Given his lack of goal production during his 12-year MLS career, Ned Grabavoy might have been the least likely player at Yankee Stadium to become a scorer for New York City FC last night.
The veteran midfielder score his first two goals of the season 12 minutes apart and set up a third to lift NYC FC to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes before 28,321 fans to keep the expansion team's slim playoff hopes alive. NYC FC improved to 9-14-7 and 34 points while San Jose fell to 11-12-7
After a scoreless opening 51 minutes, the teams combined for five goals in a whirlwind final 39 minutes, plus five minutes of stoppage time.
"Both teams needed the three points and I think both teams were dead set on trying to get them," NYC FC coach Jason Kreis said. "Both teams were going for them."
So was the 32-year-old Grabavoy, who had entered the game with but 15 goals in 275 league matches since starting in 2004.
"Ned, he worked extremely hard on Wednesday night," Kreis said of a 2-0 home win over Toronto F C. "He was really instrumental in getting us that result. So tonight, I am really pleased he got a couple of goals.
"Guys like that need to come through for you at the most critical of times."
Grabavoy lifted the hosts into a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute, beating goalkeeper David Bingham from 10 yards off a David Villa feed. Only 12 minutes later, he doubled the lead, heading home a Frank Lampard right-wing cross from eight yards.
Grabovoy, not exactly known for his play-making skills, helped set up David Villa's goal, a six-yard effort in the 65th minute, the Spanish international's 16th goal of the season.
The Earthquakes, however, would not go gently into the night.
Quincy Amarikwa headed home a goal to slice the deficit to 3-1 in the 72nd minute. Amarikwa was pulled down in the box by defender Angelino, for penalty kick. Chris Wondolowski took the spot kick, his attempt into the lower left corner as Josh Saunders went the other way in the 76th minute.
"Obviously, I was a bit displeased on how [we] finished the game," Kreis said. "To be three-nil up, we could have down a better job of closing that game down."