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New York City FC can keep hot start going against Orlando City SC

Offseason upgrades on defense are bearing fruit for the Blues through two games.

David Villa and New York City FC are

David Villa and New York City FC are tied atop the standings with a perfect 2-0 record. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

New York City FC has gotten out to a quick start, notching two wins and sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings alongside the Columbus Crew. David Villa remains the stalwart, but new faces have made the biggest impact in the early going.

Here are some of the keys to the Blues’ early success and how they can keep it going as they cap their homestand Saturday against Orlando City SC.

Reworked back line

NYCFC made a point to pick up more defensive cover during the offseason, and Anton Tinnerholm was chief among those acquisitions. The Swedish right back scored in the home opener against the LA Galaxy last Sunday and earned praise from Villa for his locker room presence. A leading voice on defense who can also score is a godsend for manager Patrick Vieira.

Sebastien Ibeagha, another newcomer, started for the first time at center back and limited the Galaxy’s opportunities. He was filling in for the suspended Maxime Chanot and fit in nicely alongside starters Ben Sweat and Alexander Callens.

Offense generated by Medina

Jesus Medina scored the first goal of the Blues’ season against Sporting KC, and he’s been generating offense ever since. Facing a rebuilt Galaxy, Medina slid a perfect pass to Villa inside the box that led to Tinnerholm’s rebound goal. The midfielder later used a late burst of speed to get past his defender before completing another key pass that led to a Villa goal.

Medina’s presence is helping connect a capable back line with the star striker NYCFC has in Villa. The 20-year-old’s vision on the field points to a promising path forward.

Experience between posts

Keeper Sean Johnson logged a clean sheet in the season opener and stopped five of the six shots he’s faced this year. The challenges will surely increase as the season continues, but these early games have shown the combined benefits of a solid defense and an experienced keeper.

Johnson has also proved himself to be a leader. That kind of direction coming from the back can make a difference at the top of the standings.


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