Goals three minutes apart from Keaton Parks and Alexandru Mitrita late in the first half helped lead New York City FC to a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The victory, the sixth in a seven-match unbeaten run for NYCFC (16-5-9, 57 points), extends the club’s lead atop the Eastern Conference to six points ahead of second-place Philadelphia ahead of the Union’s home clash against LAFC Saturday night. In a difficult stretch of three matches in eight days, NYCFC have accrued seven points.
“Three games, seven points, it’s not bad and how important it is for our team because we are really tired,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “We are really tired. At the moment, i can say that — we are really tired.”
San Jose (13-12-5, 44 points) suffered its second consecutive defeat and remain in fifth place, just one point in front of the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas.
MLS goals kick Chris Wondolowski opened the scoring in the 20th minute with career goal No. 158. The veteran forward stretched out his left foot to beat Alex Callens to a Vako cross and tapped past Sean Johnson from the edge of the 6-yard box.
“NYCFC is at the top of the Eastern Conference for a reason. They are a solid team and play a nice style, they played well,” Wondolowski said. “We had a five minute lapse and got punished in the first half … we need to start learning from our mistakes.”
Parks leveled with his first MLS goal in the 40th minute, picking off a San Jose pass and powering through the midfield before dishing to Gary Mackay-Steven. The Scottish winger was denied by Daniel Vega, but Parks pounced on the rebound and fired into the back of the net.
“I was just trying to support the ball if there’s a rebound, I was really counting on him to score the goal after I did that whole run,” Parks said. “He had a good attempt on target and the keeper made a great save. Luckily, I was still there for the rebound and I got my chance on goal.”
The goal came 12 minutes after Mackay-Steven’s slightly deflected shot caromed off the crossbar.
NYCFC went into the break with a 2-1 lead courtesy of Alexandru Mitrita’s ninth goal of the season. The Romanian designated player called for a ball into space and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi delivered an inch-perfect pass. In stride, Mitrita took a settling touch with the outside of his right foot and buried past Vega two minutes from halftime.
“They played much better than us in the first half,” Torrent said. “We had to adjust a little bit, our wings played wide. That happened in the second goal we scored.”
San Jose pressed for the equalizer immediately after the break with Cristian Espinoza settling a long diagonal pass and firing on frame, forcing Johnson to dive to his left to parry away.
On the ensuing corner kick, Johnson batted down Guram Kashia’s downward header from the edge of the 6-yard box.
After absorbing pressure for the first 20 minutes of the second half, NYCFC nearly put the game away in the 65th minute when Alex Ring was played behind by Mitrita and put a shot past Vega. But Judson raced back and cleared the ball from the line to keep the Earthquakes in it.
Mitrita had a chance at a near carbon copy of his free kick goal in a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC, but he put his spinning brace attempt just over the crossbar in the 82nd minute.
NYCFC play their final Western Conference opposition next Sunday when they head to Frisco to take on FC Dallas, while the Quakes look to bounce back next Saturday against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We’re just gonna enjoy life a little bit and take some rest and then we’ll see what the result will be, but for us it’s been a tough week and now it’s up to us,” Anton Tinnerholm said, stressing NYCFC is in the driver’s seat to finish atop the East. “If we take the points we can do then no other teams can match us so what the other teams are doing for us is not that important.”
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