BRONX — The mark of a good team?
You win when you don’t have your top players.
Add a comeback from a one-goal deficit in the opening half and you have New York City FC’s latest result, a 2-1 triumph over the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Despite playing without its top goal-scorer, striker Heber (quad), and its playmaker Maxi Moralez (hamstring), City (16-5-9, 57 points) grounded out a win as it extended its unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1) and its Eastern Conference lead to six points, before the Philadelphia Union (15-8-6, 51) and Atlanta United (15-10-3, 48) played Saturday night.
Moreover, NYCFC clinched home-field advantage in the first-round of the MLS playoffs as one of the top four teams in the conference. Whether it will be held at the stadium, it remains to be seen how far the Yankees go in their postseason.
Without Moralez in the Starting XI in eight previous matches, NYCFC was on an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3), with its last winning match with out the talented midfielder in 2017.
The Quakes found the net first in the 20th minute. After a lead pass by Magnus Eriksson, Valeri Qazaishvili sent a short feed from the right wing that Chris Wondolowski poked it in with left foot from five yards past goalkeeper Sean Johnson. It was Wondo’s 14th of the season as he continued to add to his all-time MLS total (158 goals).
Some six minutes later, NYCFC came close to knotting things up when Gary Mackay-Steven’s shot smashed off the crossbar before an announced crowd of 20,679.
After that it was all uphill for the Quakes as City struck twice within a three-minute span to grab the lead.
First, a San Jose throw-in was sent to Keaton Parks, who raced about 50 yards untouched down field toward the right flank. He sent the ball to Gary McKay-Steven, whose shot was kick saved by goalkeeper Daniel Vega. With Vega still on the ground, Keaton Parks had no trouble slotting home his first goal of the season for a 1-1 deadlock in the 40th minute.
Only three minutes later, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi launched a perfect through ball that Alexandru Mitrita latched onto. Mitrita split the defense and deposited the ball from the top of the box for a 2-1 NYCFC advantage.
City captain Alex Ring managed to get a shot past Vega, who was on the ground, in the 65th minute. As the ball slowly rolled to toward an unattended net, midfielder Judson cleared it out of harm’s way to keep San Jose within striking distance.