New York City FC David Villa
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

In a battle of the stars, Wayne Rooney came out on top over David Villa, as D.C. United dispatched NYCFC with ease.

Geoffrey Campbell

Leading up to the game, NYCFC had made some positive transactions with their future in mind. The Bronx Blues brass put pen to paper giving long-term deals to Alex Ring, Sean Johnson, and Alex Callens.

And with that type of feel-good news and home-field advantage in the knock-out round of the playoffs on the line, you would think NYCFC would come out strong. Think again. They came out flat and were punished by D.C. United. Dome Torrent’s men were second-best for all of the 90 minutes, leaving fans to wonder whether they had any urgency at all or were rusty from the time off.

NYCFC last played a competitive game in late September. But much like their game against Minnesota United FC, NYCFC lost another road game.

To be fair, NYCFC were without their iron man Maxi Moralez and forward Jo Inge Berget. Torrent decided to start Jesus Medina, who finally returned from a hamstring injury, along with Valentin Castellanos and David Villa in the forward three. Ronald Matarrita got the start at left-back in favor of Ben Sweat who received his first international call-up earlier this month.

For most of the first half, the Bronx Blues were on their back foot. Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney were in top form, slicing through the defense, each getting goals to put their side up. Rooney was the first to strike, after receiving a great pass from Acosta. Acosta had just finished dribbling through multiple defenders and set up Rooney up with the easy tap-in.

NYCFC looked like they were sleep-walking through most of this game. Their passes were lazy and their attack just looked disjointed. The defense was poor but there were some highlights. Alex Callens, who almost put NYCFC on the board with a header off a corner, had a beautiful and important sliding tackle on Rooney.

Unfortunately, the news got worse, as Acosta, who had an assist earlier in the game, scored from a long-range effort. Both Alex Ring and Sebastien Ibeagha failed to clear the ball after a tussle with Rooney. Acosta latched onto the ball and scored a laser just over the outstretched hands of Sean Johnson.

The Cityzens finally came to life after the second goal. Their attacking seemed much more organized and shots from both, Castellanos and Villa gave the fans hope that maybe their squad could come back into this game. However, D.C. United keeper Bill Hamid was up for the task whenever he was called into action.

The second-half saw more of the same, but both sides looked as though they were stuck in mud out on the field. NYCFC, a side begging for some quality and intent, finally brought on Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for Ebenezer Ofori during the 63rd minute. Tajouri-Shradi ran at defenders and probably should’ve started in this game.

But alas, D.C. United’s attack was too strong. Alex Ring was called for a hand-ball in the box during the 73rd minute and Rooney converted from the spot, good for his second goal of the game. Rooney added to his impressive goal tally, notching his 12th since joining D.C. United in June.

For NYCFC, one of the lone bright moments came from their second substitution of the game. Yangel Herrera, who had not played competitively since May 25th, was also brought into the game in the 72nd minute. Herrera wasted no time putting his mark on the match, setting up Villa with a great through ball. Villa capitalized for his 13th goal of the campaign.

Torrent and his men left Audi Field with too many questions about the squad leading up to MLS playoffs. Torrent still has not found his best starting 11 and he seems to be making far too many errors in team selection. Additionally, NYCFC has been dreadful on the road and desperately need to beat Philadelphia Union to get home-field advantage in the knock-out round.

The feeling around this club is not good at the moment, however, one win can change everything and give the players confidence. Next Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium will be NYCFC’s last chance to right the ship before MLS playoffs.

Final Stats

  • Goals: NYCFC 1 — D.C. United 3
  • Shots: NYCFC 16 — D.C. United – 13
  • Possession: NYCFC – 54.7 percent — D.C. United – 45.3 percent

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