New York City FC will head into Saturday's derby against the Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium on a roll. A 1-1 tie at Toronto before more than 30,000 fans moved NYCFC into first place in the Eastern Conference and extended its unbeaten streak to five games, the longest in its short history.After three straight wins, the draw was still impressive, considering the travel and lineup changes (eight in all) from the 2-1 win at Portland on Sunday.
Josh Saunders had another great game in goal, robbing Sebastian Giovinco on a breakaway and diving to stop the Italian's free kick in the first half.
"Since the beginning of the season," said NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira, "Josh has made some really important saves during games and we are doing well and he is playing a big part in us winning games and taking points away. His form has been fantastic for us."
Vieira rested Andrea Pirlo and didn't put David Villa into the game until late in the second half.
"I think we didn’t play our best game but when you make so many changes," said Vieira, "and I knew that it would be quite difficult because we played against one of the best sides in the league. When we make changes and players don’t play enough it is always difficult."
Two players -- Mehdi Ballouchy and Diego Martinez -- got their first starts of the season, and Patrick Mullins started just his second game. Vieira had praise for Poku, who was starting his third game, and Mullins.
"I was expecting them to work hard," he said, "and I knew that physically it would be difficult for them because they didn’t have the rhythm of the game, because they didn’t play so much during the season, but I was really pleased, especially with Patrick, it wasn’t easy for him and a No. 9 to do what I asked but he put his head up and he worked hard for the team and I was really pleased with his performance."
New York City is 4-3-5 after 12 games. A year ago, it won one of its first 12 games. Mullins said a big difference is the experience NYCFC's players have dealing with the travel.
"It’s something you have to deal with in this league," he said, "and the guys on this team that have been in this league for a while know what it’s about. The guys who were with us last year and it was their first time in the league, I think they are getting used to it."