New York City FC fell to a 1-0 defeat to Atlanta United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Here are Five Points from the first half of the tie in the Bronx…
A Frustrating Night
There’s no getting away from it, this was a disappointing opening 90’ of the semifinal, with NYC failing to test Brad Guzan on the night.
Atlanta’s gameplan appeared to be to exasperate the home side by breaking up the game as much as possible in the 45’, not allowing Dome Torrent’s side to get into their usual Bronx swagger, leading to a growing sense of frustration in the stands and on the pitch.
In the second 45’, City were improved but still couldn’t fashion meaningful opportunities to score, despite enjoying more possession and working the ball into good areas of the field.
Jo Inge Berget and Jesus Medina came on to try and create the equalizer but, credit to the visitors, they closed ranks and continued to carry a threat on the break when springing out of their low block.
There wasn’t much for the 20k inside Yankee Stadium to grab onto, but we are still standing, because…
It’s Not Over Yet
Whatever you can say about the first leg, NYCFC travels to Atlanta still very much alive in the tie at the halfway stage.
Although Atlanta’s home form is impressive and their stadium atmosphere much-celebrated, City have too much quality at their disposal to be discounted from turning a one-goal deficit around.
Any kind of second leg victory gets us to extratime at the very least, so Torrent will spend this week preparing his team’s gameplan to try and stage a comeback that would take us to the Conference finals for the first time in club history.
The squad can also look to the 2-2 tie at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in the Regular Season for inspiration, when the Boys in Blue gave as good as they got, twice coming back from deficits to get the draw.
We’ll need more this time but we’ve shown we can score multiple goals there, meaning there are reasons to believe.
A Pivotal Sequence?
It could have been so much worse for NYC if not for the brilliance of Maxime Chanot and Sean Johnson in second half stoppage-time.
With City pushing on for the equalizer, Atlanta broke and were in on goal before Chanot’s supremely-timed last ditch slide tackle and a fingertip save from the resulting shot on the rebound.
Could we be looking back at these dramatic final seconds as the pivotal moment in the tie come next Sunday? Let’s hope so.
Speaking of Chanot, the Luxembourg international was arguably the best player on the field in this first leg.
Maxime stood up and was counted with an authoritative performance throughout the 90’, repelling Atlanta time after time with crucial blocks and immaculately-timed tackles.
He was certainly one man in blue who did not deserve to be on the losing side and will likely be key again if NYCFC are to turn this one around next Sunday.
We Go Again
One thing is for sure, this team will not quit and will do everything in its power to reach the Conference semis on enemy territory next weekend.
MLS Playoffs history is littered with bigger turnarounds and there’s no doubt Torrent will have his side fired up and ready to answer their critics in the second 90’ of this 180’ battle.
We live to fight another day – whether home or away, Atlanta will know too that this is far from over, with just one goal between the teams.