Among the first 14 goals scored by New York City FC this season, talisman David Villa had only one conversion while the club was unbeaten in its first six matches (5-0-1).
Villa had missed three of those games with calf, hip and groin ailments and has been sidelined again for up to two weeks with a sore right knee. Villa removed himself from last week’s home match versus Toronto FC in the 28th minute after landing awkwardly on his right leg.
The City captain will be absent for the road match at Toyota Park on Saturday against the Chicago Fire (8pm ET).
Jo Inge Berget, who had started underneath and wide of Villa shifted to the prominent striker role and scored a pair of second half goals to rally NYCFC to a 2-1 victory over the defending Major League Soccer champions.
“Even though our best player goes out injured we still turn it around against a really good team,” Berget said. “That shows we have the quality to go all the way this year.”
Playmaker Maxi Moralez slipped a pass in stride for Berget who slotted home the two-touch, game-winner with 19 minutes to play.
“It’s a pleasure playing with Maxi because you know you can make those runs and the ball is going to be right there for you,” Berget said. “It was nice for me to finish off the goal and give him the assist he deserved.”
It was Moralez’ seventh assist with one each in his last three matches. The Argentine has 16 assists in 45 career matches with City.
“He’s a great footballer and if you put some runners around him he’s going to pick the pass every time,” Berget said. “He’s been doing that consistently all year.”
Moralez is also third on the team with six goals trailing Villa (eight) and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (seven).
Berget, acquired on a free transfer from Malmö FF to provide goal scoring leverage to the New York City attack, had scored just once prior to last week – the third goal in a 4-0 drubbing of Real Salt Lake on April 12.
“It’s a difficult league with a lot of good players,” Berget said. “They play a different way than other leagues I’ve been to – it takes awhile. Of course for a striker its nice to get the goals and build off that in the next games.”
NYCFC (9-3-4) enters Saturday’s match second in the Eastern Conference and three points behind front-running Atlanta United with a game in hand on the Five Stripes.
This will be City’s first MLS road match since a 3-1 loss at Houston on May 25. They are winless in five straight away from Yankee Stadium (three losses, two draws) conceding nearly three goals per game. NYCFC’s last away triumph was April 1 at San Jose (2-1.)
The Fire (5-7-5) are unbeaten in their last four matches with the last three ending in a draw.