NYCFC players celebrate Alexander Callens’goals. (Chris Bergmann/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — New York City FC players walked out of Yankee Stadium with some mixed emotions Saturday afternoon.
On one hand, they were quite proud of the way they battled and just about laid siege to the Atlanta United goal for a good portion of the second half of their MLS encounter
On the other hand, they were disappointed and frustrated that they could not muster more than a 1-1 draw in battle of Eastern Conference giants.
City dominated its southern foes in so many ways you might have lost count, in a similar way in that you might have lost track of the home team’s shots.
For the record, NYCFC outshot its foes by an absurd 25-6 margin (including 19 shots from inside the penalty area). It placed 13 shots on target to Atlanta’s two. The team possessed the ball 67.2 percent of the time in the second half. It enjoyed a 13-1 margin in corner kicks. And, it hit the woodwork three times.
“It felt like in the second half it was one team on the field and for me it was ridiculous that we don’t win this game,” NYCFC defender Anton Tinnerholm said. “I think this is one of our best games this season and now we’re down here and talking to you and we still just got one point and it’s frustrating and disappointing.
“I feel that we did everything,” said captain David Villa, whose header helped create Alexander Callens equalizing goal in the 77th minute. “I don’t know how many chances we created in the 90 minutes, but I can only count one that they created, that being the goal. We deserved to win.”
As it turned out, Villa got no argument from Atlanta head coach Gerardo Martino.
“It was a hard point and unfair,” he said. “It’s probably the first point we’ve taken without deserving it.”
He then explained why.
“Because I think New York was the better team in the second half,” he said. “Up until Josef’s goal it was pretty much even but after that New York became the better team.”
That would be Josef Martinez, who tallied in the 48th minute to lift the visitors into the lead.
The game was a contrast in halves. The first half had but a handful of chances for both teams combined. After Atlanta took the lead, NYCFC woke up and played with a purpose, essentially taking control of both ends of the field.
The hosts would pass the ball around, look for a good shot, fire away and somehow Brad Guzan found a way to either block, parry, punch or kick the ball out of harm’s way.
“Guzan was fantastic,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “I think he was the man of the match.”
Sometimes an Atlanta defender or midfielder would gain possession, but would lose the ball in the midfield and the process began again and again and again.
And to add to NYCFC’s overwhelming second-half performance, it hit the posts three times, including one by Maxi Moralez deep into stoppage time.
“The goalie was very lucky,” he said.
Guzan had a slightly different take, adding humor to his comments.
“Things weren’t going our way,” he said. “Bounces weren’t going our way. Uh, I shouldn’t say that because a few went off the post. Just good goalkeeping, right?”
Vieira put it into perspective, saying everything came out in the wash.
“I think you just have to look at games where you really don’t play well and we manage to win the games,” he said. “I think that is the balance during the season. You always have these types of games but for me, this game is more of a win than anything else. The result didn’t go in our way, but the way that we played, the number of chances we created, we will win more games than draw or loss with that kind of attitude and that kind of game plan and that kind of positiveness. So yes, we can be frustrated because I think there was a spirit to win the game, but on the other side, playing like that, we’ll manage to win more games.”