On Thursday, February 20, New York City FC played in their first CONCACAF Champions League match against A.D. San Carlos. Here are three things we learned from the historic occasion.
On Thursday night in Costa Rica, New York City FC officially played their first competitive game of 2020, and their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League game. NYCFC Head coach Ronny Deila put out a strong starting XI, with a surprise yet decent start from Jesús Medina. And, with some NYCFC fans in attendance, the Deila’s men shocked the home side with a 5-3 win.
While San Carlos is in the midst of their season, NYCFC’s has barely begun. Truthfully, there were questions on how the team would perform. But unlike their opponents, the Pigeons came through. The team, for the most part, played skillfully and intelligently, controlling over 60% of the possession. Nevertheless, this is only the first leg and there are still 90 minutes to play. It is assumed the Pigeons will cruise into the next round, but this is soccer, and one can never know.
Here are three things we learned from New York City FC’s first-leg victory against San Carlos.
3. Héber continues to shine
After a productive first season with New York City FC, there were a lot of expectations for Héber Araújo dos Santos. And in the first CCL tie of the season and the club’s history, the Brazilian did not disappoint. His work-rate was evident, constantly attacking and pressuring the ball. He also made himself open and available in the box, urging teammates to pass to him. This resulted in five shots on goal and led to his first hat-trick with the club.
In the historical sense, Héber scored the first CCL goal for NYCFC in the 13th minute. An assist from Ronald Matarrita, and the Brazilian turned the cross home after finding space in the penalty area. In the 35th minute, Héber scored again, using a similar movement to drift in behind the defense and prod home a low cross, dampening the spirits of the San Carlos and Costa Rican fans.
And then, later in the second half, Héber secured his hat-trick. San Carlos player David Sánchez was caught with a handball in the box, rewarding the Pigeons a penalty kick. Héber duly stepped up to and converted the spot-kick. Héber displayed his talent and worth to NYCFC, which will be substantial as the 2020 season rolls on.