Heber chipped Tim Melia for NYCFC’s second goal. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
BRONX — New York City’s 3-1 win over 10-man Sporting Kansas City Friday night could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.
MLS all-star midfielder Maxi Moralez left the match with a leg injury early in the second half of the game at Yankee Stadium.
There was no confirmation about the severity of the injury, although there was some speculation that Moralez injured a hamstring muscle.
“He came up to me in the first half and said he could play maybe nine or 10 minutes,” NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent said. “But in the first action he said it was impossible to play…Maybe we will miss this player for two or three games, I don’t know because we have to wait and see what exactly will happen to Maxi.”
NYCFC captain Alex Ring, who missed the win at the Colorado Rapids due to a suspension, led the way. He set up City’s first two goals and added an insurance goal in the 77th minute.
“I say many times, maybe sometimes its better when he plays number eight or number ten in a 4-3-3,” Torrent said. “But we played 5-3-2 in the last 30 minutes and I think it’s a good chance for Ring because he has this quality. He can play right all the time. He has to control the ball and after that he helps us when we don’t have the ball.”
Anton Tinnerholm and Heber scored on either side of halftime to lead NYCFC (9-3-8, 35 points), which moved into a third-place tie with idle D.C. United in the Eastern Conference. SKC (25), which is in 10th place in the Western Conference, fell to 6-9-7.
After a slow start, City took control of the match and it eventually paid off before the break.
Tinnerholm finished off a what can be called a team goal because so many players touched the ball prior to the finish in the 41st minute as he knocked home Ring’s short cross from the left side.
“From the build up and how we scored that goal, it is exactly how we want to play,” Tinnerholm said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the build up, how we worked our way through the penalty area, it was an amazing goal. I don’t remember every pass, but we started from Sean [Johnson] and we train every single day at the training facility [like this]. That’s a goal that shows how we want to play. But there are eleven opponents on the field, so it’s not that easy to score that kind of goal. Like Dome said, that’s how we want to play.”
Heber doubled the hosts’ lead in the 54th minute as he took a pass from Ring and chipped goalkeeper Tim Melia from atop the box for a two-goal advantage. Heber, who has found the net in five consecutive matches, has nine goals this season.
“These players, it is easy to play with them,” Heber said. “They have a lot of talent, Mitriță and Maxi Moralez, they are the brain of our team. Of course, you have Keaton, Ring, and everyone, they made it all happen.”
Seven minutes later, Kansas City found itself further behind the eight ball as midfielder Roger Espinoza was slapped with a red card for a reckless challenge on center back Maxime Chanot.
Originally, referee David Gantar had awarded Espinoza a yellow card for the foul — the midfielder’s second yellow of the match — before switching his ruling to a straight red after taking a look at Video Assistant Referee. That mean Espinoza, who played in only his second game since returning from an April injury, would sit out KC’s next match.
“When they had one player less, we could have more people play and this is our game,” Heber said. “When we have possession of the ball and you make a lot of passes, you create chances.”
Despite playing a man down, the visitors made life interesting in the 73rd minute off Johnny Russell’s corner kick. Benny Feilhaber, on the far left side of the box, headed the ball to Ilie Sanchez, who nodded the ball from close range past goalkeeper Sean Johnson to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Ring, however, gave City some much-needed breathing room in the 77th minute by hitting a 23-yard strike to the lower right corner to restore the hosts’ two-goal margin.