The Playoff clock slowly approaches decision day, and only two spots are up for grabs. NYCFC has no room for mistakes and got the job done against Toronto FC despite scheduling complications. The Boys in Blue secured a critical win that can allow them to define their playoff spot against the Chicago Fire in the final match of the regular season if needed. But all things considered, it’s essential to look at what worked for NYCFC in this match. Can the formula be applied moving forward, or was this just a product of the rival’s deficiencies?
While it’s only been two games, Talles Magno has made a strong statement in his return to the squad. The Brazilian scored against Orlando City and picked up his performance level against Toronto. It was like seeing a new and improved Talles Magno, from ball distribution to game involvement, he played a near-perfect match. If you compare his performance against Toronto to his overall season, the difference is noticeable. If it all continues to go his way, gone are the days where he was improvised as a 9. In fact, his involvement throughout the Torornto match completely debunked my theory that he wasn’t seeing minutes because he lacked defensive attributes (not tracking back runs or adding himself in defensive plays ). Literally pointed this out prior to his goal against Orlando City, but overall, I’m glad to see such a quick turnaround from him. Hopefully, he keeps this level not only for the remainder of the regular season games but also for the playoffs.
The resurgence also took place thanks to the inclusion of a proper striker in the squad. Bakrar has adapted to the role quickly, scoring in the Leagues Cup shortly after his signing and in the latest regular season matches. Despite his impressive start, we were yet to see the Talles- Bakrar connection on the field. Having a striker would allow Magno to showcase his best version, but for some reason, they would take the striker role between them prior to the Toronto match. Luckily the moment did arrive, but despite Bakrar’s penalty miss, both players had more freedom on the field. As I said before, it allowed Talles to have a better ball distribution, which transitioned to more attacking opportunities. Leaving Bakrar more space to move between the defensive lines. Overall, the combination worked, now is up to the manager to decide if he allows this partnership to continue building chemistry.
Midfield locked in with a glimpse into the future
This area of the team is perhaps the strongest and most solid part of the squad. So when Andres Perea arrived, it was unlikely that he was going to see many minutes, knowing that we had Keaton, Maxi, and Ledezma set for the midfield. But the Colombian surprised everyone with his playing style. A true rock in midfield and an extra defender when needed. Perea covers all areas of the field and has been able to cover the absences of both Parks and Maxi Moralez due to injury. His positioning and awareness can help the team add a surprise element to the attack. If you want an example, look no further than his goal against Toronto. His performances and work ethic have made him a fan-favorite in New York. I would like to say that he’s the next big asset to be exported from NYCFC. Unfortunately, the midfielder is only here on loan, the hope now is that both NYCFC and Philadelphia Union work out a deal to keep Perea in the Big Apple. Should that happen, the midfield is secured as he has built up the chemistry needed to become a regular in the team.
Julian Fernandez didn’t have the best of stars with NYCFC. Opponents easily picked him out due to either their physical advantage or his tactical function on the field. He was unable to display his attributes, and it certainly looked like he needed the offseason to get things sorted out. But it only took him about 60 seconds, a short but deadly South American connection with Talles, and space on the wing to finally display his attributes. His speed and control with the ball at his feet were amazing, the fact that he had time to give his shot a curving effect. Promising glimpses of talent, and yes, while it can be way too soon, I can see Fernandez following Taty’s footsteps and becoming the future of the club. He still has a lot of ground to cover in order to bring out his best version, but with guidance and enough opportunities, I can guarantee that he will be a top player down the line.
The Inter Miami Challenge
Toronto FC might have given advantages that allowed NYCFC to have an outstanding game. But the upcoming rival means business. Inter Miami is enjoying a rebirth after Messi’s arrival to the team. They won the Leagues Cup after consecutive top performances by the man himself. But their standings in the regular season have them on the verge of missing out on the playoffs. With this in mind and having rescued a draw in their latest fixture, they will be looking to start picking up points. So, what does NYCFC need to do to walk away with a good result? Is stopping Messi Miami’s Kryptonite?
- Isolating Sergio Busquets – The midfielder is the heart and soul behind Miami’s game. He’s able to pinpoint passes in unexpected spaces, and if that’s not the case, the connection with Messi is able to break most of their opponent’s defensive lines. NYCFC must implement a double-marking system to stop Busquets from distributing the ball. I firmly believe that Miami won’t be able to be as dangerous if Busquets is isolated.
- Keeping up with Jordi Alba – He might be Messi’s best ally, but keeping up with his runs down the wing is key to limiting his involvement in the game. This match could be ideal for Cufre or Tayvon Gray in terms of speed, the winger is carrying an injury so he could be sidelined for the match. Either way, the team must be prepared.
- Campana’s aerial skillset- The Ecuadorian striker is having a good scoring run and will be called up for the national team. The key to stopping him from doing any damage is not allowing him to turn once he receives the ball. Other than that I think Matt Freeze will have to be his direct rival to stop his aerial skillset. Campana in general tends to be stiff most of the time, so as long as NYCFC prevents any crosses from reaching the box things will be okay.
- Talles and Bakrar- The duo will face a complicated rival, but they have the quality to make things happen in an attack. One advantage against Miami is knowing that Messi doesn’t get past midfield when defending so Bakrar’s physicality is a plus combined with Magno’s speed. I wonder if Bakrar will do the Cristiano celebration if he scores against Miami.
- The Messi effect – The league has adjusted to his presence to some extent. However, being NYCFC’s first time facing the World Champion, his presence can shock most of the opposition. While his legacy and contributions to the game are undeniable, the team can secure a playoff spot with a win in Miami. But then again, most of the players only saw Messi on TV a year ago. This definitely will be a tough task to complete