NEW YORK — On a night when New York City FC didn't play its best soccer, Patrick Vieira's squad still mustered enough late quality to pull off a 2-1 comeback victory over New England on Sunday. The win kept NYCFC four points behind Toronto FC for the best record in Major League Soccer, but as far as Vieira is concerned, the chase for the Supporters' Shield is over.
"It was important to win because I believe that it's always good to get close to Toronto, but I believe that Toronto are already the champions," Vieira said on Sunday. "I think all of the teams are going to fight for the second spot and Toronto will win the league. You saw it last night, they are really strong and I don't think anybody will catch them."
Vieira's proclamation conceding the Supporters' Shield — which is awarded to the MLS team with the best regular-season record — might seem premature given the fact there is still more than a quarter of the season left to play, but it may be a pragmatic observation given TFC's quality and depth. The Canadian club has lost just twice in its past 19 regular season matches, and only one of their remaining nine matches will be against a team currently in the league's top eight. Conversely, NYCFC has five of its final nine matches against teams in the top eight.
NYCFC's latest comeback victory, which came courtesy of a stoppage-time winner by rookie Jonathan Lewis, was still significant because it extended the team's lead over the Chicago Fire for second place in the East to five points. It also pushed NYCFC's advantage on the New York Red Bulls to eight points ahead of next week's derby showdown at Red Bull Arena.
David Villa played the hero for NYCFC once again on Sunday, tallying his 60th career MLS goal, and league-leading 19th on the season to tie the match in the 77th minute. Lewis delivered the winner in the dying moments of the match, when he latched onto an errant Ben Sweat shot and slotted home a shot in the 94th minute.
The late flurry helped offset an otherwise lackluster showing from NYCFC, which was left frustrated by a Revolution side that deployed a defensive-minded setup that included coach Jay Heaps benching attacking standouts Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez in favor of a stronger and more physical lineup. The decision looked like it might bear fruit after Teal Bunbury pounced on a spilled ball by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson to open the scoring in the 57th minute.
NYCFC showed signs of life late in the match, as Vieira's insertion of Lewis, Khiry Shelton and Sean Okoli helped open things up in attack.
The loss leaves the Revolution seven points out of playoff position, and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.