New York City FC came back to beat Los Angeles FC thanks to four substitutions that were made midway through the second half.
In the last game before the three week international break, New York City FC traveled to California to face Los Angeles FC. In their only trip out West this year, the Pigeons looked to redeem themselves following a devastating loss to the Columbus Crew. Despite LAFC sitting in 9th place before the game, both teams entered the match with eight points. Plus, the LA side is still a threatening team, and is always a challenge to play against.
In an unexpected turn of events, NYCFC beat LAFC 2-1. Second half goals from Jesús Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi led the team to pick up all three points, and shocked the fans at the Banc of California Stadium. It probably shocked NYCFC fans as well, since LAFC was the better team throughout the game. At least, that was the case until Ronny Deila made four changes at once in the 67th minute. Even so, LAFC led with almost 60% of the possession throughout the match, and until those four changes, led in the shots department.
At first, NYCFC looked like they would be demolished during the first half. LAFC kept on attacking, but defensively the team held on, despite a few mistakes here and there. If not for the likes of Maxime Chanot and James Sands, the California team would have scored easily. Chanot’s three interceptions and a block, and then Sands’ three clearances and an interception, notably kept LAFC at bay, and kept the Pigeons in the match.
Alas, in the 56th minute, those fears came to fruition. LAFC’s Corey Baird was able to tap the ball into the back of the net off of a deflected pass from Mark-Anthony Kaye. Being at the right place at the right time put home side up on top, although that did not last for long.
After being run over on the pitch, Deila made a quadruple of changes in the fateful 67th minute. Tajouri-Shradi, Anton Tinnerholm, Alfredo Morales, and Talles Magno, who made his debut, all came on at once. And suddenly, there was this burst of energy for the Pigeons. They began to maintain more of the possession, and created more chances in the attacking third. They turned into a more confident side, and that paid off right away.
In the 70th minute, LAFC were trying to get the ball out of their defensive third, but pressure from Magno and Tajouri-Shradi caused the ball to be given away directly to Tinnerholm. The right-back then swiftly passed the ball to Medina, who once again had an impressive curler of a goal. He tied the game, but what was even more remarkable was the second goal.
Unfortunately, Nicolás Acevedo was shown a red card in the 86th minute after receiving his second yellow, leading the Pigeons down a man for the remainder of the game. They could have just settled for a point, but that did not happen. Instead, in the 90th minute, NYCFC were rewarded a corner kick, which Medina took. The ball was looped into the box, where Morales attempted a header. The ball then fell to Tajouri-Shradi, who easily kicked the ball into the top left corner of the goal. No one from LAFC could stop him, and thus the Pigeons won 2-1, completing the comeback.
Looking to the rest of the season
This win for New York City FC is a great way to enter the international break. More importantly, there is a lot to look forward to once the season resumes. To begin, the Pigeons have performed better than expected with the team that they have. They are 3-2-2, and that includes the draw against Toronto FC where they were robbed three points due to poor refereeing.
Nonetheless, not many would have pegged them to have the record they have based on the roster. But here they are with 11 points, and now the side has gotten even stronger with the arrival of Magno and Thiago. Both players are young with tremendous potential, and fans already saw what Magno can do during his debut.
Still working up to match fitness, the substitute immediately impacted the game when he came on the pitch. He constantly made himself available, and attempted to create chances too. His ability to pressure the opposition helped lead to the Medina goal, and he made his presence known. Fans only got a taste of what the Brazilian can offer, but already he is a proven difference maker.
In addition, Héber should be close to returning after his ACL injury. He undoubtedly will make a difference in the attack, and Deila will now have options at the striker position. Hopefully he can recreate what he did during his first season, but the threat of him alone will be helpful in the attacking third.
So far, the season has not been perfect. Yet, New York City FC is making their mark. Between players stepping up, the new signings, the fact there is still a Designated Player spot open, and the current record, gives fans a lot to look forward to after the international break.