Jul 11, 2018; New York, NY, USA; MLS referee Alan Kelly issues New York City FC midfielder Thomas McNamara (15) a yellow card in front of Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush (1) and defender Victor Cabrera (2) and midfielder Saphir Taider (8) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
BRONX, N.Y. — After an emotionally draining Hudson River Derby victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday and with a playoff rematch against Columbus Crew SC on the horizon, New York City FC’s midweek match against the Montreal Impact was a tricky one.
The Impact came to the Bronx in their best form of the season, having won four straight games. NYCFC, without David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget due to injury, could have easily fallen victim to the dreaded trap game.
For a while it looked like that, with both teams trudging through a goalless first half. But NYCFC stormed out of the game after halftime, scoring three times in a 16-minute span to roll to a 3-0 win in front of an announced crowd of 18,706 Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
“It wasn’t easy for us because we played in three days two games,” NYCFC coach Domè Torrent said. “But I’m impressed with the performance of our players because it seems our players are better physically than the Montreal players.”
Torrent made a tweak to his initial plan of playing with three strikers in the first half and used Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina as a pair of false nines in the second half, an attempt to create space behind them in the midfield.
The plan worked to perfection with both playing starring roles in NYCFC’s ninth victory in 10 games without defeat at Yankee Stadium this season.
NYCFC (11-4-4) took the lead on the hour mark on Medina’s third goal of the season. The winger received a ball from Moralez, took three touches on an inside run along the top of the 18-yard box before blasting a left-footed shot past a rooted Evan Bush for his first goal since April 29.
Medina then set up the second goal five minutes later with a rampaging run into space down the left before sending a cross-field ball to Ronald Matarrita. The second half substitute appeared to be trying to return the ball to sender, but his chip landed inside the far post for his second goal of the season.
“I saw that the keeper was toward the first post so I tried to put it over him at the second post,” Matarrita said. “Thankfully it worked out and I’m very happy that I was able to contribute to the team.”
Matarrita then played provider for Jonathan Lewis’ first goal of the season in the 76th minute, receiving a ball from Moralez on an overlapping run before chipping toward the far post. An unmarked Lewis beat Bush with a header from eight yards out.
Lewis also set up Moralez’ late winner against the Red Bulls on Sunday.
“Once I saw Mata score, I was like, ‘nah, I’ve got to get one,’” Lewis joked. “But definitely, whether it’s coming off the bench or if I’m starting, I’m obviously going to try to get assists, get goals. That’s obviously my position, what I have to do.”
Torrent identified Ignacio Piatti, Alejandro Silva and Matteo Mancosu as Montreal’s main threats. He was surprised to only see Piatti in the starting XI, with Silva coming of the bench for the final 31 minutes and Mancosu not being featured.
The result was Montreal (8-12-0) failing to put one of its three shots on frame as Sean Johnson matched a career high with his seventh clean sheet without a save.
“I think we played a team that tonight was better than us,” Impact coach Remi Garde said. “Then we struggled to create chances. I think that the spirit and fight of the team was still good, which is a good point of tonight. But we couldn’t play again the way we played last [game].”
NYCFC, which has outscored opponents, 25-4, at Yankee Stadium, moved within three points of idle Atlanta United in the Supporters Shield race with a game in hand. The task of playing three games in seven days all against conference opponents was always going to be difficult. But NYCFC has managed to handle that challenge with aplomb heading into Saturday night’s matchup against Crew SC.
“That was the idea, that the team had to win these games,” Matarrita said. “So far our of the three games, the team has six points out of the nine and that’s what we’re all for, to continue playing together and continue getting those victories.”