NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City FC celebrated their Big Apple opening in style at Yankee Stadium with captain David Villa scoring and taking an emotional curtain call in their Major League Soccer home debut on Sunday.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio presented a plaque proclaiming March 15th NYCFC Day and Villa proved it to the delight of 43,000 fans in the chill of the Bronx in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution.
Villa cut inside from the left touchline, played a quick one-two with Ned Grabavoy, burst into the penalty area and confidently slotted the ball past New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to put NYCFC in the lead in the 19th minute.
The Spanish striker blew kisses to a roaring crowd wearing the sky blue club colors and was mobbed by his team mates after the first home goal by the new MLS team.
Villa helped ice the win with a cross to Patrick Mullins, who scored in the 84th minute.
A flurry of other chances failed in windy, chilly conditions in a 70-by-110 yard field squeezed into the confines of the baseball shrine.
New England’s Kelyn Rowe missed three good chances in the first half, and Juan Agudelo’s header from point blank range was stopped in the 42nd minute for the Revolution, last year’s MLS title runners-up.
The pitch, which covered most of the diamond with newly laid sod, did not produce bad footing as feared after being uncovered following a frigid, snow-covered winter.
Damage to the permanent turf — a worry expressed by some Yankees from their balmy Florida spring training headquarters — did not appear to be warranted.
But that concern will be played out over 17 scheduled games for NYCFC, who will share the stadium for the next few seasons while planning their own facility.
The sharing of Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009 across the street from the original ‘House that Ruth built’, was arranged by NYCFC’s parent club Manchester City of the English Premier League and the Yankees, who are minority partners in NYCFC.
The old Yankee Stadium had a long tradition of hosting soccer matches, bringing in some of the world’s most famous teams. Soccer legend Pele called the stadium home with the NASL’s New York Cosmos in 1976.
In Sunday’s other game, late substitute Alan Gordon scored a goal in stoppage time to dash the hopes of the home fans at Providence Park in Portland and earn the defending champion LA Galaxy a 2-2 draw with the Timbers.
The Timbers appeared to have the game won after going 2-1 up when striker Fanendo Adi scored his second goal of the afternoon in the 90th minute, but Gordon spoiled their celebrations two minutes later with his equalizer off a corner kick.
Editing by Gene Cherry/Peter Rutherford