Gritty New York City make a statement about themselves in win vs. Chicago

NEW YORK – Losing Yangel Herrera to an early ejection, New York City FC played down a man for nearly 80 minutes against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

You could not be blamed for forgetting that.

NYCFC lost Herrera to a second yellow card in the 12th minute but still secured a 2-1 victory against a Chicago side that had not tasted defeat since April, a feat all the more impressive because of the performance New York City put forth.

This was not 10 men sitting back, hitting on the counter, and grinding out a win. Rather, it was a case of New York City looking dominant for large stretches on a steamy afternoon despite their numerical disadvantage.

“I think it’s much more than three points today,” said David Villa, who scored the opener in the 47th minute with an impressive low volley from outside the penalty area. “You know I always like to talk about each game being the same in terms of importance because they are all worth three points, but this one is worth more than three points because of the effort the team put forth.

“Even if Chicago would have scored an equalizer on that late play that hit the post, it would have been the same takeaway. Maybe not in terms of points collected, but in terms of the effort we showed.”

The industry that NYCFC demonstrated stood out even more because of the adverse conditions. In addition to having to expend more energy for so long in a brutal summer heat because of Herrera’s sending off, New York City were playing on short rest following Wednesday’s frustrating 2-2 draw with Toronto FC. Chicago, meanwhile, were well-rested.

It did not seem that way. NYCFC spent much of the second half on the front foot, and looked like they were the team playing up a man for large stretches. Villa and Frederic Brillant scored three minutes apart and the defense fought tooth and nail to prevent a Fire comeback. Chicago pulled one back shortly after and found some attacking success of their own, but New York City held on.

“You don’t win this type of game if you’re not sure [about] the togetherness, the character,” said NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira. “I think today we showed a lot of desire, and I think we showed a lot of discipline as well. When I looked at the players after the game in the dressing room, I couldn’t ask them for more than what they give today.

“I’m really pleased that they managed to keep the result and win the game because they definitely deserved it with the way they worked today.”

While NYCFC have been playing good soccer for much of the season, this win could serve as a springboard. They are now two points behind Toronto in the Supporters’ Shield race, and know now more than ever just what they are capable of.

“It’s possible that this is the most important game for the club,” said Villa. “I think in the three years [NYCFC has competed] this is one of the best performances for the team.

“I think we showed to everybody today that watched our game that we are strong,” added Villa. “This is a positive for us and negative for the teams playing us.”