NEW YORK – The Pirlo and Poku party in the Bronx was impressive, but the three points New York City FC earned in a 3-1 win over D.C. United Thursday night was especially important.
NYCFC faced a deficit at halftime for the 12th time this season, but for the first time rallied to win, pulling within one point of the playoff line in the Eastern Conference. Sixth-place Montreal has three games in hand.
“I think this can be a really huge win for us and a season-changer for us and a momentum-changer for us,” NYCFC coach Jason Kreis said. “I’m hopeful of that and I hope the locker room feels the same way.”
That they did.
“It was huge. This is definitely a confidence builder for us,” goalkeeper Josh Saunders said. “They’re a first place team in the league on our side. For us moving forward into a big road trip we need to build on this, build on the result and rack up points wherever we can.”
Saunders was big early on, bravely coming off his line to thwart early D.C. United scoring chances. And the back line, which was leaking goals at an alarming rate at home in recent games, was stout.
There was a mistake that led to the visitor’s lone goal and shockingly it came from Andrea Pirlo. But the Italian icon made up for it with a scintillating pass that led to David Villa’s game-winner in the 80th minute.
“I needed to get forgiven for the bad pass that led to the first goal in the first half,” Pirlo said. “David was really good on picking up on it and it ended up really well.”
Said Kreis: “For me that pass was out of this world.”
The other hero was Kwadwo Poku. Filling in for injured Frank Lampard (quad), the fan favorite made his case to remain in Kreis’ preferred XI with an inspired performance.
“He played a fantastic game, just like he did against Orlando,” Pirlo said of Poku. “He’s a player I did not know before, but he has incredible physical strength. He is such a hard worker. He will continue to do so and grow even more.”
After setting up Tommy McNamara’s 50th-minute equalizer with his team-leading seventh assist, Poku put the icing on the massive win with his insurance goal two minutes from full time.
“It was great because I missed a chance like five minutes before that chance and I was so mad it was 2-1,” Poku said. “When I got that goal it was like finally we can breathe now.”
After beating a D.C. United team with the best record in MLS, NYCFC can breathe, but they can’t rest. They head to Columbus in six days in search of three more massive points.
“What I’m hopeful of is this starts a new season for us, that this can really push us forward,” Kreis said.