New York City FC hit the road to take on Minnesota United FC as their hunt for the season’s first win went on to game no.6.
While the Loons were celebrating the opening day of their new stadium, Allianz Field, NYCFC remained focused on the task in hand… bringing home a positive result to New York.
NYCFC’s starting XI saw four changes. While Alex Callens was still out with an injury, Maxi Moralez made his comeback after two weeks of being out with lower leg tightness. In Callens’ place, Tony Rocha made his first start of Season 5 in a back three with Maxime Chanot and James Sands, while two additional names that found their way into the starting XI were Ebenezer Ofori and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
NYCFC’s first attempt came on 8’ when Anton Tinnerholm created City’s first chance with a run in from the right flank and a shot that went through the legs of a Minnesota defender, but unfortunately, Vito Mannone was there to stop the effort on the line.
At the other end, Minnesota United took advantage through Osvaldo Alonso, who struck the first goal of a crazy game in the 13th minute, putting the Loons up 1-0 from close range.
Three minutes later, NYCFC responded with a goal from Valentin Castellanos on an assist from Tajouri-Shradi. It was a great ball from Isi, who lofted it over the last defender for Taty to take a touch and fire into the far corner past Mannone.
The duo struck again on 18’ but this time the combination was reversed as Castellanos flicked the ball back to Tajouri-Shradi who banked it in the back of the net at the second time of asking to make it 2-1 to the road team.
A crazy first half continued when The Loons came back in the 20th minute with a break away goal by Angelo Rodrigues, putting the teams neck-to-neck at 2-2.
An unfortunate moment put the home side back in front on 32’ when Sean Johnson took a heavy touch off Ebenezer Ofori’s back pass and put the ball into his own net, making it 3-2 at the interval.
Going into this game we prepared for a winter storm, but fans were instead met with a storm of goals with Allianz Field seeing five in its first 45 minutes as a soccer venue.
With the second half to come, Alexandru Mitriță came in off the subs bench for Rocha to add power to the NYCFC frontline.
It made an immediate impact. NYCFC flew out of the blocks in the second period and looked dangerous right from the first whistle through to full-time.
Castellanos tore through the Minnesota United defense and rounded Mannone to find the back of an empty net on 59’, but after VAR the goal was disallowed for a handball.
The hunt for the equalizer continued and when it came it was no less than City deserved. This time, Tajouri-Shradi did it all on his own, bending his free-kick in from an acute angle on 64’ to make it 3-3.
Although Johnson made a big save with 10’ to go, it was NYCFC who edged the match and probably deserved the three points on the balance of play – however, Dome Torrent’s men had to be satisfied with a fifth draw of the young campaign.
NEW YORK CITY FC HEAD COACH DOMÈNEC TORRENT
On solving goal-scoring scoring issues, but also conceding goals…
This is soccer, sometimes if you want to attack all the time you have problems when you have to defend. I am very proud with my players because they fought until the last moment. It was not easy to play here, Minnesota United has a physical team. In the second half we played better. One point is not enough for us. But I told my team, ‘if you are able to play that way in every stadium you will get a point.’ I am happy with a point.
On making a halftime adjustment to the lineup…
We played five in the back and we had more problems in the first half and not the second half, especially on the left side. We decided to change because we need to get points. We played with four in the back in a 4-3-2-1. We had more quality in the forwards and our defenders played well. Especially James [Sands], he was a fantastic player for us today, and the last game and he can play as a holding midfielder, as a center back. But the most important thing for us is the way we play, but the pity is that we needed points and one point was not good enough for us.
On scoring goals in the game today…
We need to keep working in this way. Our forwards are working amazing in the training sessions, they are able to score goals and today was one of the first games where what happened in the training session happened in the game.
On not being upset about the own goal…
Sean Johnson is amazing, he has personality. After we concede the goal, because everybody conceded the goal, we played amazing. He played with confidence. That’s the most important thing, he has the personality to keep playing with the top teams. I’m very proud of him, because it’s not easy after that happens to play with confidence. The problem is when we play poorly or don’t play with confidence. I am very proud of him, because it’s not easy to recover quickly after that.
On the team’s resilience…
That is the reason I am very proud of the team. It’s not easy when we need a result and everybody knows, it doesn’t matter what happens, I told them to keep calm because we have quality. It’s better for us to play this way.
NYCFC GOALKEEPER SEAN JOHNSON
On what he recalls happening on the own goal…
Going back to the play, I think there’s no point in making excuses. Mistakes happen, it’s about responding to it, there was a lot of game left to play and the boys in front of me responded in a big way. I think all game, everybody fought until the death. We had guys coming off injured that were giving everything, so I’m really happy that everybody had my back today, and it was an important point for us, but obviously disappointed to let the guys down in that moment, but things happen, and they know. I apologized to them, put my hand up, and we moved forward. Everybody assured me that they had my back today, and we were able to come back out with a point.
On if how NYC responded to everything today was the most important takeaway of the game…
Yeah, I think that’s important. I think that a game like this, I don’t want to let my mistake take away from what the team gave today. I think from front to back, everybody that came on the pitch, I think the effort was there, we played a confident game, in moments we weren’t scared to make mistakes. I think having that confidence over the course of 90 minutes is what’s going to enable us to get over that hump. We were ever so close to come away with three points today, and we pushed and we pushed and we pushed, but I think that confidence is there with everybody, and I don’t think this game is going to do anything that’ll set us back. I think if anything, it’s going to drive us forward.
NYCFC MIDFIELDER JAMES SANDS
On being able to play back at his old center back position today…
Yeah, I felt used to it. I played there for two years so it wasn’t that uncommon for me.
On the changing of defensive shapes between halves…
Well the first half it was kind of a five in the back, or three in the back where I was the middle guy. And then in the second half, it was obviously a traditional four the back. Both kind of have their pros and cons, but I would say it was a little easier for me in the back four knowing where the line is, but I would be happy to play both.
On if he felt like he was ready for winning the amount of physical battles that he had today…
Yeah, I feel like I’m always ready for a physical challenge. Their striker was a big guy, so I think if I can handle him, I can handle almost anyone.
On being able to show people traits he has that we haven’t seen before…
I think different games call for different aspects. Today was obviously a lot more defending, kind of 1v1 situations, and I think I did well, but as always there’s stuff I can improve on.
On how competitive this game felt compared to the previous five matches…
I would say, especially because of the atmosphere, that they were super hyped up. They’re a physical team to start, so with that added energy, I think they were really ramped up, but I think we did a good job dealing with that.
On encouraging Sean Johnson after the own goal…
No one wants to go through that, but it’s going to happen to all of us at some point or another. I think it was good of Anton [Tinnerholm] especially, it shows that people have your back, and as I said, mistakes are going to happen, but you’re going to have to move past it. I thought he played great the rest of the game.
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