NEW YORK – The race is over. At least according to Patrick Vieira.
Moments after an emotional, improbable, come-from-behind victory over the New England Revolution Sunday night at Yankee Stadium that pulled New York City FC to within four points of the top of the league, Vieira conceded the Supporters’ Shield to Toronto FC.
“It was important to win because I believe it’s always good to get close to Toronto, but I believe Toronto [are] already the champions,” the NYCFC coach said. “I think all the other teams are going to fight for the second spot and Toronto will win the league. I think you see it last night, they are quite really strong and I don’t think anybody will catch them.”
Vieira was referring to TFC’s comprehensive 3-1 win at Chicago Saturday night, which stretched the Reds’ unbeaten streak to seven games. That result, combined with NYCFC’s third consecutive victory, pushed City five points clear of the third-place Fire.
“It shows we have charisma and we’re going to keep battling,” rookie Jonathan Lewis said, after scoring NYCFC’s last-gasp game-winner. “If we’re not playing well, we’re going to work. We all know we play and once we start working hard, we can beat any team.”
The storyline for the first 75 minutes Sunday night, though, was NYCFC’s inability to break down New England’s compact and physical backline, which didn’t concede a shot on goal until the 73rd minute.
“Winning these types of games, you have to show quality. You have to show a lot of desire,” Vieira said. “I think today we didn’t play our best football because of New England, but at the same time we wanted to win, we had a positive attitude, we tried to create chances and go forward. At the end we scored the goal.”
The equalizer was scored by David Villa, his 19th of the season, pushing him eight goals from tying the all-time MLS mark for most goals scored in a season. With nine games left in the regular season, it’s a record that’s within reach, and one the NYCFC captain would embrace.
“I hope, because for sure these goals give a lot of points to the team,” said Villa. “But my focus now is to rest this night and focus on scoring 20 – not thinking about 27 or 28, thinking about the 20 and then after the 20, the 21.”
While the Spaniard lamented having to come back to earn three points yet again, he lauded the players off the bench, especially Lewis.
“He’s a guy who is not afraid, and that is important when you are 19 years old or 20 years old,” Villa said. “Sometimes I see guys with a lot of qualities, with a lot of power, but they go to the pitch and they are afraid. It’s normal. I was afraid when I was 18 years old and they put me in front of 20,000 people. It’s normal in this situation. But he isn’t afraid and he plays like he trains.”