New York City FC won their first match of the MLS season on Monday morning, defeating Inter Miami 1-0 at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Here’s five talking points from our first three points of 2020, presented by Etihad Airways…
Up and Running
Four months separated NYCFC’s first two games of the season and the most recent trio of matches in Orlando, so any conclusions drawn from this small sample size require an asterisk next to them... how big that asterisk is likely depends on whether your glass is typically half empty or half full.
Beyond the result, there wasn’t much difference between this performance and what we saw against Philadelphia in our last breakfast kickoff, with Ronny Deila’s side dominating possession, completing substantially more passes than their opponents and showing up well in the individual duels.
The difference was of course that this time City found the goal their play deserved and locked it down at the other end of the pitch to secure the three points and to give themselves a chance of reaching the knockout stages.
Is it enough to continue at ESPN Wide World of Sports? Only time will tell…
An important win, but will it be enough to secure a spot in the knockout rounds at MLS is Back?
That depends on what happens elsewhere, as preliminary stage play concludes across the other five groups over the next few days.
NYCFC will be keenly watching the Wild Card standings to see if their three points and -2 goal differential will be enough for a place in this weekend’s Round of 16, or if the squad will return to NYC.
At the time of writing, FiveThirtyEight has NYCFC with a 27% chance of advancing, but that number will continue to potentially rise or fall as the matches are played.
One thing that is for sure is that this victory over Miami provided the squad with a big psychological boost, whether our next game is in Orlando or elsewhere.
Maxi Moralez wasn’t 100% fit on Monday morning but made himself available for the Boys in Blue as a substitute, bringing up a big milestone in the process.
Joining Sean Johnson and Alex Ring in the NYCFC Century Club, Maxi has cemented himself as one of the icons of this young club over his 100 MLS games in the last three seasons and in a brief 11-minute cameo vs. Miami, he showed his importance to his side.
When Maxi suffered a quad injury in the opening game, it was feared that his participation in Orlando may be over prematurely, but the Argentine playmaker has put in the work and will now be hoping to make appearance no.101 under the shadow of Cinderella’s castle.
28 ---> 29
When the winning goal came after the second half hydration break, it was one of the highest quality.
Alexandru Mitriță and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi were the architects, with the Romanian’s stunning pass over the Miami back four matched by the timing of the run and the first touch from Isi.
With his weaker foot and airborne, Tajouri-Shradi not only took down a ball over his shoulder (no easy feat), but his touch was weighted perfectly to afford the angle for the finish across Luis Robles.
One you can watch over and over and find something new to focus in on and admire each time...
Finally, a word on James Sands who turned in another performance of the highest quality vs. Miami.
With five ball recoveries and 91.7% pass completion, James was among the most decisive players on the pitch across the 90’ as he returned to the midfield and helped to keep check on the dangerous Rodolfo Pizarro.
Just 20-years old, James continues to light the path for NYCFC youth prospects of all ages, making a seamless jump to the senior game and excelling.