NYCFC demolishes Inter Miami in playoff first round

Oct 17, 2022; Queens, New York, USA;  New York City FC forward Heber (9) celebrates after his goal
Oct 17, 2022; Queens, New York, USA; New York City FC forward Heber (9) celebrates after his goal / Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday evening, New York City FC played in their first playoff game of the season against Inter Miami CF.  During the regular season, both teams won their home matches against one another.  Both finished the season off strongly as well, so either could have moved on. 

However, the Pigeons did have the home field advantage, even though they were playing at Citi Field.  Nick Cushing also put out a strong starting XI, despite the fact they were without Talles Magno.  In fact, all three of the injured players from the Atlanta fixture were unavailable, so the team was without Magno, Tayvon Gray, and Alfredo Morales. 

Instead, Héber got the start up front in the striker position, and then Anton Tinnerholm started as the right-back.  Those changes worked out for NYCFC, and Cushing’s lineup got the job done.

The Pigeons beat Miami, 3-0, with all of the goals coming in the rainy second half.  NYCFC had the clear advantage all game long, and as a result, they will move on and play in the Conference semifinals.

Attacking masterclass leads New York City FC to a 3-0 win

The first half was action packed for New York City FC.  While the team could not find the back of the net, they clearly outplayed Miami.  The Pigeons had 16 shots, with two on target, whereas the Herons had four shots, with two on target.  They also had an edge on the possession, and won more duels and tackles. 

The best chance of the first 45 minutes was Héber’s chance.  Monday’s striker had the opportunity when NYCFC got the ball back after a poor clearance.  When the Brazilian had the ball, the goalkeeper came out toward him, and that was when Héber took his shot.  He sent a direct, but somewhat slowed down, flick toward goal, and it looked like the ball was going in.  But Miami’s Aimé Mabika had other ideas, and cleared the ball by bouncing it off the top of the crossbar.

The second half was another story, both with rain and goals.  Gabriel Pereira got the scoring started in the 63rd minute, but Santiago Rodríguez was the reason for the goal.  Rodríguez had the ball and powered down the middle of the attacking half with multiple Miami players around him.  They attempted to stop him, but failed to do so.  This led to the pass to Pereira, and the Brazilian had a clear window.  He curled the ball into the top left corner, and there was no turning back. 

Meanwhile, Rodríguez had not just one, but two assists on the night.  He assisted on the second goal when Tinnerholm saw his run and sent the ball his way.  The young midfielder recognized Maxi Moralez was behind him, and back-heeled the ball to the veteran midfielder.  As such, Maxi swept the ball into the back of the net in the 69th minute. 

Finally, Héber put the icing on the cake with his stoppage time goal, which was his first goal in the playoffs since he arrived in 2019.  It might have taken some time for him to score, but he played extremely well all night.  The forward was a constant threat in the attack, and had eight shots total, including three on target.  Moreover, he went into the midfield often to help regain possession, but also to assist his teammates.  The striker was everywhere, and had one of his best games this season.

In the end, NYCFC finished with 27 shots with nine on target.  They truly produced an offensive masterclass, and this is why they are moving on.  Not only did players like Pereira and Héber perform well, but even Tinnerholm was a huge addition to the attack.  He always made himself available, and easily moved the ball into the attacking third on the right side.  He too was a threat himself, and undoubtedly proved he is close to his top form. 

Now, the focus will be on CF Montréal.  The Pigeons had one win and a draw during the regular season against the Canadian side, but Montréal has blossomed into a threatening team since those meetings.  It will be a tough matchup, but if New York City FC plays similar to how they played against Miami, then perhaps they can pull off an upset North of the border.