KANSAS CITY — With high expectations from around the league and inside the locker room, New York City FC kicked off their 2018 campaign on the right note, with a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City at the fortress that is usually Children’s Mercy Park.
“I don’t think too many teams will come here to [Kansas City] and win games,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “That’s why I’m really proud of the team.”
NYCFC set the tone from the opening kickoff, pressing a Sporting Kansas City team that is used to applying pressure in opponents and forcing turnovers in the midfield.
“I think in the first 15 minutes we had to weather the storm a little bit,” Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said. “They were doing a good job of keeping the ball, pressing, turning us over a little bit.”
NYCFC’s pressure started with their captain, David Villa, and continued with wingers Rodney Wallace and debutant Jesus Medina and the three-headed midfield monster of Maxi Moralez, Yangel Herrera and Alex Ring.
Turnovers in the midfield and in the SKC defensive third helped lead to scoring opportunities for one of the league’s top attacking teams.
“We tried to move the ball really quick from one side to the other, and find the space in between the lines,” Vieira said. “I think we tried to put them under pressure. That allowed us to create a few chances and score two goals.”
Vermes said the second goal, the first MLS tally by Medina after a turnover in midfield, was “a broken play all the way through.”
“It reminded me of one of the goals we gave up in the pre-season,” he said. “One thing after another, the ball is squeaking out here and there.”
Vermes lamented a disjointed and slow first half, but liked the response after halftime.
“I thought in the second half we were much different in that regard,” he said. “Especially in the attacking third, there were some good opportunities that were created. They for sure were better in the first half. I think the second half was a different game.”
After conceding the second goal, Sporting KC kicked into gear. They took 10 second-half shots and swung possession in their favor by the final whistle. Yet, NYCFC still managed a clean sheet, even after finishing the match with 10 following a straight red card to central defender Maxime Chanot two minutes from full time following Video Review.
“Of course, when you play against [Sporting KC], away from home, there is a part of the game where you will suffer,” Vieira said. “And in that part, we didn’t concede a goal, and that was good for us.
“Sometimes, you get some luck. And the luck today, was on our side.”
In their only other trip to Kansas City in 2016, NYCFC fell behind 2-1 in the opening 20 minutes and conceded a third just before halftime. This time, though, NYCFC took the game to the hosts and earned a deserved three points.
“I think it’s a good way to start the season,” Vieira said. “I think coming here and performing the way we did was really good. I’m proud of the team.”