New York City FC faced a lot of questions going into their matchup against Atlanta United in the First Round of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. Despite being as hot as a team could be — and having homefield advantage — the team’s midfield situation was a cause for concern.
Prior to the playoffs, City had already lost Keaton Parks for the remainder of the year following surgery to repair a blood clot. Nicolas “Cacha” Acevedo had also been MIA for a while due to an adductor injury. To make matters even worse, Gedion Zelalem — who had shown quality off of the bench this season — was sent off a little over a half hour into his Decision Day start against the Philadelphia Union, making him ineligible against Atlanta.
This forced manager Ronny Deila to end the ‘James Sands Right Back’ experiment and put the young Homegrown into the midfield, while putting fellow HGP Tayvon Gray at right back to fill the void.
Sure enough, it worked. NYCFC defeated Atlanta in a decisive 2-0 victory, punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New England Revolution. And to make matters even better, the Boys in Blue should have midfield reinforcements going into the biggest matchup of the year.
Gedion Zelalem is eligible against the Revolution; Cacha Acevedo could be healthy
In the pre-game presser ahead of Tuesday’s Eastern Conference matchup against the Revs, Ronny Deila declared NYCFC “injury free” and that everyone was well rested. Furthermore, midfielder Alfredo Morales would later say that “Cacha [Acevedo] is coming back,” giving the team plenty of options when it comes to how they want to approach the game.
This is good news, as NYCFC is gonna need all the help they can get against a talented New England team that is likely to be favorites within the cold, turf-laden confines of Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. But, for City, it helps to be hot. And it equally helps to not be short of players who can make an impact.