Domènec Torrent’s men entered this showdown with Chicago knowing that a tie would be enough to sure up a place in the postseason.
However, perhaps even more pressing, was the need to grab all three points following a poor run of results, even if performances had improved over the past four.
Ebenezer Ofori, James Sands and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi all returned to the XI as City chased their first win since August.
The Boys in Blue made a strong start, with David Villa twice going close inside the first 10’, first warming Stefan Cleveland’s hands with a 30 yard free-kick, before going close again after a nice interchange with Anton Tinnerholm and Tajouri-Shradi.
Maxime Chanot was next to go close with a commanding header off a corner on 28’ but his effort was thumped the wrong side of the post, while at the other end, former Chicago ‘keeper Sean Johnson rescued his side with an excellent save from a Raheem Edwards bicycle kick.
With just one goal at home in their last two and a half matches, the drought went on through more chances for Chanot, Moralez and Villa as City did everything but score in a dominant first half.
For all the opportunities, eight in all for the home side, it was zeroes at the half once again as the levy refused to break.
It would take just two second half minutes for that to change, with Alex Ring firing in his second goal for the club with a superbly-taken strike, opening up his body to meet Villa’s cushioned pass first-time with a finesse finish past Cleveland’s despairing paw.
Just five minutes later, the advantage was doubled thanks to El Capitan, but this goal was all about Maxi Moralez who teased the left-back, dragging it back and forward on the byline, before crossing for Villa to thrash home.
It was no less than Torrent’s side deserved and they kept their foot on the gas, and although there were no more goals in the remaining minutes, those inside Yankee Stadium would’ve been content to see their team back to scoring goals and winning games.
Next up: A long trip to Minnesota as City aims to finish as high up the Eastern Conference table as possible with three games to go.
Torrent made three changes to his lineup, bringing in Ofori, Sands and Tajouri-Shradi
Alexander Callens missed the game vs. Chicago for yellow card accumulation
Alex Ring scored his second goal of the season
David Villa scored his 12th goal of the season
NYCFC HEAD COACH DOMÈNEC TORRENT
On the satisfaction of winning and clinching a playoff spot…
“First off I want congratulate the team, I was told that we are officially in the playoffs, which is very important. Also, I want to congratulate them on being able to win again, it was very important to win for our fans because with these last two games in Yankee Stadium, we deserved to win and sometimes it doesn’t happen because this is football…I think the team deserved to win again one game, I don’t want to be tough so I think we are in the right direction to be better for the playoffs.”
On having a sense of relief now that they won a game…
“Of course it’s very important for us to win the game for our fans, for our players because you have more confidence when you are able to win the game. Especially, today in the second half because in the first thirty minutes we didn’t play fast, we played very slowly when we had the ball. We improved a lot in the second half, especially in the first half we defend deep and in the second half we were compact and we were able to recover many balls, and create many chances.”
On changes in the second half…
“The first half we played very separated and slow, so when this happens they defend and play very comfortable and then when we had the ball we played too easy. In the second half we played together, and the defense was very high, we knew we could pressure each ball, we were able to recover many chances because the defense was very high.”
NYCFC MIDFIELDER ALEXANDER RING
On the goal…
“I mean, it’s always nice to score. I don’t score often, everyone knows that, so it feels special. But yeah, the most important thing is that we clinched the playoff spot today and we have to be happy about that and now we have a couple of games to find our rhythm. To find the flow that we need for our players. I think that we’ll be ready when [the playoffs] start.”
What did the clean sheet do to help you feel good about the result tonight…
“A clean sheet is always nice. In the previous game, we were dominate, but we couldn’t put the game away and lost points in the end. I think today, we were more patient, and we played in the same way as the two, three games before. But like I said, maybe the patience was the big factor that we didn’t necessarily have in the games before. Knowing that we had to create our chances and knowing that we just had to put them away. And we did that.”
NYCFC DEFENDER RONALD MATARRITA
On playing in a different position…
“It’s good for me and good to know that I have that versatility to play in different positions. Today I had to play on the wing and I felt great on the field and I think the team played well. I’m very happy with my performance and with the team’s performance.”
On today’s victory…
“Super happy. I think we needed it. The team came in playing well, although the recent results haven’t reflected that, today we came in and were much more decisive in the final third and that’s what matters, that we were able to pick up the three points.”
NYCFC FORWARD ISMAEL TAJOURI-SHRADI
On NYCFC’s game plan for tonight’s match…
“Our plan was to win the game. I think we did that very well. Most important thing is we [took] the three points and now we are definitely in the playoffs.”
On finally getting a win…
“The last few games was not our best. I think the performance was good, but we don’t take the three points, we don’t score the goals – I think that’s the problem. In football, you must score the goals and I don’t think we’ve been doing that the last few games. We stay always together, we stay like a team and we say ‘today we need to win a game’. I think the first half was not bad. We have a few chances and we could have scored one or two goals. But the second half, we played very well and at the end we took the three points.”
NYCFC MIDFIELDER JAMES SANDS
What was said in the locker room at halftime…
“Dome [Torrent] told us that it was a little slow. That we needed to pick it up a little bit. And I think right out of the second half, we scored some goals. And I think that is exactly the problem that we’ve had. So, I think once we corrected that, we became really good.”
Importance of wins after a slump…
“ You get a little bit desperate when you’re team is not winning. And it’s been awhile since we last won. So, I think this will go a long way. And I think everyone wants to build back to this so we can finish the regular season strong and get some more wins.”
On continuing to get first team minutes
“Definitely happy about that. If I can just keep getting minutes along the way, I think it’ll be a successful season for me.”
CHICAGO FIRE HEAD COACH VELJKO PAUNOVIC
On whether NYCFC did anything different to allow them to score the two goals…
“Obviously everyone tries to make adjustments at halftime and they did so in this occasion it worked better for them. We had a decent game in the first half. We were a good opponent and we also had our opportunities. And on the other side, the second half we didn’t start as well as we wanted. We crumbled and we wanted an opportunity to perform well. Our goal today was to definitely get points here. We had our game plan. After the second goal we tried to score at least one and come back in the game. We made some changes, but it didn’t work so two teams on the opposite sides. One clinching the playoffs. The other one staying outside. It’s been tough for us to accept that today but it is what it is, so we will move forward and will play next games always trying our best, always trying to win and do our best in every single game. That’s it.”
On whether NYCFC looked any different tonight from the last time they faced the team in Chicago…
“I think NYCFC had much more confidence here. I think that’s the same with every team in the league when they play at home. The other difference is that Villa is back. The other game he did not play so that makes things much more difficult for every team. But to be honest I didn’t feel like we couldn’t achieve, create opportunities or get to the right spots to have occasions to score so it was good. First half was okay. The second half was unfortunate, both goals were unfortunate, and without taking credit of NYC’s performance, but it’s obvious that we could have done better, so that’s it.”
CHICAGO FIRE GOALKEEPER STEFAN CLEVELAND
On his performance tonight…
“I think my distribution was pretty good. I made a couple mistakes. I think I made most of the saves I needed to make. As a team, I think we can definitely do better. Our goal is to keep the ball. You saw it in the game. We tried. I think we killed ourselves.”
1st half vs 2nd half Chicago Fire performance…
“I think we started the second half with a bad mistake. It always hurts when you give the other team a goal and then trying to play catch up from there is never easy. Especially away here at Yankee Stadium against a very good New York City team.”
On getting settled as a starter in MLS…
“I have done this one thousand times in my head before but actually being here, being on the field when the whistle blows, it’s different. I’m getting more comfortable, getting more confident. The guys are helping me out a lot. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys in front of me to help me out with my confidence.”
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