New York City FC kicked off their MLS is Back Tournament campaign on Thursday morning with a 1-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.
Here’s Five Points from the match, presented by Etihad Airways…
The task ahead of NYCFC has changed quite significantly in the hours since the fulltime whistle blew in Orlando.
As a result of Nashville’s withdrawal from the tournament, Group A is now comprised of four teams, with Chicago moving out, meaning we now face Inter Miami in our final group game in another 9am kickoff.
Orlando’s late victory vs. Miami on the opening night means that City can keep qualification for the knockouts in their own hands with a win in their next match vs. the host city.
For James Sands, after this defeat, it’s now a must-win game. He told reporters: “They’re going to want to repeat their performance last night. It’s much more important for us so we have to come out with energy and we really have to go for it.
“There’s no holding back at this point. It is a must-win and we need the three points.”
A Narrow Loss
An 123 day span of time had passed since NYCFC last took to a field for competitive soccer but this match bore a lot of similarities to the last, despite all that has happened in between.
Against Tigres in March, NYCFC gave a good account of themselves and played some beautiful football through the lines of the pitch but came up short on a goal and paid the price with a narrow defeat on a second half goal.
This was the story of the day against Philadelphia as NYCFC dominated possession (59.5%), shots (17-8) and expected goals (1.74 – 0.39) but were unable to find a way onto the scoresheet.
A frustrating defeat but not one that is terminal to City’s tournament hopes, with fate still very much in our own hands going into game 2 on Tuesday.
Sean Johnson appealed for a foul after Alejandro Bedoya scored the winning goal on the hour mark after Taty Castellanos was crashed into on his blindside in the area, throwing an element of chaos into the box in front of the goalkeeper.
Although the collision looked accidental rather than malicious, it was at the very least a moment of fortune for the Union – something that was in short supply for NYCFC through the morning’s play.
“Today we had quite a bit more chances than the opponent and we didn’t score and they got the chance and put it in. We were not effective enough in what we were doing,” said Deila. “I’m a little bit sad for the hard work that the players and everybody put in that we didn’t get any points today. But, there are a lot of good things to take from the performance.”
Saving the Best…
Not that it was all fortune… Andre Blake showed his quality for the opposition with a string of strong stops through the game, but he saved his best two for last to preserve all three points for his side.
With normal time running out, the Jamaican made an incredible fingertip save to deny Héber before he raced out and blocked from Gary Mackay-Steven on the edge of his area in stoppage-time.
Those late heroics capped a strong seven-save display from Philly’s last line of defense.
Maxi & Mitri
There was one small piece of hopeful news from Ronny at full-time as he revealed the training knock sustained by Alexandru Mitriță on Wednesday shouldn’t be serious enough to rule him out of contention for game 2.
The Romanian didn’t dress for this opening match, but it’s hoped that he could be fit enough to return vs. Orlando, while the outlook for Maxi Moralez was less clear after he was substituted on 76’.
Deila said: “Hopefully that’s not too big but he needed to go off.”