Fielding a starting lineup of eleven players from last year's MLS Cup winning team, NYCFC picked up right where it left off last season with a professional 2-0 win over Costa Rican side Santos de Guapiles.
While rumors of Taty Castellanos' potential departure swirled throughout the entire offseason, and continue to, last season's golden boot winner looked unaffected as he scored two first half goals. No doubt the man of the match, Castellanos struck from the penalty spot in the 5th minute before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner in the 30th minute.
It was a performance that showed exactly why Castellanos is valued so highly by NYCFC's front office, which has reportedly turned down multiple 7-figure offers for the Argentine.
As a whole, New York City played well, albeit not perfectly. There were several uncharacteristic giveaways which may have been punished by better opposition. This could be shaken off as rust in the first match of the season, but as NYCFC hopefully progresses to play some of CONCACAF's largest teams later in the competition, it will need to improve its ball security.
The best moment of the match in the eyes of many NYCFC faithful came in the 75th minute, when Keaton Parks made his return from surgery to remove a blood clot late last season. Parks will be even more essential to the City midfield with the departure of James Sands, and seeing him back after a serious operation is great news for all involved with the club.
The lowest moment came just six minutes prior, when Santi Rodriguez received what many would consider to be a harsh red card. Rodriguez looked strong playing on the right side of midfield for most of the game, a position that he may see more time at this year given the departures of Jesus Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
NYCFC dominated possession prior to the red card, and was able to create a fair amount of chances. Maxi Moralez looked as composed and creative as ever in midfield. Gedion Zelalem was responsible for a few of the giveaways mentioned above in a rare start, but showed some real quality on the ball in other moments. With more minutes to get himself back in match shape after many seasons marred with injuries, potentially some at NYCFCII, Zelalem could begin showing some of the potential that made him a potential star early in his career.
Thiago Martins also made his debut in the 76th minute, a time in which NYCFC moved to a back three after the red card. Martins did not have much to do, but the newest DP signing for the boys in blue looked composed when he had to be.
Whether it be Champions League or National team World Cup qualifiers, the key has always been said to be for the road team to get a result in any way possible. NYCFC did just that in Costa Rica, and holds a comfortable 2-0 lead headed into the return home leg in... Los Angeles? While at times unspectacular, a composed victory in a foreign environment will be exactly what Ronny Deila was hoping for just a week and a half before the MLS season kicks off.