For New York City FC coach Jason Kreis, a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on Saturday night was the ideal response.
Fresh off a disappointing loss to the New York Red Bulls last weekend, the expansion team traveled to Montreal with just 16 available players because of injuries and international call-ups, but they still gutted out a fourth win in five games.
“It was really critical that the guys dug deep,” Kreis said. “Sometimes you just need to have guys work extremely hard for each other, and that’s what the guys did tonight. I’m really pleased with the effort, and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward.”
Leading by example was captain David Villa, who struck for a brace for his seventh and eighth goals of the year.
“We had a difficult week, starting with the derby loss last Sunday, which was tough for the team,” Villa said. “The rest of the week wasn’t easy, as we had many injured players. The team responded very well and were able to leave a difficult place with three points.”
Against the run of play, Villa put NYCFC in front in the 34th minute with a low shot inside the far post from a difficult angle. However, after intense and lengthy pressure, Montreal equalized from the penalty spot after Thomas McNamara was ruled to have handled the ball in the box.
But after Ignacio Piatti put away the penalty in the 77th minute, NYCFC responded in the right way just five minutes later. Villa earned a dangerous free kick from 24 yards out, and Spain’s all-time scoring leader then curled his low attempt around the Impact’s five-man wall to put his team back in front for good.
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“As a striker, you need to always try to do the best for your team and in this case score goals,” Villa said. “I was able to score two, which helped us win, so I’m happy.”
Despite not having an available defensive substitute, NYCFC defended resolutely. Josh Saunders had a season-high eight saves as the Impact outshot NYCFC 25-5. Shay Facey and Kwame Watson-Siriboe both sacrificed their bodies to block shots.
“I’m hoping that we can continue forward with this momentum,” Kreis said. “To know that we now have won four of our last five, there’s a lot of positives to draw from this. The biggest positive we’re going to have to remember is that it takes this kind of effort to win matches in this league.”
Dylan Butler covers New York City FC for MLSsoccer.com.