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When Designated Players Live up to Their Name

Mitriță inspired his side to a convincing victory over FC Cincinnati. But he must build off his performance if he wants it to be meaningful 

MLS: FC Cincinnati at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday evening, New York City FC player, Alexandru Mitriță, scored the fastest goal in the club’s history, clocking in at about 30 seconds. If you were surfing your TV, rushing home to watch the game, or simply just blinking, you could be forgiven for having missed the goal.

By the end of the first half, City already had an emphatic three-goal lead over their opponents. Mitriță bagged a brace while right back Anton Tinnerholm — our top goal scorer this season — also found the back of the net. The icing on the cake came in the 88th minute when Mitrita’s fellow DP teammate, Jesús Medina found the back of the net via a deflected free kick.

Despite an uncharacteristic display of lethalness in the first half from the Blues, they grew complacent in the second half. Perhaps it was a luxury the team could afford since Mitriță was in inspired form.

It’s no secret, City have a DP problem. Their top players have been featuring sporadically this season. Whether it be Maxi Moralez out of action due to injury, Jesús Medina looking anonymous on the pitch, or coach Ronny Deila relegating Mitriță to the bench - two out of those three designated players have given the fans little reason to be excited (I’ll let you guess which ones).

Considering how poor NYCFC have been in front of goal, fans of the Blues can interpret Mitriță’s brace as a sign of good things to come. While Deila has sorted out how his team will create chances with playmaker Moralez out, he has not figured out where this team is going to get goals from. Having been frozen out of the starting lineup by Deila, it looks like Mitriță has cured Deila’s selection dilemma. However, his performance against Cincinnati will only be meaningful if he can start to score goals week in, week out. That is really the only thing the manager and the fans can ask of him. There isn’t really much else Mitrita needs to do out on the pitch. This team can create chances — lots of them; what they can’t do is finish games off.

A City fan who wished to be identified only by his Reddit username, “operationd00msday,” weighed in on City’s current DP situation, saying, “There are major structural issues, namely in the DP position. No rockstar striker. Medina is a total waste and it remains to be seen whether Mitri can justify the slot.”

The harsh assessment is perhaps the conversation NYCFC fans need to have if they are to combat some of the unflattering results this season. If City’s DP players can’t perform at the level they should be, Deila should then look to his bench for alternatives. Players like Valentín Castellanos (Tati) and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Isi) have hardly been offered consistent playing time despite inconsistent performances from Héber, Medina and Gary Mackay-Steven.

On the matter, “operationd00msday” said, “Mitri, Isi and Taty have barely been on the field together. When they have, it’s been good. It’s just obvious.”

Obvious to everyone except Deila maybe. With Phase 3 on the horizon, Deila may have just sorted out his tactical headache just before the beginning of a crucial stretch in the season.