Overcoming adversity seems to be a theme for New York City FC in 2020. Coming into the start of Phase 1 of MLS’s return with only one win through five league games, the Boys in Blue have rallied big time, losing only one of their five games — posting a total record 3-1-1 (W-L-D) — since the restart coming Saturday’s game against FC Cincinnati.
With all the makings of a trap game against the lowly Orange and Blue, NYCFC were forced to overcome another hurdle after the opening whistle when star playmaker Maxi Moralez pulled up with an apparent knee injury. Losing Maxi with a multi-goal lead would be bad, much less a scoreless game where City struggled in the offensive third (another recurring theme to their season).
Nonetheless, NYCFC found an extra gear as they would do without their attacking midfielder.
Following Maxi’s injury, Gary Mackay-Steven was brought on as a replacement. I’ve had several criticisms for the former Celtic winger since he came aboard last summer. But, for at least this night, he put all the backtalk to rest with an impressive performance.
In the 39th minute, GMS pounced on loose ball to deliver a scintillating pass to an unmarked Alexander Ring in behind. Ring — who was held onside on his run by a Cincinnati defender — made the best of his 1-v-1 chance against goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń, slotting it the Polish international’s right and burying it hard and low.
Capitalizing on Cinci’s frustrations following the first goal, NYCFC pushed further ahead early on in the second half when in the 55th minute, Anton Tinnerholm would deliver a piece of his signature brilliance.
On a City corner, Cincinnati’s Kendall Waston did well to head the ball way. Unfortunately, Tinnerholm was lying in wait at the top of the box. On the full volley, the Swede known as “TinnerBOOM” tee’d off with his left foot a shot that zoomed past defenders and Tyton in goal to give NYCFC a 2-0 advantage in style.
Despite things looking done and dusted at that point, NYCFC would begin to face another bout of adversity later on in the second half.
In the 74th minute, Keaton Parks would commit a rare turnover near City’s box. Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez would have his first shot saved by Sean Johnson, but would ultimately get his goal on the rebound to pull one back for FCC and make it 2-1.
The pressure from Cincinnati only grew from there, with the most dangerous moment coming in the 79th minute when on a corner, Waston rose above his marker to powerfully head the ball towards goal. Johnson would miraculously parry the ball away.
NYCFC would be able to match the increasing intensity as the game wore on and would eventually seal a 2-1 win to bring their Phase 1 string of games to an end on a high note.
Next up: NYCFC kicks off their Phase 2 campaign against the New England Revolution on the road on Saturday, September 19.