by: Jesus Medina)
27’ – ORL – Cristian Higuita (YC – Unsporting Behavior)
28’ – NYC – Rodney Wallace (YC – Unsporting Behavior)
54’ – NYC – Alex Ring (YC – Unsporting Behavior)
83’ – NYC – Tommy McNamara (YC – Handball)
90’ – ORL – Richie Laryea (YC – Unsporting Behavior)
New York City FC: Sean Johnson, Ben Sweat, Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, Saad Abdul-Salaam; Yangel Herrera, Alex Ring, Maxi Moralez (88’ Kwame Awuah); Rodney Wallace, Ismael Tajouri (66’ Ronald Matarrita) (72’ Tommy McNamara), Jesus Medina
SUBS UNUSED: Brad Stuver, Ebenezer Ofori, Jonathan Lewis, Sebastien Ibeagha
Orlando City SC: Joe Bendik; RJ Allen (’76 Josue Colman), Jonathan Spector (46’ Lamine Sane), Amro Tarek, Mohamed El-Munir; Yoshimar Yotun, Chrstian Higuita (67’ Richie Laryea), Will Johnson, Sacha Kljestan; Justin Meram, Chris Mueller
SUBS UNUSED: Earl Edwards Jr., Scott Sutter, Cameron Lindley, Jose Villarreal