As birthdays go, Gabe Segal’s 22nd was pretty special.
The youngster celebrated in truly unforgettable fashion, netting his first goal for New York City Football Club to salvage a precious point for the Boys in Blue against Orlando City SC in the final minutes of the game.
A crucial goal both on an individual and collective level, it is one that will live long in the memory for Segal – one that Head Coach Nick Cushing declared was fully deserved – and one that will hopefully be the first of many.
Reflecting on his maiden strike – the perfect birthday present – the forward could not have been happier. Though he admitted the emotions of the last-gasp effort had not yet fully sunk in, the significance of it in City’s season was evident in the celebrations: a mixture of elation and relief.
“I haven’t quite processed it yet!” Segal smiled. “But it’s definitely an amazing feeling.
“Especially after we’ve been on a rough stretch, to be able to get a point and contribute to that felt amazing.
“I saw Talles [Magno] out wide and I knew that more chance than not, he’s going to beat his guy. I just thought I’d get across the goal like a forward should, like a nine should, and get on the end of the cross.
“I think it showed a lot from him – not getting the start but coming in really early in the match – having the performance he did. Setting me up for that goal proved why he is one of the best players in the league.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it was definitely a good feeling!”
Sometimes, you just know when it’s going to be a good day, and Segal knew he would find the net at Exploria Stadium.
Standing on the sideline, readying himself for action from the bench at the break, he turned to Cushing and said: ‘I’ll score!’ – an pleasing indicator of his confidence and positive attitude, as well as his offensive ability.
“He really wanted me to bring some energy to the game, work very hard and put the other team under pressure,” Segal explained.
“My job is to be a threat, and I think I had a more aggressive mindset than in some other games, and that helped me to get the goal I needed.
“Ever since I got here, I’ve tried to give it my all in training every opportunity I got. I played a stretch of games – three games in a row a few games ago – and then I wasn’t playing as much the last few.
“I really looked at myself in the mirror. I think I had some good performances in many ways, connecting the team and everything, but at the end of the day, to keep that job, you have to score goals and be dangerous in front of goal.
“I knew that the next shot I got, I was just going to give it my all to get a goal. From the start, you want that, and I did want that in those other games, but in this game, I came in thinking a bit less about it – I was honestly just out there trying to play like a kid: rip some shots and get one to go in!
“I think that mindset helped me.”
The draw brought a four-game losing streak to a welcome end for the City Boys, who now enter a much-needed ten-day break with a more optimistic outlook.
Segal believes the point could prove a pivotal one in turning NYCFC’s season around, especially with a three-game home stand to look forward to in the coming weeks.
“This can be a turning point for us,” he added. “The rough stretch of games hasn’t been what we’ve wanted.
“We showed glimpses of what we wanted, but having put together a full performance to get the point we need… At the end of the day, it’s about winning, getting the points we need, so hopefully, this result can push us in that direction.
“We review every game, so we’ve been trying to make the adjustments from game to game, but I think this stretch of a little bit more time will give us the opportunity to look a little bit deeper at what we can do, but also be a reset and a breath of fresh air to try and turn these results into wins.
“Between the break, getting some rest for the guys who have played a lot, and then returning to our home field (where we’ve had a lot of success, and our fans are amazing – they bring the sport every time) will be a really important and needed step in the right direction.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re all working hard to do that, and giving our best.”
New York City Football Club are back at home next time out, welcoming Philadelphia Union to Citi Field. The clash kicks off at 7:30pm ET on Saturday, May 27, and tickets are available.
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