New York City FC Crumble Under Pressure, Face Huge Hole Going Home
Oct 30, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) celebrate a goal by Toronto FC forward Tosaint Ricketts (87) (not pictured) during the second half of the Conference Semifinals against New York City FC at BMO Field. Toronto FC won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

David Villa and New York City FC crumbles under the pressure of their first MLS Playoff game losing to Toronto FC 2-0.

The first postseason game for New York City Football Club ended in extreme disappointment, as the Blues fell 2-0 to Toronto FC at BMO Field. Not only do they need to score twice at Yankee Stadium to have any chance at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they desperately need to avoid conceding as well, after failing to score an away goal.

It was a deserved result — after a chippy first half devoid of any huge chances (save for a Sebastian Giovinco shot smothered by keeper Eirik Johansen), the home side really cranked up the pressure in the second half, sending wave after wave at an NYCFC team that struggled to keep any possession.

Realistically, a goalless draw would have been perfect for NYCFC. While they would need to be wary of conceding at Yankee Stadium, they wouldn’t have a mountain to climb. And for 82 minutes, they managed to keep Toronto FC at bay.

It wasn’t to be, however, as City conceded a painfully scrappy opener — Frederico Bravo’s clearance hit off the backside of Toronto sub-Tosaint Ricketts, and the ball fell ever so invitingly to Jozy Altidore, a man in form, who smashed it into an open net.

However, not the end of the world– if anything, Toronto was expected to score at home. Today in the MLS, the two earlier matches ended 1-0 in favor of the home sides (LA Galaxy beat Colorado, Montreal beat the Red Bulls).

The real killer was conceding the second goal, a real sloppy finish from Ricketts, whose impact as a substitute cannot be understated. The goal came in the 92nd minute, a mere 2 minutes from time. NYCFC were 8 minutes away from escaping BMO Field with a scoreless draw, and 2 minutes from escaping with a respectable 1-0 deficit.

Instead, they head home needing to score two goals and not concede just to force extra time. They’ll need to score three (and not concede) to advance. If Toronto scores once at Yankee Stadium, the Blues will need to score four times to advance, since a draw will not send the game to extra time, due to the away goal ruling.

NYCFC did score the most goals in MLS in the regular season. But this is not the regular season. The playoffs are significantly more cagey– sides will clamp down and try to avoid conceding. NYCFC will need to come out firing, which could lead to gaps in a defense that let in the most goals out of any team that qualified for the postseason.

While this isn’t a surprising result by any means, it is a disappointing one. NYCFC had the ability to rise up to the challenge, dig deep, and earn a gritty nil-nil. Heck, they even almost took the lead, getting two brilliant chances in the space of thirty mintutes — Jack Harrison was inches away from poking the ball into the back of the net, and RJ Allen’s blazed shot took a key deflection that prevented the ball from flying into the goal.

It was after those chances, where City finally found a glimmer of hope, that the defense crumbled and the team conceded. NYCFC showed an inability to build on their chances, instead, continuing to sit back and absorb pressure, and eventually letting the ball in twice.

It’s difficult to fathom City coming back in this tie. It’s surely possible– with David Villa leading the line, anything is possible. But Villa was often isolated on Sunday night, and rarely saw any chances. He was substituted in favor of second-year man Khiry Shelton, who arguably made more of an offensive impact in the last ten minutes than Villa did the first 80.

Andrea Pirlo sat out this game with a calf strain, so he should be fully fit for the reverse leg. Frank Lampard only played about 15 minutes in Toronto, so he should be in good fitness. The Yankee Stadium crowd should be rocking. And who knows what head coach Patrick Viera has up his sleeve?

But with a huge deficit, an explosive Toronto offense, and an attack that posed more questions than answers on the road, New York City FC’s disastrous last ten minutes in Leg One may just be the knockout punch in their second ever season.


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Staff Writer at Elite Sports New York. Lead Writer at New York Sports Hub and My Weekly Sports. Twitter, instagram: @skylardarel. Avid fan of the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, New York City FC, FC Barcelona, and Arsenal FC. Sophomore at the College of New Jersey, studying Communication. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. Grew up in Manhattan, and proud to know how to work the Subway system.