On Sunday, New York City FC played their final “home” game of the season against Orlando City SC. Unfortunately, the fixture had to be played at Red Bull Arena, so realistically it was not truly home. Nevertheless, per the schedule, it was the final match at home, and the Pigeons wanted to win in front of the fans that trekked to New Jersey.
Additionally, there was a lot to play for. Not only did NYCFC want to leap over the Red Bulls into third place in the Eastern Conference, but they also wanted to secure a home match during the playoffs. Based on results from Saturday, they confirmed their seventh consecutive year in the playoffs. Plus, the team wanted revenge after Orlando beat them in Florida this season.
In the end, NYCFC did exactly that, and beat Orlando 2-1. It was a comeback performance, for the Bronx side was initially down 1-0. However, goals from Alexander Callens and Talles Magno secured the three points. Moreover, they will play at least one playoff game at home, and sit in third place going into the last fixture of the season.
In all honesty, it was a story of two halves though. The Pigeons were held to just two shots with none on target in the first half, and struggled offensively. There were too many giveaways by the players as well, and things were a tad shaky.
New York City FC won 2-1 after solid second half performance
In the second half, New York City FC had 11 shots, with five on target. Offensively, the team was much better, and the creative energy and opportunities increased significantly. It was not easy though, for Orlando went in front early in the second half after a defensive mishap.
The Pigeons did not just cower and accept defeat. Instead, they changed their fate through hard work, and fought to grab all three points. Between the leadership of veterans like Callens, and then Nick Cushing’s substitutions, NYCFC scored the tying goal in the 66th minute.
The goal in some ways was gritty, for both teams fought around and in Orlando’s box to gain control of the ball. It was Keaton Parks who ended up getting the ball in the middle of the craziness, and passed it to Talles Magno. Magno, who was on an awkward angle on the right side of goal, attempted to put the ball into the back of the net.
Instead, the ball went toward Callens, who was right in front of goal like a striker. The center-back fell to the ground and tapped the ball in. This drew NYCFC level, but this was also the third game in a row that the Peruvian scored.
It did not end there, for Magno, after getting the assist on Callens’ goal, scored the game winner in the 81st minute. A superb pass from Maxi Moralez to Gabriel Pereira started the motions. Then, Pereira had plenty of room to make a run toward the box, and his speed helped immensely too. Magno was in front of him, so he flicked the ball in the direction his fellow Brazilian was running to.
Finally, Magno did what he had been struggling to do for most of the second half of the season: he scored. On a diagonal, he swept the ball with ease into the bottom, front left corner of goal, and put New York City FC in front. It was a magical goal with how it started, and then how it finished.
Is the tide finally turning for New York City FC?
After a tough time under Nick Cushing, it does seem NYCFC is finally finding their winning ways again. Furthermore, the team officially has 52 points, which is exactly one more point than their 2021 MLS Cup Championship year. Of course, the solid start while Ronny Deila was in charge helped keep the team in the top half of the of the Eastern Conference table, even when they were struggling.
Still, NYCFC has been playing better over the last few matches. Despite the continued reservations with Cushing, credit must be given when due, for the interim head coach changed his lineup tactics, and have won three in a row in all competitions. The use of three center-backs and the wing-backs have helped tremendously in the defense, which has been the main culprit for the previous struggles.
It seems the tides are changing for the traveling Pigeons. It only has been three games, and the true outcome of the end of the year will be known once the season ends. Undoubtedly, the clouds are starting to drift away, and New York City FC is starting to see sunnier days.