New York City FC knocked out of Champions League

New York City FC (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
New York City FC (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

New York City FC lost to Tigres UANL after missed opportunities and a troubled defense

On Monday, New York City FC announced four players would not be available for the resumption of the CONCACAF Champions League due to COVID-19.  Three players had tested positive, and one player, starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, would not be available due to contract tracing putting him in close contact.  Captain Alexander Ring was also not available due to undergoing an operation.

So, since NYCFC was down 1-0 to Tigres UANL from the first leg, and were without a few of their starting players, the team was already the underdog going into Tuesday night’s game.  Additionally, they have not played since November 21, where they lost to Orlando City SC in the MLS Cup Playoffs.  The lack of playing time, the missing players, and defensive lapses in a decent performance, eventually led to the team losing 4-0, and then 5-0 on aggregate.

Despite what would be the outcome, expectations were already low going into the game, especially after the announcements from Monday.  If New York City FC would have been at full strength and maybe played a friendly match since November, then would they have won?  There are no guarantees, and that will remain an open question.  Also, as cases continue to rise in New York and around the country, it is not surprising a few players came down with COVID-19.

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Consequently, the lack of available players from both the coronavirus and injury definitely impacted the Pigeons.  Not having players like Ring and Johnson, the leaders of the team, was not ideal.  Plus, Tigres capitalized on their opportunities.

In the 30th minute, Ronald Matarrita was beaten out by Luis Quiñones.  The Colombian outran the Costa Rican and moved the ball toward goal. He then swept the ball into the box, where Tigres superstar André-Pierre Gignac was waiting.  Gignac headed the ball into the back of the net, and there was nothing goalkeeper Luis Barraza could do.

Then, in the 49th minute, Matarrita was beaten again, and Quiñones passed the ball to Leonardo Fernández, who back healed the ball into the net.  Later on in the 64th minute, Rafael Carioca headed the ball past a sleepy NYCFC backline.  Finally, in the 85th minute, Javier Aquino got his goal, in which the defense was just lost.  Again, Tigres took the chance on the lapse of judgment in the defense and capitalized.

However, excluding the goals from Tigres, the Pigeons’ shockingly had a decent performance.  They played with a high tempo pace and with a lot of fight throughout portions of the game, especially in the first half.  They did not go down easy and even had 15 shots, and four on target. NYCFC did not look like a team that last played a match over three weeks ago.

Yes, they lost terribly, but credit must be given when due.  They took their chances and were lively on the pitch.  More importantly, they did not give up, even when down 3-0 and 4-0.  Unfortunately, the defensive struggles will be the highlight of why NYCFC lost, and deservedly so.  Tigres scored, and there is no excuse to lose 4-0, no matter the circumstances.

But it was not just their lapses in the defense, but lack of goals that contributed to their exit.  They got into the attacking third and had opportunities.  But misses, not-so-smart passes and saves and blocks from Tigres prevented the Pigeons from capitalizing on the opportunities presented to them.  In the end, the opposition was the better side, for they procured the goals.

Hence, that was the major difference, and why the Liga MX side won the second leg 4-0.  Furthermore, while NYCFC were missing players, they still had most of their starters out there on the pitch.  Head coach Ronny Deila also had an attack heavy Starting XI.  But in the end, the players struggled to score, and their defense was extremely disappointing.

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Thus, the constant goal-scoring toils and the fact players like Ring, Johnson, and even James Sands were not available, assisted toward the 2020 season officially ending for New York City FC.  While they did have a stronger performance than expected, the overall result was utterly disappointing and non-excusable.  Alas, the team must now look toward 2021, for the insane and unconventional 2020 year is finally done for the Pigeons.