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NYCFC draws with Houston in Connecticut

New York City FC forward David Villa works

New York City FC forward David Villa works for the ball against Houston Dynamo defender Adolfo Machado in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Credit: USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II

EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut — New York City FC learned a few lessons from its 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

One was pretty evident. When you share your stadium with an iconic baseball team, there’s a good chance you’re going to play somewhere else it when that club needs the ballpark.

The other was a teaching moment that City might want to remember for the MLS playoffs — a quickly taken free kick that led to the equalizer before an announced crowd of 10,165 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium.

After an impressive summer run, second-place NYCFC (15-8-7, 52 points) has struggled with a three-game winless streak (0-1-2). The team has scored only four times in its last five games.

“Nothing serious,” defender Ben Sweat said. “We are playing our style of football. The final piece on a couple of finishes is all what we’re missing. Getting that second goal, we get that third goal and maybe more.”

City was forced to play a home game 118 miles away from Yankee Stadium because the Yankees must play a make-up game against Kansas City there on Monday. The ground crew needs 72 hours to turn a soccer pitch into a baseball field, so the game was moved.

“We treated it like it was an away game,” said head coach Patrick Vieira, “When you look at the quality of the game, you look at the fans who turned out, I think it was the right decision.”

NYCFC came out strong as Maxi Moralez, at 5-3 the smallest player on the field, headed home Andraz Struna’s right-wing cross for a sixth-minute lead. After Jack Harrison smashed an 11th-minute shot off the crossbar, some quick thinking allowed Houston to score in the 16th minute.

Alex Ring was called for fouling Alex 20 yards out. Vicente Sanchez took a quick free kick to Mauro Manotas, who raced down the left side before slipping a shot into the far corner past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

“He was really smart,” Vieira said. “It was well played on their side. They put their hand on the ball and played it quickly. We didn’t have anybody in front of the ball.”

Added Sweat: “We just turned off for a quick second. We were confused. We were going to play from his whistle.”

Something to think about on their 118-mile bus ride home.

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