My initial takeaway from this first half is that the New England Revolution — current league leaders and a team that NYCFC would likely have to beat to reach an MLS Cup final — are really good. They have been dangerous from set pieces, find themselves in dangerous positions when they create turnovers, and have quality players all across the field.
That realization is exactly what makes me so happy with this first half from the Boys in Blue. In many ways, this was the perfect half from NYCFC based on what we have seen in recent matches. I have been critical in the past of this team for its ability to dominate a match but not get enough from it. In big games, this team tends to shrink, and yet in arguably the biggest match of the season we find ourselves with a lead at halftime.
It hasn’t been the prettiest half of the MLS season for New York City, but time and time again I have asked for this team to be clinical. They absolutely did that, converting on their only big chance of the match. When this team is at its best, Maxi Moralez is pulling the strings and Taty Castellanos is clinical at the head of the attack. The lone goal in the match was a perfect example of that. Maxi played a beautiful ball into Castellanos, who finished it with aplomb.
There is beauty in winning a hard fought, physical match, one that NYCFC fans have not seen often. This match has a playoff level of intensity, and NYCFC have matched the league leaders in this facet of the game. I do believe that on their day, no team in MLS is better than NYCFC, and no team is capable of putting together the beautiful play of New York City as well. However, to win an MLS Cup, a team needs to be able to pull out a result on a night in which they may not be able to string together 20 passes at a time while creating chance after chance.
There are 45 minutes to go, but should NYCFC pull this match out, it will be a statement of intent to the rest of the league that they are a strong contender to make noise in the playoffs this season. In order to gain all 3 points, they will need to continue to win the 50-50 balls in midfield, and be clinical should another chance fall their way. There is room for improvement, but all in all this was a promising half of soccer in what feels like a real opportunity for NYCFC to build confidence heading into the last couple of months of the regular season.