By Jerry Mancini.
New York City FC booked their spot in the MLS is Back quarter-finals after a convincing 3-1 win over Toronto FC.
Goals from Jesus Medina, Valentín Castellanos and Maxi Moralez ensured the win for NYCFC. Patrick Mullins pulled one back for TFC, yet it was too little too late.
Toronto FC delivered a performance that they will surely want to put behind them. It was a poor effort from Greg Vanney’s side that showed little intensity and motivation. His side looked slow and were not decisive enough in their attack. NYCFC’s ability to make quick passes, move faster out from their own end and play at a higher tempo created difficulties for the Reds.
So, what did we learn from this match?
A Rare Performance From Michael Bradley
TFC captain, Michael Bradley, was performing well in the tournament until this match against New York City. The midfielder put in a rare poor performance, looking slow and tired, while he was indecisive in his passing. On many occasions, his attempts to clear the ball landed in the path of an NYCFC player. He was out of position and struggled to keep pace with the opposition. The midfielder played a role in two of the three goals TFC conceded.
In the first five minutes of the match, NYCFC were awarded a free-kick far outside TFC’s box. Ronald Matarrita delivered the ball into the box with Bradley making a weak attempt to clear it to safety. He sent the ball towards Anton Tinnerholm who then passed it to the left side of the box to Medina. The midfielder was left all alone and beat Quentin Westberg to find the back of the net. NYCFC had an early 1-0 lead and carried the momentum for the rest of the match.
Vanney’s decision to over-play Bradley in the group stages may have contributed to the midfielder’s struggles throughout the match. As Bradley recently returned from a serious injury, squad rotation would have benefitted both the midfielder and the team as a whole.
Jayden Nelson Makes His Professional Debut For TFC
Jayden Nelson made his first appearance in the number nine position for TFC and replaced Ayo Akinola who was injured. This was the Canadian’s first start in a TFC jersey and in MLS. There were certain moments in the match in which Nelson showed good speed and the ability to cut inside the box. However, the forward wasn’t as effective as Akinola was in TFC’s first three matches.
Replacing the leading scorer, who had five goals and been a major factor in TFC’s recent success, was a tough task.
17-year-old Jayden Nelson getting his first career start for TFC against NYCFC.
He has already made 3 appearances for the Canadian national team and even scored for them. Will be very interesting to see him play. https://t.co/kqvBeSjDXg
— MLS Buzz (@MLS_Buzz) July 26, 2020
Nelson struggled to get involved in the match as he finished with 23 touches, eight passes and one shot on target. Nonetheless, Nelson put in a decent effort considering the fact that he’d never played a game in the top flight for TFC. Vanney was satisfied with the performance he put in and the forward will now look to build on the experience which gained.
“I was pleased with him. I thought he gave us some interesting stuff,” Vanney responded after the game.
TFC Fail To Overcome Slow Start
It wasn’t the start Toronto FC had planned for. In the first five minutes of the match, they conceded an early goal to give a 1-0 lead to NYCFC. Looking tired and off the pace, Toronto struggled to get out of their own half from the word go.
“Everything was too slow. It lacked urgency, it lacked intensity,” said Vanney.
Omar Gonzalez looked slow and out of position on many occasions. On New York’s second goal, Gonzalez was caught far too high and was unable to track back to recover in time, allowing Valentín Castellanos through to make it 2-0.
Aside from Omar’s struggles at the back, key players such as Pablo Piatti, Richie Layrea and Nick DeLeon were invisible for most of the match. Jozy Altidore, Jonathon Osorio and Jacob Shaffelburg came off the bench but provided little spark into an uninspired Toronto team. Vanney will look to regroup and figure out where it went wrong for his side as the return of the regular season looms.
“We started the game very poorly, got ourselves going a little bit at the end of the first half but just in all ways weren’t good enough tonight,” replied Bradley.
“That part’s pretty simple, there’s not much more to say.”
Last season, New York City exited the playoffs to TFC at the Conference Semi-Final stage after a late goal from Alejandro Pozuelo late into stoppage time. This time, New York played their part and had redemption for last season’s bitter loss.