The Night Owls have advanced to the MLS Cup Final and will take on the Portland Timbers who have won their last six games. Similarly, NYCFC is unbeaten in their last eight games defeating the Philadelphia Union 2-1 to advance to the final. Going into their first MLS Cup game in club history, who is the most in form for the Night Owls.
Castellanos has been nothing short of spectacular, scoring eight goals in his last six games. In the Eastern Conference Championship, Castellanos’s absence was clearly felt despite his teammates finding a win. The golden boot winner has been vital to this team and should play a key role in the final.
The designated player Moralez scored the tying goal against Philadelphia and a key goal in the penalty shootout against New England. The NYCFC offense goes through Moralez as he completed the most passes in the Eastern Conference Final with 67. Moralez has proved to be essential as a center-attacking midfielder and is certainly deserving of a start in what could be his final game as a Night Owl with his contract expiring at the end of this season.
Rodriguez has been excellent this postseason with his best game against the Revolution when he had a key early goal. Rodriguez has also started all three playoff games, cementing his spot in the lineup moving forward. Additionally, he has made a case to even take over the number 10 role from Moralez.
Jesus Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
Although Medina has started all three playoff games he has not produced a single goal or assist. His last goal came on October 23rd against DC United. Despite his performances, Head Coach Ronny Delia has continued to start him and it will be interesting to see if he starts in the final. On the other hand, Tajouri-Shradi had an excellent performance as a sub against Philadelphia providing the game-tying assist, and will definitely have a chance to start in that right-wing spot.
Talles Magno and Heber
Heber was awarded the start against Philadelphia due to Castellanos’s absence. Heber was subbed out during the 58th minute after he failed to register a single shot. Conversely, Talles Magno was spectacular, scoring the game-winning goal to lift the Night Owls into the final. Magno proved his capabilities as a striker to Coach Delia after only playing five minutes all postseason prior to the Union. Magno may likely serve as a substitute behind Castellanos.
This postseason Thiago has only played 19 minutes and has not been able to make an impact. The positive side for Thiago is that he can provide speed to this attack, but has not many chances to show his talent this postseason. It is more likely that Thiago comes on as a sub rather than receive a start.
James Sands, Alfredo Morales, and Tony Rocha
There are three players competing for the two central defensive midfield roles. In the last game Sands and Morales received the starts, but struggled to handle the Philadelphia press. Sands lost nine of his 15 duels while Morales lost five of his eleven. The third option is Rocha who appeared in the 82nd minute against New England after Sands got subbed off due to injury. Morales and Sands have both started all three playoff games so based on the trend they are the projected starters.
The fill-in right back for Anton Tinnerholm has been brilliant during the playoffs. Gray recorded an assist to Rodriguez against the Union and has earned himself a starting spot for the final.
Gudmundur Thorarinsson and Malte Amundsen
The two have been competing for the starting left-back spot all season long. So far this postseason Amundsen has started all three games and has yet to have a goal or assist. On the other hand, Thorarinsson has two assists in his last two games coming off the bench both times. If Coach Delia looks at the last three games it is easy to see Thorarinsson is in much better form.
Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens
The pair were an excellent combination to start the postseason producing a clean sheet against Atlanta. Against New England, the pair conceded two goals, but the second goal was when they were playing with ten men and an injured Tayvon Gray. Conversely, in the penalty shootout, Callens converted the winning goal to send NYCFC to their first Eastern Conference final. Callens had an own goal against Philadelphia, but the team still found a way to advance to the final. The two have played together all playoffs and changing up the center-back pairing will likely be counterproductive.
The Captain’s key moment this postseason was his save in the penalty shootout against New England. Johnson is an integral part of the Night Owls producing three saves in the win against Philadelphia. Johnson has proved his ability all season and will lead this team in the final.