New York City FC lost a heartbreaker to Orlando City SC 2-1 on Sunday night in Orlando. The night started with Orlando quickly taking the lead after seven minutes before the heavens opened. A torrential downpour rendered the last 30 or so minutes of the first half pointless as the field became a nightmare for both teams.
NYCFC came out in the second half looking much more dangerous as the field dried up and the rain stopped. Maxi Moralez finished off a goal set up by Thiago Andrade, and within ten minutes of the half starting, NYCFC looked like they might just grab all three points.
Then for the last 20-plus minutes of the game, NYC started to play for the point for some reason. Orlando hadn’t had much of the ball for the first 25 minutes of the half, but once they got some they made it count. As each minute passed by, Orlando began to pressure NYCFC more and more. The five minutes of stoppage time had passed and all New York City had to do to hang on for a point was defend one last Orlando corner.
They did not do that.
The dam finally broke right at the death as Tesho Akindele bullied Andres Jasson off of him and rose up to head in the game-winning goal in the 96th minute. As is seemingly becoming tradition in Orlando, NYCFC found a new, crushing way to lose a game.
NYCFC: 5 shots, 1 on goal, 50.7% possession, 463 passes, 83.4% accuracy, 11 fouls
Orlando City: 17 shots, 5 on goal, 49.3% possession, 427 passes, 79.4% accuracy, 13 fouls
Playing for a point?
The turning point of this game seemed to be one of NYCFC’s choosing. As the clock ticked on towards 70 minutes, a win was within reach for NYC. They had controlled most of the second half and should have been looking dangerous in the attack with more and more possession.
Then, the attitude of the team seemed to shift as Orlando started to push forward. Attack, after attack was coming from Orlando, and they pinned NYCFC back for the first time in a while. Once the late stages of the game came, NYC made it abundantly clear that they were playing for the point as time-wasting and full-field clearances began.
Why did they start doing this, though?
There was no reason for this shift in play style. They could pull back a little bit if they wanted to make sure to not lose the game, but there was no reason to completely sit back and defend for their lives. NYCFC can clearly hold possession and control a game when they want to. It wasn’t necessary to even do that much on Sunday night. It would have just taken a tiny spell of possession after winning a free kick to slow down the Orlando momentum even a little bit.
That’s all it would have taken to possibly prevent the last kick of the game from being the one that sank NYCFC Sunday night. It’s one thing if NYCFC were clearly outmatched and were trying to hold on against a far superior team, but that is nowhere close to the case for this team. The way this team is built right now, they should be bowing to no one in this league.
NYCFC only made three substitutions Sunday night, and injury forced one of them in the 25th minute. This means interim head coach Nick Cushing only made two substitution decisions all night. More subs should have been made tonight and the two subs Cushing did make weren’t exactly the best.
The first sub made was Andres Jasson coming on for Thiago in the 75th minute. The second was Heber for Talles Magno in the 79th.
The fact that Andres Jasson is being used as an attacking substitute late in a game is seriously concerning. The concern is both that Cushing thinks Jasson can make a difference attacking-wise late in a game and that Cushing views Jasson as a go-to substitute option with who he has available. This sub didn’t make much sense, but upon a second look at the options on the bench, it’s tough to come up with a clearly better option. Personally, Matias Pellegrini would have been my move, but NYCFC signed him less than ten days ago and his exact fitness levels are unknown.
Depth used to be the main strength of NYCFC, especially on the attacking side. Now, all it takes is Santi Rodriguez being suspended for yellow card accumulation and the bench looks bleak and uninspiring.
All this is to say that both things are true: Cushing needs to be better with his substitutions and the depth of this team is truly depleted.
Tayvon Gray: the center-back
Tayvon Gray at center-back is easily the shining star of Sunday night’s performance. Once Thiago Martins came off the field in the 25th minute, Maxime Chanot became the last healthy center-back with MLS experience on NYCFC’s roster. Cushing chose to go with Gray and he was rewarded handsomely for that decision. Gray stepped up time and time again Sunday night with clearances and great one-on-one defending. He even had a nice attacking pass to spring Anton Tinnerholm down the right side early in the second half.
NYCFC are now down their top two options at center-back and it strangely isn’t all that concerning. That may be because of the other issues with the team right now, but it still isn’t near the top of the list.
The number one quality about Gray is that he is truly fearless. This was true before Sunday night, but it was just reaffirmed tenfold after the game. No matter what kind of scenario NYCFC throw Gray into, he thrives in it and approaches it with no fear. This was readily apparent after he stepped up and started every playoff game in 2021 after Anton Tinnerholm’s injury with only three prior MLS starts under his belt.
At the very least, it looks like Gray has to start one more game at center-back as NYCFC are right back at it Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena against last-place DC United.
Orlando, Junior Urso 7’
NYCFC, Maxi Moralez 53’
Orlando, Tesho Akindele 90’+6
NYCFC, Justin Haak, foul, yellow card, 45’+1
Orlando, Antonio Carlos, foul, yelllow card, 50’
NYCFC, Maxi Moralez, time wasting, yellow card, 89’
NYCFC, Maxime Chanot, time wasting, yellow card, 90’+3
Attendance: No figure announced
Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Mike Rottersman
Fourth Official: Elton García
VAR Referee: Carol Anne Chenard
Assistant VAR Referee: Thomas Supple