Last weekend, New York City FC shocked CF Montréal when they beat them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. As such, the Pigeons moved on to face the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Finals, which was a rematch of the same fixture from last season.
As known, NYCFC won that battle, and eventually went on to win the MLS Cup. Philadelphia was plagued by COVID in 2021 though, so this time around, Sunday’s game was expected to be a tough challenge. Not only is Philadelphia predominantly healthy, but they beat the Bronx side twice this year.
Plus, NYCFC continued to have injury issues. While Tayvon Gray and Alfredo Morales were both available off the bench, Maxime Chanot and Talles Magno were both unavailable. Although Nick Cushing once again put out a solid lineup, it was still shocking that Keaton Parks was left on the bench once again.
In the end, NYCFC had to play their best football. It did not matter whether some starters were out due to injury or who was in the Starting XI. Unfortunately, that was not the case on Sunday, for the team lost 3-1, and were knocked out of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
New York City FC lost due to falling apart in second half
In the first half, players like Gabriel Pereira and Héber were mostly quiet for New York City FC, and then Kevin O’Toole exposed some of his inexperience. Alexander Callens had to cover for him a few times, and in all honesty, it was Callens who played the best that half. NYCFC might have led in possession, but it felt like Philadelphia had more of the attacking chances, even though both finished the first 45 minutes with four shots.
It was the second half where the goals rained down, and not so positively for the Pigeons. Maxi Moralez scored first in the 57th minute, for he had a beautiful ground shot into the left side of goal. At that moment, the Bronx side was dominating, and felt like they could score more.
However, a mistake led Philadelphia to tie it in the 65th. The NYCFC defense could not react quickly enough on the restart after a substitution, and Julián Carranza started the comeback for the Union. The backline fell asleep, and the Philadelphia forward was able to capitalize. That goal shook the Pigeons to their core, and they were not the same after it.
The home side went on to score two more after the tying goal, mostly because the defense was not on the same page and compact. NYCFC had composure throughout those first 65 minutes, but that was gone. There were too many giveaways, the offensive effort was sporadic, and the passing in the offensive third was uneasy. It was actually a giveaway, and then the inability to stop an energized Philadelphia Union, that led to the third goal, and the dagger in the hearts of NYCFC.
Look, anyone can go and look to see which individual players were at fault, but in the end, it was simple: the team broke down. Philadelphia recognized this, and took control. There is nothing more that can be said, and it is an unfortunate way to end the season.
A positive outlook for New York City FC
When all is said and done, NYCFC proved everyone wrong once again. After a summer of struggles, not many thought the Pigeons would be in the position where they made the Eastern Conference Finals. Similar to last season, they changed things toward the end of the regular season, and made the run in the playoffs.
Yes, they might not have made it to the final match this year, but they made another run. This was after losing both their head coach, Ronny Deila, and their superstar, Valentín Castellanos. And it bids repeating, but it was only in early September where the season looked like a washout, and the Pigeons would continue to struggle.
Sure, losing is never fun, and ideally New York City FC would be prepping for the MLS Cup Final. After all the ups and downs, it would be silly to not say this was a good season. As always, the team can be better, but 2022 was not all the gloom and doom that some fans stressed it to be during certain points of the year. Instead, it was a fun ride, and hopefully 2023 can be even better.