Notes & Quotes: Chicago Fire 3 - 2 New York City FC
Negotiating his first road trip as Head Coach, Domenec Torrent made one enforced change to his lineup for this trip to a sweltering Windy City.
Jesus Medina came in for the injured David Villa as City went for their first away win in three tough months away from New York.
However, that quest got off to the worst-possible start as Dax McCarty cut through the center of the NYC defense with an incisive pass, allowing Nemanja Nikolic to streak clear and slot past Sean Johnson with the game's first attempt on goal on 6.
As recently as Dome's first game last weekend vs. Toronto, NYCFC have form for bouncing back from early set-backs, and Maxi Moralez thought he'd earned his side a penalty 15' minutes later, when he went down under a challenge from a Chicago defender but the referee saw it differently.
A hydration break gave both sides an opportunity to regroup ahead of the final 15' of the first period and regroup NYCFC did, reversing the deficit in double-quick time with a pair of beautiful goals.
First, Maxi Moralez found Tajouri-Shradi on the top of the box and the Libyan did the rest, slapping his shot with a devilish swerve away from the goalkeeper into the bottom corner.
That tied him with Villa for team top-scorer with eight goals in 2018, a fabulous return from the 24-year old in his first year in MLS.
Another first-year City man found the go-ahead goal, a towering header from Jo Inge Berget, which sent Anton Tinnerholm's arcing cross back where it came from into the opposite corner of the net.
That was his fourth goal of the season and followed his brace in the Bronx last weekend.
Although the visitors were up at the break, you felt the scoring was far from over, and so it proved as Chicago hit back with two quickfire goals of their own, turning it back around within ten second half minutes.
Aleksandar Katai scored both, first curling one around Johnson from the edge of the box on 47', before he restored Chicago's lead on 53' after he slalomed past Alexander Callens and fired in.
Another second wind was required and Maxi Moralez did his best to provide the spark, spearheading a resurgence around the 60' mark, forcing Richard Sanchez into a couple of smart saves.
Berget was inches away from equalizing with his second goal of the night but his header from a Moralez cross came back off the underside of the crossbar and away from danger.
City kept pushing and substitute Jonathan Lewis almost brought a Medina flick-on under the bar on 84' but the equalizer just wouldn't come despite the late push.
The Boys in Blue will lick their wounds and quickly turn focus to the Hudson River Derby next up Yankee Stadium.
Domenec Torrent led NYCFC on the road for the first time
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored his eighth goal of the season
That tied him with David Villa for NYCFC's top-scorer for 2018
Jo Inge Berget scored his third goal in two games and fourth of the campaign
Anton Tinnerholm completed his second direct assist of the season
Maxi Moralez made his eighth assist of the year
Veljko Paunovic - Head Coach, Chicago Fire
Thoughts on the match:
"I think it was at the moment a very difficult game for us. We wanted to have the possession, every time we did that in the first half, it was very important because of the weather and how hot it was outside and I think it's very important that you dominate, you control the ball, but we had formed a very good team. We had a team that is capable of doing the same and they took the ball away from us and they did that better than us but what we did good is the adjustments. We said "okay, so we have to defend more, we had to switch some formations, switch some players.'
By the way, I want to just endorse all the guys who came off the bench, Alan Gordon, Tony Tchani, Mo Adams, they helped the team and obviously in other occasions it was somebody else who's coming off the bench and helping the team. That's the spirit that we have. It's great to see that you become a member of this team and it's great to be the coach today of the Chicago Fire. I'm very, very proud of the group. We just have to know that right now where we stand, we have to keep working. Finally we passed that red line and then now we just stand above and in the group for the playoffs but that doesn't mean anything for one week. We have to stay consistent, we have to keep working, building on top of what we would be assembling right now actually, and that's the confident group that can adapt and adjust to any demand of the game, and be smart, and trying to be smart and lucky and that's what it is. That's how it works. We have to just be confident and we have to stick with our mindset that we have so far, which was "we will always adjust, we will always move the bar higher if we want to achieve the playoffs and we will push all our guys to the next level.' I think that wins like today help a lot.
Another thing that is also important is that we were capable of coming back. I think this is the first time this year that at halftime, we came back from a negative result and win the game, close down the game, win it against a team that since I've been here, didn't have the opportunity win, and they're one of the best teams in this league."
On the importance of the win [translated from Spanish]:
"It's been a difficult game. We showed character. We showed capacity in moments when we were dangerous and created chances and more than anything converted, today, the few chances we had in a pair of situations and above all with the two great goals by Katai. I think this is, so to speak, the shortest analysis we can give. I think in moments we were able to play but we were affected by the game plan by New York City FC. They took the ball from us and it cost us getting it back due to, at this point in the season the heat, and it was key to keep possession of the ball and not allow them to move from one side to the other and look for situations where they could create an advantage. The team, when we saw that we were incapable of controlling the game with the ball, we had to adjust and started to defend. We defended fairly well despite there being moments of panic. Today, I think compared to other games where we did more and deserved more, today was a bit of a reward and we continue. The most important thing was to see that we showed character and were capable of making a comeback. It's important that we were finally able to get over the line and be in playoff positions and we've beaten a team that in the past has been almost impossible for us. Once again, we've added another rival that are in playoff contention that we've beaten this season. I think it serves a lot looking forward to gain confidence, keep working, and keep improving."
Aleksandar Katai - Midfielder, Chicago Fire
On continuing his scoring streak:
"Of course, but I think most important for us is that we got three points and we need to keep it up. I think, every game we play better and better, and I hope that we will keep playing good."
On playing with confidence:
"I also think that the team played good and with more confidence. I just think that we are all players that are important for the team. It's not one player, like we see in the World Cup, only Messi, it's not enough."
Dax McCarty - Midfielder, Chicago Fire
If the Fire win the game without Aleksandar Katai:
"Maybe, maybe not. He scored two great goals. He's a match winner, he's been a match winner for us for the past couple months and he's in tremendous form right now. When you got a guy that's as hot as he is right now, creating chances and scoring goals the way he is, you've got to get him the ball, you've got to make sure that you're getting him in dangerous positions. He did that tonight."
On the adverse weather conditions:
"It was tough, the heat was very difficult but both teams had to deal with it and had to play through it. I thought they dealt with it better because they kept the ball better, it's as simple as that. We struggled mightily to keep possession; on a hot day, you're just going to wear yourself out. You can't do that, it was alarming how much we just lost the ball so easily and basically let them step on the field and let them dictate the entire game. That's one of those games where you have to grind and you have to make sure that you dig deep, because you are tired, everyone is exhausted. They're popping the ball around really well and they have good players that keep possession. We unfortunately weren't able to do that tonight. Usually, we're a little bit better in possession, but they certainly dictated the game and we were fortunate to have a good start to the second half and score a few goals and then hang on at the end."
On his assist to Nemanja NikoliÄ:
"Part of our game plan was, they play with a really high line, their back line stays really high and it's really risky, because if one or two guys get a little bit out of sync, you can leave gaps and be exposed by balls in behind, balls over the top, through balls. I just got a little bit of space, they pressed us in the midfield pretty well the whole game and the one or two times I got a little bit of time and space, I wanted to look up and try to play forward. That was one of those plays where Niko just kind of rides with the line and luckily, he stays onside and I just have to play a good ball to his feet and then he's pretty much in. He did all the work, I just had to get it to him and he had a great finish and it's good to get him going again and get him back on the score sheet in league play."
Domenec Torrent - Head Coach, New York City FC
On falling despite leading statistically [translated from Spanish]:
"The most important thing in football, again, is to score goals. If it's possible, make few mistakes. In this game we were not able to score more goals. I think we created many chances to score but we were not able to today. We made a big mistake; especially in the second half, in the first seven minutes. It's not normal because this team normally plays compact. They have a philosophy to play football but sometimes that happens. In football, when you don't have focus, exactly what happened in the second half, we spoke about that in the locker room because we were in trouble during the first half in the same way: between the lines. I said to them, "We have to control in between the lines, Schweinsteiger, the striker, when he falls back, we have to jam.' It's my mistake because when a coach is not able to convince the players, we are in trouble."
On his experience in the past two games and overall thoughts on the league [Translated from Spanish]:
"I was saying it in my native language, Catalan, to my friend who asked me that question. What I've seen, sporting-wise, I think MLS is going to grow a lot. I'm convinced of that. In many aspects but what I've seen on the pitch is in almost all the games that I've seen, which have been a lot, they break. In the 60th minute, they break wide open. Six players attack and four stay back to defend. It becomes disorganized. Four stay back and then they attack us and vice versa. I don't like this way of playing. I'm accustomed to teams having control of the ball, who respect their position, and play easier. One reason is if you respect your position, you're able to, when you lose the ball, in two seconds, you can recuperate it. If you're too far and move around a lot, the ball goes to the other side and you're 40 meters away. That's why it's important for me to make the players understand positional play on the field, to respect their position, to be able to find each other easier, they'll know where their teammates are and when it comes to defending, they'll be closer to the opponent. But from what I've seen, almost all the games break down. They're very attractive games to the fans because they can finish 3-2, 4-3, 5-4, 3-0; a team makes a comeback because of that. They can attack with eight players and leave a lot of space and if you have a lot of quality up top, you end the game. If you don't have a lot of quality, it costs you more and aren't likely to score. That's what I've seen in my first two games here."
Alexander Ring - Midfielder, New York City FC:
On the disappointment of giving up the lead:
"I think we have to be honest with ourselves, if you lead 2-1 away, you got to take the points to home. We weren't smart enough today and it really hurts."
On the upcoming game against the New York Red Bulls:
"I mean we have to pick ourselves up, it's my job as well as a leading player to do that, all the players feeling we have nothing to be ashamed of. I think we had a big chunk of the game today, we just conceded stupid goals but I mean that's football, that's life and it's nice to get a chance to wipe the sheet clean next week against the Red Bulls.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi - Forward, New York City FC:
On his goal serving as a spark for the team:
"I think it was a very hard game. First, we got 1-0 down and after we come very good into the game for the first half, 45 minutes, we scored two goals. We go into the first half with 2-1 for us, so we did very good. Then second half we say altogether we need to do more to win the game. But yeah, second half was not so good enough. We lose the game in about five, six minutes. It was not so good from us after Chicago scored 3-2, it was very hard for us. We tried to score 3-3 or to win the game but it was very difficult obviously with 10 guys in the defense. It was not our best game so we need now we rest and next week is a very, very important game."
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