NYCFC heads to the Conference Finals
By JJ Pavlick
This afternoon’s mega match between heated rivals NYCFC and FC Montreal is set to kick off at 1:18 pm on the east coast. Stade Saputo is packed to near capacity and will be extremely loud soon. The smoke is filling the air, the chants are loud back and forth between supporter groups. The starting lineups are underway, and the players are ready to go.
The 1st half is underway, both sides have come out strong, and no one is giving an inch out there on the pitch. It took only 6’ for NYCFC to break through and take the lead over Montreal. Maxi Moralez was left wide open in front of the goal, and he didn’t miss, the goal was officially unassisted. NYCFC is up 1-0 early in the match, and Montreal is battling back trying to find an equalizer fast. Kamara is shaken up for Montreal after an attempted header on the goal, also Chanot goes down for NYCFC and he will come out. Keaton Parks will come on for Chanot in the 13’ of action. In the 16’ Kamara with a beautiful header, it hits the inside of the far post but bounces out instead of in, ball plays off the defender out for a corner kick for Montreal. Joel Waterman heads home the cross but he is called offside. So, we stayed 1-0 NY 18’ into the match, Montreal is pressing the backline of City hard trying to get that equalizer. They haven’t missed by much in the last 4 minutes of play they’ve had 3 grade-A chances. The score remains 1-0 in the 32’ but not for the lack of trying by Montreal, the center just took away advantage from Montreal on a break at goal yikes, he did indicate afterward he made a mistake. The free kick for Montreal results in a quick turnover and NYCFC continues to apply pressure to the final third. In the 33’ K. O’Toole is shown a yellow card by the center referee. Maxi Moralez still has the only shot on goal for the City side, Montreal has 5 shots but just can’t beat Sean Johnson for the equalizer. In the 38’ NYCFC Santiago Rodriguez is shown a yellow card by the referee. The NY side is showing frustration with the center referee in the 40’ of action, Montreal is pushing forward and K. Kamara’s chance on goal is blocked out, but the referee says it’s a goal kick. Yet another yellow card is shown to an NYCFC player, this time it’s Alexander Callens in the 42’. Montreal fails to capitalize on the free kick left of the goal, they create a turnover and take a shot from 18-yards, but it goes well wide. In the final minutes of the first half, Montreal was pressing the NYCFC backline hard, and they finally got an opening, but the shot is saved by Johnson. The fourth official has shown a minimum of 4’ will be added to the 1st half. NY City counters Montreal in the final minute of the half, Santiago Rodriguez pushed forward with Moralez, Heber doesn’t miss, and it’s now 2-0 NYCFC in the 1st half, Santiago Rodriguez is awarded the assist on the goal. A giant hush comes over the crowd here in Montreal as the fans are stunned by the 1st half results.
Let’s be real for a moment, this game could easily see Montreal up 6-2 instead of down 0-2. New York is playing ok, but Montreal is controlling every aspect of the game minus the scoreboard. Look for Montreal to come out strong and try to pull level quickly. New York needs to tighten up on defense and control its emotions if it wants to see victory today.
Justin Haak comes on for Maxi Moralez of NYCFC, to start the 2nd half of the game and he is already down less than a minute into the match. A horrible touch by Haak almost leads to a goal for Montreal in the 50’. Lucky for him it rolled out of play and not onto the foot of the awaiting striker in front of the goal. The VAR monitor takes a blow from the ball. There are protocols in place if they needed to restore the image for the VAR monitor. In the 53’ of play, a yellow card is issued to #4 R. Camacho of Montreal; the free kick goes just wide of goal for NY. Montreal makes a sub, bringing on R. Quioto for S. Piette in the 54’ of play. In the 58’ NYCFC brings on Talles Magno for Heber, Talles should bring some much need possession and 1 v 1 skill to the 9 slot for NY. Talles makes an impact immediately after finding S. Rodriguez in the box and the referee points to the spot. Talles Magno steps up, converts easily, and gives NYCFC a now demanding 3-0 lead in the 61’. Montreal looks defeated right now, the stands are quiet, and players have their heads down. This game is just one of those head-scratchers, Montreal has done almost everything right today but finds themselves trailing big in the match. NYCFC, the reigning MLS Champions, are showing today why they have the title. Johnston with a blistering header that hits Kamara then Callens and goes out for a corner instead of a much-needed goal. Montreal does nothing with the corner kick opportunity in the 66’ of action. Montreal is trying hard to find an answering goal, however, NYCFC is just possessing the ball and making their opponent chase the ball across the pitch. Joel Waterman is issued a yellow card in the 67’ of action by the referee. In the 69’ of action, the referee shows a yellow card to D. Mihailovic of Montreal. Montreal makes two substitutions, bringing on M. Toye and J. Kwizera for Waterman and L. Lappalainen in the 71’ of play. Kai gets bumped on his bicycle kick attempt in the box, but the center said no foul on the play. Goal kick for New York and they will gladly take their time in the 73’ of the match. The supporter’s section for Montreal is trying to get the fans and players back into the match. Montreal with another missed opportunity on the goal in the 76’. Montreal makes more substitutions, bringing on Z. Brault-Guillard for I. Kone in the 79’ and J. Torres for R. Camacho in the 80’ of play. NYCFC brings on Pellegrini for S. Rodriguez also in the 80’ of play. New York is now just playing to run off the clock and move on to Philadelphia. However, the lack of concentration leads to a goal by #8 D. Mihailovic on an assist from Z. Brault Guillard in the 85’ of play, Haag left Johnson on an island by himself on the header attempt. It’s now 3-1 NYCFC with 5 minutes plus any stoppage time added. The fourth official indicates a minimum of 6’ will be added to the 2nd half. Talles Magno is shaken up on the field leaving New York down a man right now. He is on the pitch but not moving in any meaningful capacity. Callens clears the goal line Montreal smells blood and trying to capitalize late in the match. They still have time to get 2 goals before the final whistle, Johnson goes up and rips down the cross off the corner kick in the 90’+4’. Johnson with the punch save a minute later, Time is running out for Montreal but they’re still pushing. Montreal’s last attack fizzles out in the final minute and that should do it for New York, the official blows his whistle, and we have a clash between NYCFC, and Philadelphia set for Sunday.
If you look at the stats you will scratch your head for days, Montreal dominated every aspect of the game except the one that mattered the most finishing. Montreal’s season comes to a bitter end today with a 3-1 defeat to New York who will head to Philadelphia in hopes of heading to the Cup finals again in back-to-back seasons. Hope to see you all in Philadelphia on Sunday, the game time hasn’t been picked yet by ESPN and Fox Sports Network.