Ten-man New York City FC went down to a 4-1 defeat to Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg.
It was a punishing evening for the Boys in Blue but it ain’t over ‘til it’s over… here’s what we learned at the MAPFRE Stadium.
READ: Vieira – This Isn’t Over
Down, Not Out
Patrick Vieira was by turns angry, disappointed and frustrated in his post-game press conference following the defeat… but he was also defiant.
The Frenchman said: “Every time we’ve played them, we’ve had opportunities to score goals – not just one, but a few... it’s a big challenge but I strongly believe we can do it.”
Bigger margins have been overturned in recent MLS Playoffs history, so the City Head Coaches’ optimism is understandable, especially seeing as this was a game with the opportunities evenly-spread between the teams until NYCFC were reduced to ten.
It could have all been so different if we had taken the numerous chances we created in the first period but if Columbus can win 4-1 at home, we surely can do the same.
Following a strong end to the first period which saw us hit the post, NYCFC came out after the interval with their tails up, determined to find the equalizer.
Vieira had predicted an attacking game with chances for both sides and that’s exactly what we got with shots raining in on both goalkeepers on either side of the interval.
Sadly, it turned out to be a game which hinged on a single moment as the decision to issue Alexander Callens with a red card early on in the second period transformed the encounter.
Two quickfire goals from Artur and Justin Meram looked to have ended the tie once and for all but… thanks to David Villa, even in spite of Harrison Afful’s crushing fourth goal, we go forth towards Sunday with at least some hope…
There’s a world of difference between 4-0 and 4-1 when you’re looking at a two-legged tournament game where away goals serve as the tiebreaker.
We’re not saying that it’s going to be easy and there’s no doubt that we’re the underdogs with the tie weighted in Columbus’s favor, but this is New York City we’re talking about…
We’ve got grit and we persevere when the odds are stacked against us - you can guarantee that no matter how this one shakes out, we will fight to the end.
How important could Villa’s goal prove to be? We’re not talking about a miraculous scoreline that’s required here… we’ve scored at least three goals on six occasions in 2017, after all.
That red card means that Callens will not be in the starting lineup for the first time in 2017 when Sunday comes around.
However, Vieira pointed out that he does have some options in the position, as the Peruvian misses out through suspension.
Whether or not leg two comes too soon for Maxime Chanot to make his long-awaited return remains to be seen but Ben Sweat and Ethan White both have experience of playing the position too and would be ready to step into the breach if required.
One of the fullbacks moving inside could hand the opportunity for Ronald Matarrita to return to the XI after his lengthy layoff this season.
Imagine we do pull this off and you’re not at Yankee Stadium to see it… whatever happens, we know you’re going to bring the noise on Sunday, come what may.
Let’s not leave ourselves wondering “what if…?” at the end of the tie. Let’s instead give ourselves every shot at turning this around and create a truly monstrous atmosphere, roaring on our Boys in Blue to a landslide victory.
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