Redemption was the theme on Wednesday night for New York City FC. The Pigeons served shots of adrenaline after putting everyone to sleep at the Hudson River Derby on Saturday. The faithful who made the trek to Citi Field in the middle of the week filled little patches of the seats to witness NYCFC take down second-seeded Orlando City SC, 2-0.
The night belonged to no Talles Magno, who--before Wednesday-- struggled to get minutes, let alone goals all season.
The beginning played out as how this game is on paper. The visiting side looked like a playoff-ready team. Meanwhile, NYCFC appeared to serve their usual close but no cigar result.
Orlando controlled most of the possession (60-40% at full time), leaving the Pigeons to create from counterattacks. It eventually paid off after Santiago Rodríguez drew a penalty ten minutes before halftime. After Rodríguez missed from the spot, Mounsef Bakrar put his head on the deflected ball and found the net to open the scoring.
Talles Magno shines in the 2-0 win
The game got messy as Orlando refused to lose to NYCFC. Clashes eventually led to Richard Ledezma getting stretchered off the game, opening the door for Magno's entry in the 59th minute. Nine minutes later, a perfect cross from Andres Jasson met Magno for the header to extend the lead.
Head coach Nick Cushing expressed his joy for the Brazilian.
"I'm so happy for Talles, he deserves a moment. He won us the game tonight because the second goal really settled us down. He hasn't seen the field purely because it's a competitive squad now. [But] I said to him when he came on 'You will score' because you can't work this hard and it not pay off."- Nick Cushing
The fanbase has cried for Cushing to play Bakrar and Magno together since the new number nine's arrival in July. Nobody knows if it would have happened had Ledemza stayed in the game, but how often does something forced work for the better? Bakrar scored before Magno entered the match. Magno came in and put the stamp on the win. Matt Freese and the defense made sure it was delivered undamaged.
The forward partnership did nothing more than play a few passes off each other. Still, Bakrar and Magno shined as scorers and hinted at what they could do together. While Cushing is still reluctant to give this tandem a full ninety side-by-side, he admitted how a performance like this makes a good case for it. Magno said his performance is good for him.
"It's a great moment for my career. It's been a hard time for me personally and the team trying to make the playoffs. We're going into the next game with the same mentality--trying to win and make the playoffs."- Talles Magno
NYCFC seems to win and lose the wrong games, but three points are three points. For NYCFC to come out of this game victorious was crucial with all the chaos in the Eastern Conference of MLS. Wednesday night's game intensely shuffled the deck, and NYCFC found themselves moving up to tenth place at the end of the evening. However, that could change at any minute. Cushing knows that.
"I said to the boys, 'this means nothing if we don't get three points against Toronto on Saturday.' We gotta make sure we consistently score goals. [If] we score more than one goal, [with] the way we defend, I believe we'll win football games."- Nick Cushing
NYCFC will host Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, the same venue where they steamrolled the Canadian side, 5-0, in their last meeting in the Leagues Cup. But if Wednesday night's game proved anything, it's that anything can happen at this point.
With only four regular-season games remaining, New York City FC continues to run in a very tight playoff race in the east. One question remains for both the team and the fans-- do you believe in miracles?