The San Jose Earthquakes suffered a second consecutive road defeat against New York City FC on Saturday night, losing 2-1 in a tight contest at Yankee Stadium. Dominic Kinnear’s men were unable to break their road curse, having tallied only one league victory away from home since 2015, though this outing was particularly frustrating in that they actually came close.
Marco Ureña netted an early go-ahead goal six minutes in, but David Villa spearheaded a resilient comeback for NYCFC and the dynamism of Patrick Viera’s offensive arsenal outmaneuvered their visitors.
The Quakes’ man-pressure system returned with much success in the first half, aided by Yankee Stadium’s absurdly narrow pitch that isolated NYCFC’s full-backs, yet their predictability and one-dimensionality were exposed by Viera’s halftime changes.
Tommy Thompson was back in the starting lineup, replacing Albanian international Jahmir Hyka, who has been more offensively productive this season but less defensively astute in their man-pressure system. Darwin Ceren also started ahead of Panamanian international Anibal Godoy, and nearly vindicated his inclusion within the first three minutes as Chris Wondolowski tested NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson following Ceren’s interception in the middle.
Their early pressure led directly to Ureña’s opener, with the Costa Rican pressing a poor back-pass, forcing NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson into a rushed clearance towards the sidelines. Wondolowski was on hand out wide to head the ball back to Ureña, who had acres of space in the heart of NYCFC’s penalty area to tuck away a cool near-post finish.
NYCFC threatened with Rodney Wallace’s incisive runs down the left, but Nick Lima matched his attacker’s pace. However, NYCFC netted a surprise equalizer in the tenth minute courtesy of a brilliant flick from David Villa, which cushioned a long diagonal ball into the path of Jack Harrison, who had a foot of space in the box to fire a shot on target. David Bingham couldn’t get enough on the ball to direct the shot wide and it trickled into the back of the net off of the post.
Though the Quakes enjoyed a promising start, NYCFC’s equalizer was a timely reminder of their deadliness up top. The Quakes, historically sloppy on the road, had little room for error.
Importantly, Dominic Kinnear’s men avoided the mistakes they made in a 2-1 defeat to Sporting Kansas City in their last away outing, which he missed due to illness. They didn’t get caught in possession at the back, opting instead to play the more direct options to Thompson and Simon Dawkins on the wings and operating primarily on the counter-attack.
Shaun Francis dragged a low effort inches wide from fifteen yards from Dawkins’ low cross in the twenty-fifth minute and Thompson fired at Johnson at the end of a jinking run through the middle, yet the Quakes were held at one heading into the half. Nonetheless, the first half was, as a whole, a positive performance in the context of their woeful road record.
Kinnear concurred. “There was a lot of back and forth today,” he said. “Lots of goal-mouth action as we expected today on this small field. Great start by us. And obviously we would have liked to have held onto the ball a little better and put some more pressure on them, but they came out and took advantage of a good chance.”
However, NYCFC’s tactical changes posed new challenges in the second period, to which the Quakes could not adapt. NYCFC evaded the Quakes’ press with increasing movement from their midfielders, scattering the defense and forcing Ceren and Alashe to drop off in order to cover. This positional alteration allowed the home side to enjoy a numbers advantage in the middle, and they capitalized with a high press that the Quakes struggled to handle.
The introduction of Danny Hoesen for Marco Ureña was implemented in order to inject pace into their front lines, yet the Dutchman was also less adept at pressing and their pressure collapsed.
The killer blow came in the sixty-seventh minute when Thompson was caught on the ball in the middle of the park and quick interplay from NYCFC scythed through the Quakes backline. Another gorgeous back-flick from Villa put Wallace in on goal and the forward cut the ball back across the box for Tommy McNamara to finish.
Kinnear threw on Jahmir Hyka and Shea Salinas in response, but neither were difference makers. They were given license to roam through the middle, but the visitors subsequently lost their shape and NYCFC stretched the game wide. Lima found a pocket of space down the right to volley at Johnson in the seventy-third minute, but hopes of a comeback were squashed soon thereafter as center-back Victor Bernardez received a red card for a rash challenge from behind on McNamara.
In itself, the Quakes’ performance was not particularly worrisome, but that only makes their inability to notch a result more disappointing. If they can’t secure at least a point on a good day away from home, the paths to a successful playoff run become very narrow indeed.