New York City FC triumphed in their final scheduled trip to Queens of 2023, beating Orlando City SC 2-0 at Citi Field to keep their playoff dreams alive for another match day.
The result was, in multiple ways, a departure from the 2023 team’s usual script. For the opening goal, NYCFC actually had a ref award a penalty in their favor, with Ismail Elfath needing a trip to the VAR monitor to decide that Santiago Rodríguez was fouled in the box by Orlando’s Ramiro Enrique.
Santi would miss the spot kick, but it didn’t matter. Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese pushed his save into Mounsef Bakrar’s path and the Algerian striker headed home the rebound to open the scoring in the 37th minute.
This became only the second penalty kick NYCFC have earned this year, a break finally going NYCFC’s way during a season that’s usually seen the breaks conspire against them.
Leads in games have also been fleeting this season, but New York City held onto its advantage and actually doubled it en route to the much-needed win over Orlando.
Talles Magno, who entered as a substitute in the 59th minute in place of an injured Richy Ledezma, headed home an Andres Jasson cross in the 68th minute to get on the scoresheet for the first time since April 22nd, which also happened to be a two-goal NYCFC win at Citi Field.
This was a Big Moment for the 21-year-old Brazilian Designated Player, who has fallen out of head coach Nick Cushing’s starting lineups and has scuffled badly throughout the season. He was mobbed by teammates and celebrated somewhat emotionally after scoring, no doubt deeply relieved to break the curse and get back in among the goals right at an important moment in the season.
Match-killing goals scored in the second half haven’t been common sights for NYCFC in 2023. Also uncommon: The type of comfortable, confident, winning performance the entire team produced against Orlando, a team that had been riding high but appeared to wilt at the first signs of adversity at Citi Field.
The win is a huge one for NYCFC. Results elsewhere in the Eastern Conference table have been exceedingly kind to NYCFC, but the Boys in Blue had twice failed to do their part by winning their own matches. That was frustratingly, boringly the case Saturday at Yankee Stadium, but the script got flipped midweek in Queens.
Now NYCFC are, for the time being, sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points off the final playoff spot and again in position to dream of going on a late-season winning streak that can catapult them back into the MLS Cup Playoffs.
NYCFC: 16 shots, 7 shots on target, 40.5% possession, 313 passes, 78% pass accuracy, 14 fouls
Orlando: 11 shots, 2 shots on target, 59.5% possession, 469 passes, 83.6% pass accuracy, 12 fouls
Bakrar, Talles Magno finally link up
It’s been repeatedly pointed out since Mounsef Bakrar arrived that Nick Cushing has avoided playing both Bakrar and Talles Magno at the same time, instead frequently subbing Talles Magno on in place of Bakrar.
Something close to a clamor rose up from the NYCFC social media and punditry spheres calling on Cushing to try playing his new striker alongside his Young DP Brazilian winger.
Following the torture session that masqueraded as the 0-0 Hudson River Derby, Cushing made it sound like Talles Magno was set to play a big role and see lots of minutes in the two matches directly ahead against Orlando and Toronto.
Emphasis on “winger” there, as most now want to see Talles Magno deployed out on the left flank, with Bakrar front and center as the new starting striker, and Santi Rodríguez able to slide back into the central midfield. That setup is exactly what NYCFC turned to when Ledezma was forced off with what Cushing and the player both described as a low-level ankle sprain.
Bakrar and Talles Magno, together at last, and the duo made an immediate mark. In the 64th minute, Talles Magno dribbled forward from behind the halfway line and had a nice give-and-go sequence with Bakrar, only for the move to fall apart when Talles Magno was unable to control his touch in front of Orlando’s goal as he attempted to get onto his preferred shooting foot.
Talles Magno got his cathartic goal four minutes later. While the Bakrar-Talles Magno connection wasn’t directly responsible for any of the goals on the night, it was still a promising first test run, for no other reason than it helped Talles Magno break his five-months-long scoring drought.
Jasson, not Julián
While lots of focus has been concentrated on Talles Magno and getting him on the pitch alongside Bakrar, it was NYCFC’s right winger who provided the assist on the team’s second goal, and who enjoyed a strong performance throughout the win.
Andres Jasson earned the start with Matías Pellegrini on a yellow card suspension and quieted any second-guessing that might have accompanied his inclusion in Cushing’s starting XI over promising new signings like Julián Fernández or Alonso Martinez.
Fernández looked like he might be the next player up as injuries and suspensions limited Cushing’s wing options, but Jasson got the nod and rewarded his manager’s faith.
The 21-year-old from Connecticut pulled off the nice cross for Talles Magno to head home and seal the victory, but he did more than just that. He once again drew a bunch of fouls, six on the night. Jasson was also credited with creating three chances, completed 79% of his passes, and was out there for 89 of the 90+ minutes played.
Cushing gave an interesting answer when asked post-match about what has kept Jasson in the mix for starter minutes on the right despite the arrivals of Fernández and Martinez and the persistence of Pellegrini, and what the coach has seen from the Yale alum this season.
Fernández is the highly-regarded new signing expected to make right wing his own, but Andres Jasson has been somewhat quietly making his own case since July. Jasson has three goals and one assist across his last seven appearances, and is actually NYCFC’s leader in expected goals per 90 minutes (xG per 90).
If it’s all about form now at the tail-end of the season, that might mean more chances for Jasson to stand out on the right side of NYCFC’s formation.
Hot streak forming?
Don’t look now, but NYCFC are unbeaten in their last four matches, with 2-0 home wins over CF Montréal and now Orlando sandwiching their disappointing draws with Vancouver and the Red Bulls.
Eight points from four home matches is nothing to sneeze at for this year’s win-challenged team, and the unbeaten run has allowed us to collectively keep “NYCFC” and “MLS Cup Playoffs” in the same conversation.
The playoff picture is still muddled, with every team below NYCFC in the Eastern Conference table within striking distance and possessing valuable games in hand.
Being 10th on the table is better than 12th or 13th, but it’s a perilous position to be in when the four teams directly beneath NYCFC have played one to two fewer games and could thus leapfrog New York City in the standings by cashing in on those available points.
Three more wins and a draw would get NYCFC to 44 points, which is the top number aimed for on our official unofficial 2023 Playoff Tracker, and might be enough to grab that 9th seed. Four wins, winning out, would give the team 46 points and would likely guarantee them a spot in the field of clubs chasing after MLS Cup 2023.
- NYCFC, Mounsef Bakrar, 37′
- NYCFC, Talles Magno, 68′
- NYCFC: Richy Ledezma, yellow card, dissent 41′
- Orlando: Mauricio Pererya, yellow card, persistent infringement, 45’+1′
- Orlando: Wilder Cartagena, yellow card, foul, 54′
- Referee: Ismail Elfath
- Assistant Referees: Gianni Facchini, Chris Elliott
- Fourth official: Filip Dujic
- VAR: Drew Fischer
- Ast. VAR: Fabio Tovar