It starts with us, me and the staff, of course, about getting that bite back, getting that mentality, that style of play that we had that made us successful in the second half of last year. —RSL head coach Mike Petke
NEW YORK — The Real Salt Lake players walked up the dugout steps at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night and they had a chance to take a swing at keeping the franchise’s unbeaten streak against New York City FC alive and well.
RSL had claimed a win all three times the teams had met since NYCFC joined the MLS landscape in 2015, including the match here two years ago.
But NYCFC had its own unbeaten streak going, bringing along the league’s best record with four wins and a draw to start the season. And RSL was off to a so-so start.
When the match was over, the streak was over — RSL’s streak.
NYCFC dominated and emerged with a 4-0 victory, leaving behind some hard feelings in the losing locker room.
“We’ve already given up five goals, three goals and now four goals, so I’m not happy with that,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando said after remaining two wins shy of 200 in MLS play. “I think you look around the locker room, they’re not happy with that.
“So I think we have to look in the mirror and see what we’ve got to do better defensively and stop letting in goals, because I’m tired of picking the ball out of the net.”
His team finished 2017 on the upswing, going 8-3-4 in its final 15, missing a chance to pose in the postseason picture by one point. But RSL has begun this 2018 story at 2-3-1. It has scored just six goals to go with the 14 it has surrendered, although it was minus injured defenders Demar Phillips and Marcelo Silva in this one.
“Somewhere along the way from the second part of last year, we kind of forgot certain things,” coach Mike Petke said. “It starts with us, me and the staff, of course, about getting that bite back, getting that mentality, that style of play that we had that made us successful in the second half of last year.”
That said, the losing team had to pass credit to the winning team, one of two still unbeaten along with FC Dallas. NYCFC finished way ahead in shots (26-11) and corner kicks (10-3).
“They were the better team, for sure,” Rimando said.
There were 18,603 fans here who saw Ismael Tajouri-Shradi give NYCFC a 1-0 edge in the 12th minute.
First, Anton Tinnerholm crossed the ball into the middle of the box.
“It came in pretty quick,” Kyle Beckerman said. “I just tried to get it out.”
But the captain’s back-heel attempt was intercepted by Tajouri-Shradi, and he rocketed a shot past Rimando into the upper left side of the net.
Just then, Justen Glad wasn’t happy when he was whistled for taking down Maxi Moralez in the penalty area. Rimando guessed right on the PK, diving to his right. But Moralez went high to double the lead in the 30th minute.
“I thought I pulled back,” Glad said. “I didn’t think I touched him.”
In the 41st minute, Jesus Medina touched the ball ahead to Jo Inge Berget, and he broke into the box and beat a diving Rimando with a low shot to the right side. So it was a 3-0 game at the intermission.
NYCFC didn’t insert goal-scoring great David Villa until the 59th minute. The 36-year-old Spanish striker was sidelined the previous three games with two injuries.
Villa didn’t score — he needs two goals to reach 400 for club and country — but Ebenezer Ofori did. He made it a 4-0 game in the 70th minute after taking a cross from Moralez and converting from in front.
“We gave them a lot of problems, created the overload in the wide area,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “And I think tactically the players executed very well.”
So well that Sean Johnson ended up having to make just four saves for a clean sheet.
“We have a group of players that are very driven, very focused, very hungry,” the goalkeeper said.
The good news for Real Salt Lake? It’s still early.
“We’ve got to find a way out of it,” Beckerman said. “We’re a little ahead of where we were last year when we struggled in the beginning, so there’s still hope.”