In the absence of the injured David Villa, Sean Ugo Okoli led the line for an NYCFC side looking to make it ten unbeaten games in the Bronx.
Not since Orlando City’s win at Yankee Stadium in April had the Boys in Blue tasted defeat on home soil but, without nine regular first-team players and facing off against one of the Western Conference’s finest, this promised to be one of the toughest tests of the season so far.
In the absence of Villa, McNamara captained the side and the skipper very nearly gave his side the lead on 8’ when he was teed up by Jack Harrison but his shot was dragged just wide of the target.
Five minutes later, NYCFC went close again and it was Harrison who was the architect again, touching a corner back across the face of goal for Frederic Brillant but the Frenchman’s header just flew the wrong side of the near post.
A spirited start from a patched-up home team which did wonders for the confidence of those gathered on a rain-soaked NYC night.
The following 15’ were centered around the midfield battleground with possession changing hands at regular intervals as neither side were able to seize the initiative and dictate terms.
Although the opening half was short on chances, Andrea Pirlo did have chance to put on a clinic on spreading the play and it was from this source that NYCFC went close again on 32’.
The Italian rode a challenge before playing it out wide to Jonathan Lewis who burned his marker and drilled in a teasing cross for Okoli who was only a meter away from connecting.
Two minutes later, Christian Lobato fired in a warning shot from range which had Sean Johnsonmomentarily panicked before it drifted wide of the frame, before a Pirlo free-kick found the SKC defensive wall and Maxi Moralez was denied by Tim Melia when he shot from close range.
There was to be no breakthrough before the interval but the first 45’ had delivered an intriguing encounter, foreshadowing a second half which would surely be even more so, with the points there for the taking for one of these two teams with MLS Cup ambitions…
Roger Espinoza tested Johnson with a piledriver in the first 60 seconds of the second period but on 54’, Vieira’s men were a lick of paint away from seizing the advantage.
RJ Allen put in work on the overlap before whipping in an excellent cross for Okoli who did everything right, sidefooting the ball towards goal but it came back off the outside of the post with the goalkeeper beaten all ends up.
It was a let-off for SKC and there was another one in short order as somehow second half substitute Khiry Shelton and Okoli both missed a Maxi Moralez cross from under the crossbar with the goal gaping.
That could easily have been the enduring memory of the night, if Harrison had not come up big with the game-winner in the dying minutes.
It was a brilliant finish from the Englishmen as he seized upon the loose ball, took a touch and volleyed clinically past Melia.
That was enough for the three points which puts NYC well in charge of their own destiny in the MLS Playoffs race.