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Gary Mackay-Steven impresses in first NYCFC start

Eric Miller also made his NYCFC debut, and Maxi Moralez was influential off the bench in NYCFC’s win over the Houston Dynamo

Jul 26, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward Gary Mackay-Steven (17) controls the ball against Sporting Kansas City during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

BRONX, N.Y. — After three substitute appearances totaling 38 minutes, Gary Mackay-Steven earned his first start for New York City FC Thursday night in a come-from-behind 3-2 win against the Houston Dynamo. In many ways, it was the Scottish winger’s formal introduction to his new club and its fans with the game being played at Yankee Stadium.

The 28-year-old put a jolt into the announced crowd of 18,113 in a 90-minute shift, in which he had four shots, one on frame, five successful crosses, four key passes, four tackles won, 22 successful passes in the Dynamo half, including eight in the final third, and three corners won.

NYCFC coach Dome Torrent was happy with what he saw, with the understanding Mackay-Steven hasn’t played a competitive match since mid-May. But he also offered a bit of a warning to forthcoming opposition: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

“He can play much better. I know this player and he can play absolutely much, much better,” Torrent said. “But give him time. It’s the same when Héber arrived here. I’m very happy because he played 90 minutes. And he needs rhythm, but I’m sure he can play much, much better. But it’s OK. When I say play wide and when you arrive one-v-one and cross the ball, he tried to play in that way. But I’m sure he can play much better.”

Miller Time

The match also marked the NYCFC debut of fullback Eric Miller, who started at right back for the rested Anton Tinnerholm.

Miller, who arrived in a trade with Minnesota United July 29, played 58 minutes before being replaced by Taty Castellanos in a tactical substitution. On his first touch, he threaded a pass into the box to Héber after a nice combination with Mackay-Steven.

“It was great,” Miller said of his NYCFC debut. “It’s a really good group of guys and a very experienced coaching staff so it’s really easy to integrate myself within the team. We have a lot of quality players, so it’s really easy to play with these guys. I just try to do my job and let them shine through.”

A little Maxi

In a pregame conversation, midfield maestro Maxi Moralez told Torrent he felt he’d be able to contribute 15-20 minutes off the bench after consulting team doctors regarding his calf.

The hope, Torent said, was that Moralez could rest on the bench, because that would mean NYCFC was winning. But immediately after Mauro Manotas’ go-ahead goal, Moralez entered for Jesús Medina in the 78th minute.

Not surprisingly, the game changed dramatically when he stepped on the field. Moralez had eight successful passes in the Dynamo half, five in the final third, had two successful long passes and was fouled three times as Castellanos struck for a late brace to secure all three points for the hosts.

But Moralez’s influence goes beyond the statistics.

“Everybody knows how important this player is for us,” Torrent said. “It’s not about if he scores or he assists. When he plays, we play different and he joins the lines, can play between the lines, can score. We play with more confidence when Maxi’s on the field.”

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