New York City FC booked an Eastern Conference semifinals meeting with Atlanta United, thanks to a 3-1 Knockout Round win over Philadelphia Union.
Here’s not three, not four, but five talking points from a historic night in the Bronx…
City were favorites for this one in the eyes of many following an identical scoreline vs. Philadelphia on Decision Day, however, this promised to be a game with its own feeling and pressures implied by the win or go home Playoff mechanic.
Dome will have warned his players against complacency and the message was well and truly heard, judging by what we saw from the Boys in Blue in the early running.
Yangel Herrera fired the warning blast on 6’ with a shot that Andre Blake had to palm around his post but the home faithful would only have to wait another four minutes to celebrate… and boy, did they celebrate…
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was the one who lit the fire with his rocket volley on 10’ to set the tone for a night of control and domination from the home side, who were in no mood to be denied their third Conference semi in a row.
With a first-ever Playoff "series" win under our belts, now we turn attentions to Atlanta for what looks to be a mouthwatering two-legged clash…
Maxi Moralez took the NYCFC.com Star of the Game award for a mesmeric performance in the no.10 role, after he had a hand in all three of NYCFC’s goals on the night.
He saved his most telling contribution to last: A quite brilliant chip over the onrushing goalkeeper which satisfyingly dropped in over the goalline.
City’s web slinger was named Fans Player of the Year at the first-ever NYCFC Awards last week and the Argentine capped a great 10 days for himself with this wonderful performance.
Backed up by his old pals Yangel Herrera and Alex Ring, these three will be crucial if we’re to defeat the Supporters’ Shield runners-up in the next one.
Tajouri-Shradi was the only new name in the starting XI from the last win over Philadelphia and he took 10 minutes to make his presence known with an unbelievable first-time finish from Maxi Moralez’s through ball.
It was the 12th goal the Libyan has piled in in his debut year and, let’s put it this way, not many of them have been tap-ins…
This one was a goal of the highest quality – an instinctive rifled volley which left Blake grasping for thin air and City on their way to a famous victory.
Onto the Semis…
City may have been favorites for this one, but the next one is a very different test of NYCFC’s MLS Playoffs credentials.
Tata Martino’s Atlanta have taken apart plenty of teams over the last seven months and will ask more questions of NYC than Philadelphia have over the last 180 minutes.
It’s always a fascinating clash of styles when NYCFC and Atlanta meet and it’ll be interesting to see how Dome approaches this first meeting with the much-fancied red and blacks.
With both Regular Season games ending with ties, there are no clues to be taken from those clashes, though Brad Guzan was unquestionably the busier of the two goalkeepers when he came to Yankee Stadium earlier in the campaign.
It’ll take a brave pundit to put their neck on the line and call this one, but NYC should enter with the same attitude and energy they showed in the Knockout Round and see where it takes them.
The unfortunate Halloween scheduling and the short turnaround between games vs. Philadelphia undoubtedly hit the attendance for this Knockout Round game but if you closed your eyes, you would hardly have noticed.
You were loud last night and we’ll need that same energy and support if we’re going to make it past the semifinals for the first time in club history.
With this win behind us and the positive momentum gained through this past few days, we’ve got to keep pushing, stick together through the tough moments when they inevitably arise and create the right environment to send our boys off to Atlanta with a result on Sunday night.
Bring. It. On.