NYCFC continues to push for the playoffs despite recent results. The Boys In Blue hosted Orlando City in Citi Field for one last time this regular season. The visitors carried the momentum after a convincing victory against Columbus Crew. NYCFC missed an opportunity to pick up points against the city rivals, making this midweek fixture a must-win if they wanted to stay in the wildcard race. This, of course, without keeping into account that other results also influence how close we get to the postseason spots.
Another step forward in Queens
Losing players like Maxi Moralez and Keaton Parks in consecutive fixtures is difficult to process. Luckily, there’s depth in the squad this season, so it’s an opportunity to see other players take on the responsibility of helping the team obtain the results. Richie Ledezma, Andres Perea, and Jasson were chosen to stop Orlando City from clinching a playoff spot in Queens. As it usually happens, the team started with a bit of possession to dictate and study the rival. Orlando, however, has the luxury of having one of the best goalkeepers in South America and showcased his class 3 minutes in with a great save after Perea’s close-range shot. From that point on, the match was very physical. Bakrar came close with a few attempts but was off-target, aside from that, the match got stuck in midfield as both teams wanted to win that area of the field to dictate the match. It took NYCFC 35 minutes to create a concrete goal opportunity. Santiago Rodriguez made a run down the wing and was able to beat his marker. He would have gone all the way to goal, but he was fouled inside the box.
The call could have gone either way, but VAR decided in favor of NYCFC, and a penalty kick was given. After a quick mix-up between Bakrar and Santiago Rodriguez before the penalty, the Uruguayan faced Pedro Gallese from the penalty spot. Orlando’s keeper guessed the correct way but Bakrar was able to catch the follow-up with a quick-thinking header to open the score in the 37th minute. The first half ended with a good lead by NYCFC, but the idea was not to underestimate the rival. They are in the top places of the conference for a reason, and we can’t forget that NYCFC has trouble holding on to leads this season.
The second 45 minutes saw more of the same, but unfortunately, the team would lose yet another player through injury for a third week in a row. This time it was Richie Ledezma who received a bad tackle in midfield. Thankfully, he was able to walk on his own after the game despite leaving the field on a stretcher. The injury, however, would allow Talles Magno to get some much-needed minutes. It’s safe to say that it was like looking at a movie script, the team had to secure the win, and the substitute came on with a lot of frustration on his shoulders. Everyone knows he has the talent, everyone wanted him to be the hero. By the 68th minute he was able to find space between the defense and scored with a header into the top corner. Gallese was left powerless, and Talles Magno was able to shake off the pressure, giving NYCFC the victory.
Speaking to Andres Perea after the game, he invited people to believe and urged them to continue supporting. The team now prepares to face Toronto at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. A win combined with other results would put the team in playoff spots, but what does the team need to do in order to achieve that objective, you may ask, if that’s the case these are a few pointers.
Key points to face Toronto
- Keeping Matt Freeze at goal – Consecutive clean sheets and the security he provides inside the box is key for the team to have confidence in the defensive aspect of the game. Consistency is important and Freeze will be the one in goal should the team make the playoffs.
- Talles Magno – The Brazilian was the hero against Orlando, but he needs to continue showing that he is ready to maintain himself in the starting XI. While the rival does change the selection of the team, Talles should have another chance to leave his mark on the field.
- Keeping the midfield – A bit general, but with all the injuries to this area of the team, the manager has to try and keep this area in balance. The profile of players should have attacking qualities so those who get picked must go all out in the attack.
- Toronto FC – The rival arrives with a tough record this season. While they might be out of playoff contention, it’s exactly what makes them dangerous. They all come with a point to prove and will bring their A game against every rival they face. NYCFC must be careful.
- Results must go our way- While NYCFC has to win, other scoreboards have a direct impact on how close the team gets to playoffs. Charlotte, DC United, and Chicago must lose in order for NYCFC to have some “Breathing space” ahead of the fixture against Inter Miami.