New York City FC finally won again thanks to three goals in the second half
Before New York City FC even announced their starting lineup, shocking news, but not so shocking news for 2020, was announced: a player tested positive for COVID-19. The club did not announce who the player was, but through the process of elimination regarding who is out due to injury and yellow card accumulation, it is assumed the positive player is Ismael Tajouri-Shradi.
Despite the news, the game against the Montreal Impact moved forward, based on the argument everyone else tested negative. With a three-game winless streak and the fact two of those games were losses, NYCFC was in an even bigger pickle. The team had to win to remain competitive for a top-six Eastern conference spot. So, after a thrilling and not always pretty match, NYCFC finally scored the much-needed goals and beat Montreal 3-1.
Fortunately for the Pigeons, their performance level continued to improve from the disastrous New England game, and the team undoubtedly looked more composed from the Columbus Crew fixture. Plus, they led in possession, shots, and shots on goal. But it was the first half where they looked their best.
New York City FC turned it up when it mattered most
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In those first 45 minutes, there were opportunities taken against the tightly compacted Montreal Impact defense. Often struggling, Gary Mackay-Steven had a few strikes from outside the box, and the opposing keeper James Pantemis was kept busy.
Even when the Pigeons were not taking shots, they kept a high amount of possession in the attacking third. Furthermore, the players easily recovered the ball when lost, allowing them to keep possession.
It was only in the final five to ten minutes when Montreal began to energize and take more chances. The game became more even, and that continued going into the second half.
The Impact came out guns a swinging and subsequently looked to be a completely different team. They kept the possession and had numerous chances taken on the Pigeons’ defense.
However, eventually, the match settled down, and New York City FC were able to even things out. They did have more giveaways in the second half, and the composure declined. Yet, they still created chances and scored all of their goals in the final 45. It was actually the heavily criticized Jesús Medina who put NYCFC on the board in the 68th minute.
After a critical recovery by Alexander Ring in the defensive third, NYCFC began to move the ball up the pitch. Maxi Moralez, who started for the first time since his injury, passed the ball to Ronald Matarrita. The Costa Rican, who was on the right side of the box, then attempted a pass to Medina. He misplaced the pass, but the ball fell right to the Designated Player, and Medina was able to sweep the ball into the back of the net.
That goal was crucial, not just for Medina who has been lackluster in the finishing department, but for the team as well. It sparked a change in the game, and NYCFC was finally able to break the Impact’s defense.
Meanwhile, Maxi Moralez, who arguably had a quiet first half, still made vital passes, including the sequence that led to the first goal. But it was not just his presence that marked his return to the Starting XI, but his own goal as well. In the 83rd minute, Anton Tinnerholm completed an on-point pass to the Argentine. Moralez, with just one touch, then kicked the ball powerfully past Pantemis.
But the Pigeons were not done yet. In the 86th minute, Matarrita swept the ball into the box from a corner kick. The substitute Tony Rocha was open, and kicked the ball easily with his left foot past defenders and the goalkeeper, securing NYCFC’s third goal. This was actually Rocha’s first goal in Major League Soccer, and well-deserving too.
While Montreal did get the consolation goal, NYCFC put in the effort and played their hearts out to get the win. Overall, while not entirely perfect, the team played smartly and well. Additionally, the Medina goal sparked the remaining goals, and the Pigeons never lifted their foot off the gas. And now, thanks to their goals and results around the East, the team sits in 5th place.
Nonetheless, despite the exciting win, the water must be treaded with caution. Yes, a win is a win, and the team scored, but the concerns regarding goals do not go away. Montreal is a bottom of the table team, and New York City FC have been able to score against those sides.
The real test will come Wednesday against Toronto FC, who will be win hungry after an embarrassing loss against the Philadelphia Union. If NYCFC can show they can compete, then maybe the Pigeons will have a chance come playoffs. But for now, the team and fans can celebrate. The winless streak is over, and the three points at home have been secured.