On Wednesday, New York City FC finally arrived at the end of their long road trip when they faced Orlando City SC in the Sunshine State. Although, the Pigeons have not found sunshine in Orlando, for the last six matches have ended with one loss and five draws in all competitions. Of those draws, two saw the home side come out on top from penalty kick shootouts.
As such, Exploria Stadium has been a difficult place to play as of late, so the expectations for NYCFC were once again low. The hope was that the Pigeons would find a way to come away with all three points, but doubt plagued the supporters.
Moreover, Nick Cushing made a few interesting choices with his Starting XI. He went with Kevin O’Toole and Tayvon Gray for the full-backs, which was a little confusing because NYCFC needed an attacking spark. Both Braian Cufré and Mitja Ilenič would be better choices for an attacking game. He also sat Talles Magno, but the winger had to come on early in the first half due to an injury to the overpaid Matías Pellegrini.
Hence, it was somewhat shocking, but also not surprising, that NYCFC drew Orlando City, 1-1. It was not the best fixture, but it felt like NYCFC should have left with all three points.
NYCFC was finally able to grab a point in the final game of the road trip
Unfortunately, New York City FC did not start off the match well, for they gave up the first goal in the seventh minute. A good sequence of passes led to a fantastic ball into the box by Gastón González. His service met Ercan Kara’s head, and the forward sent the ball into the goal with ease and decisiveness. The lack of marking gave him plenty of room in front of goal, and the header was one that could not be saved.
Then, it took most of the first half for the Pigeons to grow into the game. Urgency at first lacked, and only players like Santiago Rodríguez and Gabriel Pereira looked like they showed up to play. Still, as time went on, more and more players woke up, and this included both halves.
It was not perfect though. Moments of urgency did exist during the entirety of the fixture, but at times NYCFC felt lackadaisical with their play. It was not their worst match of the season, but the players did not play to the level that is expected of them. It is clear they should have fought more for all three points, and had the talent to do so.
During those moments of urgency, NYCFC was a threat, and tested the Orlando defense. The team had 14 shots, with six on goal. The major difference was the five incredible saves made by Pedro Gallese. The goalkeeper kept the Pigeons out of goal... at least until the 89th minute.
The deadlock was finally broken thanks to a surprising but welcoming goal scorer, Gabriel Segal. The young striker came on at halftime to replace Richard Ledezma, and was barely noticeable throughout the majority of his time on the pitch. But he was in the right place at the right time, and no one was defending him. Magno recognized this, and sent the ball to the American. As such, Segal tapped the ball into the back of the net as he slid to the ground, and grabbed the point for his struggling team.
It needs to be said though that Magno continued his struggles, despite grabbing an assist on the night. Notably, the attacker does tend to lose the ball often in or near the box. This in turn reduces the opportunities for taking a shot at goal. He also tried using tricky feet too many times against Orlando, which allowed the ball to be poached away. Some moments he was selfish when he should have been selfless.
Although, he did make some stellar runs on the wings, and moved with ease there. Plus, it was from the wings where he moved into position to send the ball to Segal for that goal. Hopefully the assist will boost his confidence, and he will be back to his normal self.
Thankfully, the long road trip is over. It was not fun, and many would love to forget this difficult period. In four Major League Soccer fixtures, the Pigeons are heading home with just one point. But at least the losing streak is over, and now New York City FC has some time off until they play the Philadelphia Union at home on May 27. That will be a tough way to start a three game homestand, but hopefully the fact they are home will elevate their play, and lead to a win.