If New York City FC has serious aspirations of going deep in the playoffs or winning MLS Cup, the team will have to show it can play with the best in the league.
Saturday night City showed it could it, overcoming a one-goal deficit to rally for an entertaining 2-2 draw with league-leader FC Dallas at Yankee Stadium.
City (12-9-9, 45 points), which could have taken the Eastern Conference lead with a win, moved into second place. Leaders Toronto FC (13-8-7, 46) host the Red Bulls (12-9-8, 44) today.
Despite losing a one-goal lead, City rallied on Khiry Shelton’s goal as the second-half substitute headed home Jack Harrison’s left-wing cross past goalkeeper Chris Seitz in the 78th minute.
“Today we showed some character,” City coach Patrick Vieira said.
Asked if he thought the game might have previewed MLS Cup, Dallas coach Oscar Pareja gave NYC FC a thumb’s up.
“People will come to watch the performances from these teams,” said Pareja, whose team (15-8-7, 52) showed much focus after winning the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night. “It was very entertaining for the fans.”
City lost midfielder Frank Lampard (12 goals in 15 games) to a leg injury. Lampard, who asked to be taken out, walked out at the start of the second half with his left leg wrapped up. Vieira said he didn’t know how severe the injury was.
“He’s a sensible professional,” Vieira said. “He came out because he didn’t want to make it worse. We will wait and see how bad it is.”
Eight minutes into the match, City scored on a textbook play as five players touched the ball. Andrea Pirlo started the sequence with an outlet pass from the back to Andoni Iraola, who ran through the center circle before feeding David Villa on the left flank. Villa found Jack Harrison on the right side of the penalty area. The 19-year-old rookie flipped a pass to Tommy McNamara, who finished from eight yards past keeper Seitz.
Dallas laid siege on the NYC FC goal for the next 10 minutes, pressuring City into defensive turnovers. It paid off in the 20th minute when Maximiliano Urruti got a couple of steps on McNamara on the right side of the penalty area and beat goalkeeper Josh Saunders from a difficult angle for a 1-1 tie.
Dallas grabbed a 2-1 lead on Michael Barrios’ conversion of a Mauro Rosales feed in the 52nd minute.
NYC FC, which has allowed a league-high 52 goals, has gone three straight matches in which it has allowed two or more goals.
“We have to defend better,” Vieira said.