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New York City FC edges Chicago Fire for second straight win

BRONX, N.Y. — It’s a song played after every New York City FC game at Yankee Stadium, but Kiss’ “Back in a New York Groove” seemed appropriate Wednesday night with the Cityzens claiming a second consecutive win with a 1-0 result over the Chicago Fire in front of an announced crowd of 21,798 Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

After going winless through six games to open the season — though losing just once — NYCFC does, in fact, appear to be back in a groove with their first win in the Bronx, which pulled them above the Fire and the playoff line in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I think the players are feeling more comfortable and I also feel comfortable as coach,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “I think the prior matches before the winning streak went well. I think we have a system that the players enjoy. We have good quality players. It does not always mean that we will always use the system of play. It all depends on the opponents we are facing. However, the matches where we have used this system have been successful.”

The game’s lone goal came in the ninth minute on a counter following a Chicago Fire corner kick.

The ball was cleared to Maxi Moralez, who played to Heber, who had space to run on the left. The Brazilian played an inch-perfect ball to Valentin Castellanos and the young Argentine put his sliding attempt into the back of the net.

“It’s a very positive thing especially if it’s to help the team, and play for the fans,” Castellanos said. “It’s important for me to do what I have to do to make sure I do things right.”

It was the third consecutive NYCFC goal that Heber played a part in, after setting up Alexandru Mitrita and then scoring his first MLS goal in a 2-0 win over D.C. United Sunday at Audi Field.

It was also the second straight clean sheet for NYCFC. 

“I think it’s obviously important to get a little bit of momentum,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “Two wins in a row after a bit of a rough start to the season, we haven’t lost many games, but we haven’t won many, so it’s good for the confidence of the group to be able to get wins together back to back and now having another game at home I think that stretch is important.” 

Torrent was forced to make his first substitution just past the half-hour mark when Ronald Matarrita appeared to injure his right calf. Ben Sweat came in as the like-for-like replacement.

Five minutes later, the Fire had a quality chance to equalize when Bastian Schweinsteiger played Djordje Mihailovic into space. The Homegrown midfielder turned and had a go from distance, but his low shot was well off the mark.

In the 49th minute, CJ Sapong tapped in the apparent tying goal, but the goal was waved off for an offside call on Nemanja Nikolic, who was played in behind the defense.

Apr 24, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York City midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) scores a goal past Chicago Fire goalkeeper David Ousted (1) in front of midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr (33) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Moralez nearly doubled NYCFC’s lead nine minutes later, but his shot was parried off the crossbar by Fire goalkeeper David Ousted, who left disappointed that his club’s four-match unbeaten run came to an end.

“I thought we could have gotten more out of it,” he said. “We came here with an idea of getting points away from here, but the way it shaped up tonight, it wasn’t to be. I think we put in a lot of work, but we fell shy.”

Moralez had another chance to put the game away during second-half stoppage time when he was barged over by Schweinsteiger. Referee Robert Sigiba pointed to the penalty spot. But for a second straight week, the NYCFC captain missed his PK, this time denied by a diving Ousted.

Sibiga sent an agitated Veljko Paunovic to the locker room in the 80th minute after a warning earlier in the match.

NYCFC (2-1-5, 11 points) remains home to take on Orlando City SC Saturday afternoon, while Chicago (2-3-3, 9 points) heads to Montreal Sunday afternoon.

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