No one had to remind New York City FC coach Jason Kreis how vital his team's game against Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United was to its push for a playoff spot.
"It was an all-or-nothing situation," he said Thursday night. "I made it clear to the guys that we had to have three points tonight."
The message might have taken long to sink in, but the MLS expansion team made a statement by overcoming a one-goal halftime deficit by striking for three goals in the second, registering a 3-1 triumph before a Yankee Stadium crowd of 28,262.
Thomas McNamara connected for the equalizer in the 51st minute. David Villa snapped the tie off a spectacular pass from Andrea Pirlo in the 80th minute and Kwadwo Poku added an insurance tally in the 88th minute.
City (7-12-6, 27 points) remained in eighth place while United (44 points) fell to 13-8-5. With 10 games remaining in the season, there is little room for error, especially with some big road games at United, and Vancouver and Los Angeles, which are one-two out West.
"What I'm hopeful of that this starts a new season for us, that this can really, really push us forward because often times it takes some response to adversity to really push you in positive direction," Kreis said.
"It's an important win. This can be a really, really huge win for us, a season changer for us and a momentum changer for us."
NYC FC had not done well overcoming deficits, with a 1-10-2 mark when down a goal at halftime.
NYC FC's World Cup winning midfielder Andrea Pirlo gifted United a goal in the 36th minute when he passed to D.C.'s Chris Rofle, who eventually set up Alvaro Saborio for a 1-0 lead. Saborio once played for Kreis at Real Salt Lake.
Six minutes into the second half, McNamara equalized with his fifth goal of the season.
Then Villa's goal was set up by Pirlo's long ball to him. Villa gathered it, ran down the left flank and while between defenders Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell, managed to drill a shot inside the near post for his 14th goal.
Kreis called the goal "spectacular, spectacular."
"We can expect we can see more of that," he added. "Certainly they have an understanding [which] proved to be quite special. That pass was out of the world."
It was fitting that Poku, who gave United fits all night, scored the third goal.
NYC FC played without star midfielder Frank Lampard (quad).