New York City FC ensured its return to its home ground of Yankee Stadium was a successful one.
The club have had to temporarily set up camp across the Hudson River at Red Bull Arena through this most unusual of seasons, but made it a sweet homecoming on Wednesday, beating a struggling D.C. United 4-1 to record a third straight victory.
"It's an iconic stadium," said head coach Ronny Deila, who was coaching a game at Yankee Stadium for the first time. "We really miss the fans, of course. When we get them in there, it will be really great. It's a big stadium when you don't have any fans, so we have to make our own atmosphere almost, and I think the boys did that really good in the 2nd half, I think."
The teams were tied 1-1 at halftime but NYC exploded in the second half with three goals, including two from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
"We knew it was going to be very difficult to get through [their formation], but we scored a very early goal," the Libyan international said. "[Scoring early] was our goal, then we conceded a goal and knew it was going to be a really difficult game, really tough to get through them, but we kept going."
Highlights: NYCFC vs. D.C. United
While the match was played with no fans in the stands, the team was ready to get back to familiar settings, a venue where they lost only twice in the regular season in 2018 and 2019 combined.
"If you see last year, two years ago, we've always been very strong at home, so when we got the news we were going to get back, we were more than happy," Tajouri-Shradi said.
It was a very different story for D.C. United. Four days after a 4-0 home loss to Atlanta United, D.C. was forced to navigate a positive COVID-19 test in its ranks, something head coach Ben Olsen mentioned as a factor that naturally had an effect as they prepared to travel to New York City on Wednesday. Further tests performed on staff and players before the match meant the club had to wait for negative results until traveling to the stadium.
"Staff can handle that stuff, but that wears on players," Olsen said. "I give our guys a lot of credit for giving everything. That, I was proud of tonight, that they worked their tails off. The subs came in and gave a spark and worked extremely hard, but it wasn't enough against a good team."
Eventually, a D.C. team that remains rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference couldn't keep up with an NYCFC side that, despite missing key players to injury and international duty, have outscored opponents 11-3 in their last three games.
“Listen, they’re a quality team," Olsen said. "With some of the excuses I’m throwing at you with the day, I’m not taking anything away from that team. They’re missing some key players but there’s a lot of men on that field that understand the game They adapt really well. When you throw something at them, they’re able to adapt. You switch it up and they’re able to adapt again. They have good soccer players and they’re mature.”