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NYCFC Thrash Philly 3-1 to Reach Eastern Conference Semis

NYCFC 10:31 DV


October 31st – Bronx, NY – After finishing the last third of the regular season in a bit of a slump, NYCFC found themselves in an unfamiliar position playing in the first round of the playoffs. In the 4 years of NYCFC’s MLS tenure, they missed the playoffs in the first season, finished 2nd in the East and earned a bye in each of the last two seasons, and then finally finished 3rd this year to put themselves in this one game knockout round.

After defeating Philly on Decision Day Sunday in the regular season finale, NYCFC was given the luxury of facing the same opponent in the same venue just 4 days later on Halloween Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Although it was a playoff match, the Citizens had their smallest ever home turnout by the fans due to the Holiday and the 3 days short notice for a mid-week match. Even with the stadium feeling empty, the fans that did show up were in full voice and got behind their squad with gusto from the first whistle to the final whistle.

The match got off to a stellar start with lots of pace and end to end action from the very start. NYCFC got off to a fast start just like in the midweek fixture, and after a quick counter attack, they led 1-0 after 10 minutes. Defensive Midfielder Yangel Herrera stole the ball in the final third and calmly passed to Maxi Moralez. Moralez then chipped an air ball that was dummied by David Villa into the path of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Izzy didn’t take a controlling touch and just struck the ball on the volley firmly into the back of the net with his left foot from outside the box.  The spectacular early goal sent the stadium into a frenzy and seized the momentum for the hosts before Philadelphia could steal it away.

In the 26th minute, City struck on the counter again for a quick 2-0 lead. NYCFC have been lethal on the counter all season long and this match was no different. Ronald Matarrita intercepted the ball from Philly in his defensive third, but he sprinted up the field an found Maxi Moralez with a quick through ball on the left flank. Moralez calmly slotted his cross perfectly into the stride of the on-running captain David Villa who took one touch and struck a bouncer tightly into the bottom corner and past Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. In under half an hour, Maxi Moralez had put on a masterclass against the Union’s defense as he collected 2 assists and helped put his team firmly in the driver’s seat to reach the Eastern Conference Semi Finals for the 3rd consecutive season.

Just before halftime, Villa struck a free kick well from just outside the box, but Blake did well to save the shot out to his left and end the danger. After 45 minutes, City had to feel confident about their chances. Philly had no shots on target, and NYC were cutting through them on the counter like a hot knife through butter.

The second half started out more evenly matched than the first, but with Philly’s offense sputtering, it didn’t seem like they would make it a close match. In the 58th minute though, they had a chance to steal one back. After some quality dribbling in the midfield, Philly started on a quick attack with a through ball into the box to Fafa Picoult. Fafa waited too long to make a decision though and defender Maxime Chanot raced after him to force him into striking a weak and deflected effort that was easily stopped by Johnson.

The match was put to bed in the 78th minute as Maxi Moralez put his final mark on the contest with a finish that would be a SportsCenter contender for play of the day. Substitute Ebenezer Ofori stole the ball away and quickly passed to right back Anton Tinnerholm on the wing. Tinnerholm sent out a long high ball over the top of the defense that found Maxi wide open in stride 1-on-1 with the keeper. Maxi took the shot first time and chipped the keeper from the edge of the box and just under the crossbar to give City the 3-0 and book their ticket to face Atlanta in the next round.

Philadelphia did get a consolation goal late though, in a moment where NYCFC just took their feet off the gas, but it did not take away from what was a completely one sided playoff victory. Ilsinho danced past 3 defenders in the box and crossed it into Burke who scored against City for the 2nd time this week.

With the loss, Philadelphia is now 0-4 all-time in MLS playoff matches. The Union didn’t even have a shot on target until their late tap in goal in the dying embers of the match, which just goes to show how dominant City were in this important playoff victory. City advanced a round in the MLS Playoffs for the first time in club history with the win, and they will look to beat the struggling Atlanta over two legs and move onto the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time.  This match also marked the first ever playoff MLS playoff win for new coach Dome Torrent who took over for Patrick Vieira midway through the season.

– Chris Fichtel, PureSportsNY


Upcoming Matches

Sunday, November 4th – vs Atlanta United @ 7:30 pm
(1st leg of Eastern Conference Semi Finals)

Sunday, November 11th – @ Atlanta United (Time TBA)
(2nd leg of Eastern Conference Finals)

NYCFC 10:31 Max

(Photo Credit: NYCFC)

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