New York City FC falls in heartbreaking loss to Orlando

New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
New York City FC. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

New York City FC, once again, lost in their opening round of the playoffs

On Saturday, New York City FC faced Orlando City SC in their first game of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.  The Pigeons went into the game in top form and on a scoring momentum.  To move into the next round, they had to continue where they left off at the end of the regular season.

For Orlando, this was their first playoff game in their history.  Since the game was against their fellow expansion club, the drive to win was obvious.  Plus, with limited fans there cheering them on, NYCFC had a huge mountain to climb.  Not only do the Pigeons struggle in Orlando, but their history in the playoffs is marked with failure and disappointment.

In a hectic and gritty game, it ended in a 1-1 draw, but NYCFC fell to Orlando in a penalty kick shootout, 6-5. The match started quickly in a fierce battle.  Unfortunately for the Pigeons, things went haywire right away, and Orlando won a penalty kick off an Anton Tinnerholm handball in the box.  Although controversial due to the hesitation, Nani easily converted the penalty in the 5th minute and brought Orlando ahead.

On the bright side, that did not last long.  New York City FC won a corner in which Jesús Medina took in the 8th minute.  The Paraguayan swooped the ball into the box, and it was met by a powerful header from Maxime Chanot.  The center-back delivered the ball into the back of the net, and just like that the game was tied.

Alas, those goals were the only goals for 120 minutes, plus stoppage time. Orlando’s keeper Pedro Gallese put on a show, especially in the first half, stopping everything NYCFC sent his way.  If he was not on top of things, then NYCFC might have been up 2-1 or 3-1.  The goalkeeper evidently kept Orlando in the match and is the main reason why the game went into extra time, and eventually, the Lions won.

The match goes in a crazy and interesting direction

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It was around the 77th minute where things got interesting though.  After a free kick, Tinnerholm went after the ball, and Orlando defender Ruan dangerously shouldered into him.  The NYCFC right-back went down, and Ruan eventually got a yellow.  However, it was shockingly not reviewed, despite the fact it could have been a red.

Later, in the 84th minute, Ruan and Gary Mackay-Steven collided with one another.  Mackay-Steven used Ruan to get up by pushing on him, which ended in a yellow.  But, it was Ruan who lashed out and kicked the NYCFC player from the ground.  After a dramatic performance from the Orlando right-back, he was eventually given a red card, and the Lions were down a man.

Nonetheless, NYCFC could not get that second goal, and the game went into extra time.  The 10 men Orlando City were able to hold off the Pigeons, and even had their own chances.  While New York City FC had numerous shots, the fear amongst fans was alive and well: the final finishing touch was not there.  Arguably, the Lions defended strongly, and of course, their goalkeeper kept the score 1-1.  But there were still attacking chances that got away, and players like Medina and Valentín Castellanos could not achieve that needed goal.

Therefore, the game went into a penalty kick shootout.  Historically, NYCFC have not done well, and once again, the Pigeons were knocked out of the playoffs in their first game played.  Even so, the shootout was insane, and it started out with Maxi Moralez.  He disappointingly missed the first penalty for the Pigeons, and then everyone else scored for both sides.

Then, to make this hectic game even crazier, Castellanos went to take his penalty kick, who had to score to keep the Pigeons alive.  Gallese made the save, but the video review showed his foot off the line.  It led to the keeper going off due to two yellows, and Castellanos had a second chance against defender Rodrigo Schlegel.  Per the rules, the sixth substitution could not be made during the shootout.  Hence, a non-goalkeeper went between the sticks.

The Argentine was able to execute the second time, and with luck Sean Johnson made the vital save against Nani.  NYCFC were still in it.  But afterward, Gudmundur Thórarinsson’s penalty was saved, and Johnson failed to save Benji Michel’s shot.  Orlando won the shootout 6-5, and the Pigeons season again ended in heartbreak.

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Truthfully, they should have done better.  Ronny Deila should have done better.  And the attacking players should have scored.  With Gallese’s sendoff, the team was given a lifeline but failed to execute.  For fans, this is angering, and unacceptable.  There will be, for the thousandth time, multiple questions asked.

For now, the Pigeons must regroup, for the Champions League resumes in December.  But there is no doubt this playoff loss stings.  It hurts.  And there is no easier way to explain this game.  Once again, New York City FC have found themselves in Heartbreak City.