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NYCFC clinch playoff berth with victory over Chicago Fire, 2-0 (Highlights)

Needing a win or draw to secure a spot in the playoffs, NYCFC gave the home crowd an absolute show.

Geoffrey Campbell

Take two. This was the mindset for NYCFC after squandering a chance to secure a playoff spot with a draw against the Montreal Impact over the weekend. And despite Dome Torrent’s approval with his team’s recent ability to move the ball, his side were still looking for only their second win in 10 games.

On the other side, the Chicago Fire were unbeaten in their last three MLS games, recently grabbing a draw against New England Revolution 2-2, and hurting their late-season push for the playoffs.

The Fire have been led all season long by forward Nemanja Nikolic, the 2017 Golden Boot award winner, pouring in 14 goals during the 2018 campaign. The Fire, as a team were looking for their second win against NYCFC this season, after securing on a 3-2 victory with a late goal from Aleksandar Katai back in June. This would be the third meeting between the two sides, with the most recent result being in favor of NYCFC, a 2-1 victory in July.

And fans would definitely sign up for the subplot featuring the battle of old warriors with David Villa and Bastien Schweinsteiger, both starting for their respective sides.

Torrent’s starting 11 included a back four of Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Ben Sweat, and Ronald Matarrita. The midfield three consisted of Alex Ring, James Sands, and Ebenezer Ofori. And the three forwards were rounded out with Maxi Moralez, top goal-scorer Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and the captain, Villa.

The first half started with the boys in blue moving the ball beautifully, both down and across the field. Alex Ring had one of his better halves in a month, both with his ability to link play and as a defender. For their part, the Fire seemed fine with soaking up the pressure using the counter-attack to their advantage.

Several chances came and went for the Cityzens. First, Ofori snuck in between the defense on a free-kick, rose as best he could, but his effort was directed right at the keeper Stefan Cleveland. Minutes later Villa mucked up an absolutely gorgeous look. With a chance to put his side up, the captain soared a clean look over the bar, a chance you would’ve bet your house on him converting.

Ofori, for his efforts, was not just a factor on the offensive end. The defensive midfielder thwarted one of Chicago’s best efforts, using his body to take the ball away from a dangerous attack.

Almost 10 minutes later, Chanot came inches close to breaking the deadlock with a nice header. Chanot had two opportunities in the first half and was key in keeping the score level on the defensive end as well.

The Fire’s best chance came from a spectacular effort out of midfielder Raheem Edwards. Edwards almost had the headlines with a bicycle kick on target, but Sean Johnson gave him the Heisman, parrying the ball away to the side.

The first half ended with Villa and several other players on NYCFC missing some prime chances. The half-time stats told the story of the Cityzens dominance as they were best in shots, possession, tackles won and passing accuracy. Yet no goals to show for it.

The second half started with a bang. In form all game, Ring curled a beautiful lay-off from Villa into the left corner for the game’s first goal. Manager Torrent had to be relieved to see his side finally reap the benefits of their hard work.

Minutes later it was the captain who got in on the action. Moralez sent a low cross into the box, and Villa capitalized, giving his side a 2-0 lead. Villa made amends for several missed chances in the first half.

Yet it wasn’t all champagne bottles and confetti. Moralez came off the field in the 69th minute with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury. Jo-Inge Berget came on as his replacement. Moralez has easily played the most minutes of anyone in the squad and is one of the most valuable players.

Regardless, as full-time came, NYCFC were relieved to get three points and a result that matched the style of play. During the post-game press conference, Torrent credited second-half adjustments where his side decided to defend higher on the pitch and play faster.

Torrent also said that due to the turf in Minnesota it’s possible that Villa may miss the next match, but that Moralez will most likely play. NYCFC now enter a stretch with three games left on the schedule and playoff seeding still to be determined.

Although it’s not impossible, the Cityzens, now six points behind rivals Red Bulls, will most likely stay at the third spot and play either the Columbus Crew or the Philadephia Union in the first round of the playoffs.

Final Stats

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