Valentin Castellanos celebrates his first-half goal with Heber. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
BRONX — Well, it wasn’t as dominating as its Sunday win at D.C. United, but New York City FC will take the win and three points.
Valentin Castellanos scored in the ninth minute to boosted City to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire before an announced crowd of 21,791 at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson recorded his second consecutive clean sheet.
The result lifted NYCFC (2-1-5, 11 points) over the Fire (2-3-3, 9) as it recorded its first winning streak of the season, however modest.
NYCFC again used three center backs.
“I think the players are feeling more comfortable and I also feel comfortable as coach,” head coach Dome Torrent said. “I think the prior matches before the winning streak went well. I think we have a system that the players enjoy. We have good quality players. It does not always mean that we will always use the system of play. It all depends on the opponents we are facing. However, the matches where we have used this system have been successful.”
In fact, Johnson has three shutouts in his last four matches.
“When playing three-back to five-back, whatever you want to call it, it gives guys the ability now to use their ability, use their talent, to not only go forward but also defend,” he said. “Now we have a lot of cover as well so we should be getting better just playing the system in the past few games. I’m happy with the boys defense, it’s been a good couple of games, this one’s a bit more of a fight. You need to win the games like this sometimes, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic was given his marching orders by referee Robert Sibiga in the 80th minute, apparently after saying something to the man in the middle.
The win was tempered by an injury to Costa Rica international defender Ronald Matarrita, who was forced from the game with an apparent calf injury in the 31st minute. Matarrita has a history of injuries as an NYCFC player. He missed the 2018 World Cup with a torn hamstring. He missed four months with a broken right foot in 2017.
Castellanos, who started in the place of injured midfielder Alexandru Mitrita, found the range on a pretty play. Heber, who has had a hand in City’s past three goals, sent a perfect pass to a sliding Castellanos, who put the ball past goalkeeper David Ousted.
“Honestly it was a very good attack, we did everything good and luckily it went in,” Castellanos said.
That's how you kick off Bronx Borough Night… an early lead for the Boys in Blue courtesy of Taty Castellanos
Posted by New York City FC on Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Video courtesy of NYCFC Facebook page
The hosts dominated the match early on in the opening half but allowed the Fire to get back into the game.
Chicago had a couple of goals by C.J. Sapong nullified, one via offside, the other either offside or a handball in the penalty area.
“I’m disappointed,” Ousted said. “I thought we could have gotten more out of it. We came here with an idea of getting points away from here but the way it shaped up tonight, it wasn’t to be. I think we put in a lot of work but we fell shy.”
Maxi Moralez had a golden opportunity to give City some breathing room in the 90th minute after he was knocked to the ground by former Germany World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, who received a yellow card. On the ensuing penalty kick, however, Moralez’s attempt was saved by a diving Ousted, who went to his right on the play.
Moralez has missed two penalties over a two-day period, hitting the post vs. D.C. Sunday.
NYCFC complete a three-game in seven-day stint as it will host Orlando City SC at Yankee Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday.