Apr 11, 2018; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC forward David Villa (7) and Real Salt Lake defender Adam Henley (3) fight for the ball during the second half at Yankee Stadium. New York City FC defeated Real Salt Lake 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
It was not a happy homecoming for Long Island, N.Y., native Mike Petke.
“We had a really good feeling about this game,” Petke said after his Real Salt Lake side was thrashed 4-0 at New York City FC Wednesday night. “But we played against a superior team.”
NYCFC (5-0-1) was dominant in the Bronx, peppering Nick Rimando and the RSL goal with 26 shots while controlling the match with 65 percent of the possession.
In front of an announced crowd of 18,603, Libyan sensation Ismael Tajouri-Shradi opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a two-touch left-footed finish at the top of the box – for the moment his team-leading fourth goal of the 2018 campaign.
Less than 20 minutes later, Maxi Moralez equaled Shradi by scoring goal number four from the spot following Justen Glad’s desperate stretch and takedown of the Argentinian just inside the area.
Moralez scored five goals in the entire 2017 campaign.
A pair of players earned their first career MLS goals to finish the scoring. Jo Inge Berget slotted a shot past Rimando following a delicate entrance ball by Ronald Matarrita and Jesus Medina’s sublime touch pass to send the Norwegian through and NYCFC had a 3-0 cushion at the interval.
Ebenezer Ofori closed out the scoring with 20 minutes to play when Medina and Moralez assisted on a first-time score past a sprawling Rimando.
Before earning his first start of the season, Matarrita had made just three cameo appearances for a total of 12 minutes. Both he and right back Anton Tinnerholm advanced into the attacking third with frequency and effectiveness.
“If we can play like we played in the first half, there will be a lot of opponents who will struggle here,” Tinnerholm said. “We talked about a few things before the game how we wanted to punish them and we did it quite well. We attacked them, especially on my side on the right. I don’t know how many crosses I hit today in the first half – but I was pretty tired at halftime.”
NYCFC showered the RSL box with 22 crossing balls forcing the harried group of backs into clearance mode. The inability to effectively clear their lines was an issue on Shradi’s early game winner.
“They punished us,” Petke said, confirming NYCFC’s game plan.
While RSL (2-3-1) had infrequent forays at the NYCFC back line, goalkeeper Sean Johnson was forced into a pair of remarkable point-blank saves. In the first half, striker Luis Silva’s only shot of the game was kicked out by Johnson while Corey Baird, who has started back-to-back matches ahead of Joao Plata, side-footed a shot in the six yard box that Johnson managed to reject with his left arm extended.
Johnson admitted that a match with limited engagement can provide a greater challenge than the pressure he recently faced in San Jose. Johnson cut off myriad crosses and had a season high nine saves in the 2-1 victory over the Earthquakes in Week 5.
“Yeah, I think so,” Johnson said. “We prepare for that in training sessions. It’s a test mentally to see how in tune you are with the game. You can still talk to your teammates to keep yourself involved.”
Johnson was named to the MLS Team of the Week for his performance in San Jose and on Wednesday night he was huge at vital moments to record his league-leading third clean sheet of the season.
David Villa and Alex Ring were summoned off the bench in the second half by coach Patrick Vieira. Villa had missed the last three matches with a calf and groin injury, while a knee ailment had sidelined Ring for two games.
New York City has now scored 14 goals in six matches with just one from their captain Villa who was their goal scoring leader in each of the first three years of the franchise.