– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEW YORK — Two of New York City FC’s most influential players were at the top of their games to help their team take down the top team in the Eastern Conference of MLS.
Midfielder Maxi Moralez scored twice from the penalty spot and forward Valentin Castellanos nabbed the game-winner as part of his brace during New York’s 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. New York remains undefeated at home, winning three of its last four at Yankee Stadium.
A game that was open and entertaining from the offset got the elaborate game-winner it deserved, as Moralez rolled a pass from the right flank to the top of the penalty area, where Castellanos put his right foot through the ball and sent a low screamer past Union goalkeeper Matt Freese in the 71st minute for a New York’s first lead of the evening at 3-2. Seven minutes later, Moralez and Castellanos once again connected, with Moralez touching a pass to send Castellanos free before he chipped the ball over a sliding Freese to add some insurance.
Philadelphia saw its four-game unbeaten run end, and the Union had entered tonight earning a result in 10 of their last 11 contests (6-1-4).
The Union got on the board first when New York City native Fafa Picault chested down a pass from Jairo Monteiro before turning and firing a shot past NYCFc goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the seventh minute.
That goal gave the Union the first of two leads, both of which they surrendered. Defender Auston Trusty was ruled to have brought down an attacking Castellanos in the box, though replays indicated that the touch was slight, if existent at all. Moralez stepped up in the 23rd minute to convert the penalty, going down the middle as Freese dove to his right.
Philadelphia soon was ahead once again, with playmaking midfielder Ilsinho attacked the right flank and made his way into the penalty area before sending a pass into traffic in the middle of the area. Monteiro got a slight touch to the pass, which set up leading scorer Kacper Przybylko to unleash a right-footed volley that put the Union back in front in the 30th minute.
Once more, another penalty drew NYCFC level and, again, it was Castellanos who was fouled in the box, this time by midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. Moralez stepped up to the spot and went left, beating Freese for pace to tie the match in the 55th.
Though Philadelphia came into the match leading the Eastern Conference with 32 points, NYCFC has only lose one game all season in league play. However, NYCFC had drawn eight of their 14 league games and found itself on the fringes of the top six in the Eastern Conference before today.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s game, with all photos taken by A Lot of Sports Talk senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 31 pictures in total.