NYCFC bid farewell to the home grounds against F.C. Dallas on Saturday night. The Boys In Blue had to obtain the 3 points to maintain the unbeaten record untouched and to give the fanbase another memorable night. In terms of momentum, things were going well in the team. Ledezma had impressed in his first start, and Sands returned to the national team. By far, there were more positives than negatives, but a good result was needed to continue climbing up the conference standings.
The South American touch made the difference for NYCFC:
The build-up to the match was filled with expectations after Ledezma’s performance in the previous match. He deserved to keep his spot in the starting XI, but Santiago Rodriguez also made merits to return as well. The decision was on the manager, who saw the bench. Or could it be that there was a chance for both to share the field? Questions that would see answers before kick-off, with a surprise included. Yes, they both kept their spots in the main lineup, with the slight change in the striker role. It was none other than Santi Rodriguez who took on that responsibility, something that many didn’t think would happen so soon. This is where I give credit to The City Boys Show. They were one of the first NYCFC podcasts that suggested Santiago Rodriguez as a striker. It’s safe to say that they were not that far off. Unfortunately, this meant Gabe Segal went to the bench, but things worked out in the end.
The match had a good start for The Boys in Blue, the team started using the wings. This gave Gabriel Pereira room to display his speed and agility, the Brazilian’s best weapons. He actually opened the score within the first 20 minutes of the match, but his goal was ruled out after an offside position by the Brazilian. Something that, at first glance (and even after), was nowhere to be seen. Luckily the team took this as an incentive and continued the attacking game approach. This left room for F.C. Dallas to create dangerous situations themselves, but the team has a wall in goal named Luis Barraza. The goalkeeper had another outstanding match, blocking every shot that was sent his way. While he did have one risky intervention from a cross, he quickly recovered to make a game-defining save. The team seemed to be heading into halftime with a draw that left a good sensation for the second half. Santiago Rodriguez changed the script in the 44th minute with a powerful low shot to open the score. It was a perfect way to set the tone for the crucial minutes ahead.
The South American connection got to work as soon as the second half started. Gabriel Pereira made his lethal run down the wing beating the Dallas defender with speed. Surprisingly Santiago Rodriguez was able to arrive inside the box unmarked, all he had to do was push the ball into the net for the second goal. “La garra Charrua” was on display with Santi’s double in the match. The Uruguayan was able to adapt to the striker position quicker than expected. “I wasn’t comfortable in that position in the beginning, it took a bit of time for me to adapt, but I got the hang of it after a bit,” he said during the post-match interview. The knockout blow was delivered by Talles Magno in the 55th minute. This time it was the Brazilian connection that secured the three points for NYCFC. Gabriel Pereira made a near-identical run down the wing and almost scored himself. Luckily Magno was there to catch the rebound and end the match for F.C. Dallas.
The visitors managed to get one goal in return during a corner kick. Yes, another goal was conceded in a set piece, but Dallas didn’t do much damage after that. NYCFC was able to close out the match with better control compared to previous fixtures. However, having a clean sheet in a game is still something the team has to work on. Overall, however, the match was one to remember. The team got the three points, and the fans went all out with their support. Hopefully, by the time NYCFC returns home, the weather finally allows for more fans to attend the match. I’m happy that Ledezma and Santiago will develop a partnership to give the team more attacking options. The chemistry seems to be building up the proper way, and perhaps there might not be a need to look for a striker after all. But who knows what could happen in the end? As of right now, the team remains undefeated at home. The streak was key to maintain in order to build up momentum when the team returns.
The team now hits the road for four weeks, a tough stretch knowing that playing away from home is a challenge. NYCFC returns home on May 27th against Philadelphia Union.