After reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup in D.C., New York City FC returned to MLS action hoping to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 games in all competitions as they faced off against the Eastern Conference leaders, Philadelphia Union.
Coming into the night the City was without seven players, four injured and three on international duty, including Héber, the team’s leading goalscorer, who was unavailable with a hamstring injury.
Dome Torrent looked upon Valentin Castellanos to take the role of a number nine for the matchup, but it was the Philadelphia Union who got on the scoreboard early in the 7’ minute, thanks to a tidy finish from Fabrice-Jean Picault.
City may have conceded first but it didn’t take long for them to get back into the match.
After back-to-back near-misses from Anton Tinnerholm and Alexandru Mitriță, Castellanos broke through the Union defense but was tripped by a Union defender, earning a penalty kick.
Maxi Moralez stepped up for the Boys in Blue to take the spot-kick and drilled it down the center, giving Matt Freese the eyes, to tie up the game 1-1 in the 23’.
Sadly, parity would only last for seven minutes as Kacper Przybylko found another go-ahead goal for the visitors, slamming past Brad Stuver into the bottom corner.
City had been far from their best in the first 45′ but were only a goal behind and confident they could raise the level attacking the bleachers in the second half.
Castellanos was fouled once again in the area and just like in the first half, Moralez made no mistake with his penalty, this time drilling into the bottom corner on 55’.
The Argentine’s PK put the Boys in Blue on the board with the equalizer, 2-2, earning himself a brace and his fifth goal of the season in the process.
The opportunity to take the lead came in the 64’ minute when Mitriță, with plenty of time to get his shot set, bent the ball towards the far corner but was denied a stunning go-ahead strike by Freese’s excellent save.
When the third goal came for NYCFC, it was no surprise it was the man who had earned the two penalties who got it.
Castellanos had hardly an inch to get his shot away from the edge of the area but his precise strike under pressure squeezed into the bottom corner to send Yankee Stadium wild.
Their Argentinian connection paid off once again in the 78’ minute to secure the points, as Moralez found Castellanos on the run and Taty dinked the ball gloriously over the onrushing Freese.
That’s how it stayed, meaning NYCFC are now six points behind Philadelphia with four games in hand.
NYCFC HEAD COACH DOME TORRENT
On Castellanos’ performance…
“You know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches. I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play. And his opportunities are the same as Keaton [Parks]. Keaton played the game really well again and it’s good news for us. And I don’t have doubts about my players, and I say many times to them, they have to be ready to play when I decide to play with them.”
On the team’s form…
“Maybe we are in the best form in the moment. It was not easy because everybody knows we lost just one game. It’s very important in MLS because it’s a league where every game matters. It’s very important for the confidence. Especially today, it’s important when you play [with confidence against] the top of our conference. We were able to come back with the result. It’s very important because if you’re able to come back in this kind of game, you’re able for the future to win another game. I say in the first half, calm down, don’t lose control…They were able to come back, not me. And the reason why is because they play with confidence and we are in a good moment right now. That doesn’t mean we will win next game. But we will play hard and we will try to win. And that is why I’m very happy for our supporters, because we haven’t played at home for 20 days, 21 days, so this is for them.”
On the tactical changes at halftime…
“The reason we changed our system is because in the first half, we were playing three against one. We were losing battles in the midfield. It kept meaning we were defending nine with eight. So when we saw this, we knew we had to change the game. They controlled the first fifteen minutes, so we had to change a little bit. And sometimes I say that it doesn’t matter if we have the ball because they have two or three players up. It doesn’t matter. We need to win the game and our quality players play like a forward. So I say to Taty, because the first half, he didn’t play really, really well, because the first night, they moved a lot and they right. They played in the middle a lot. So that’s why we changed the tactics and when it goes right, the coach is good. And when it doesn’t, that means the coach is bad. But never forget, even when we are able to win or lose the game, the soccer belongs not to the coach, but to the players.”
NYCFC MIDFIELDER MAXI MORALEZ
Difference between first and second half…
“There were many opportunities we created but unfortunately we didnt have the right timing. We didn’t play right and I believe that why we went to first half losing. Second half we were better and played better.”
On advice to give the younger Latin generation watching him…
“As someone who is Latin, it’s always important to have your family with you and have their support. You can always reach your dream. We know what it is to be Latin in the United States and in this league, there are many, so fight for your dream.”
NYCFC FORWARD VALENTIN CASTELLANOS
On scoring four goals in today’s game…
“Well in my professional career I believe it’s my first time. I know I also had several chances to create opportunities with penalties and to score. Honestly I am very happy because it helped the team and I felt very comfortable in that position.”
On changes made in the second half…
“Dome told me to stay around the box because they were crossing the ball over and the ball kept bouncing in the box with no one around, so I focused on that and tried to improve and I think it worked well for the team.”
On upcoming game with Seattle…
“It’s also a complicated game, now we have to focus early in the week for this game. I feel that what the team showed today and the fans as well, we feel like they’re with us and we’re good and now we’re going to focus on Seattle.”
PHILADELPHIA UNION COACH JIM CURTIN
On tonight’s game..
I think you learn as a group every game that we play. I think that we learned tonight that we are very close, but we are not there yet. A performance in the first half that was very good I thought, actually had a chance to get that third goal. You know, New York City has so much offensive firepower, where it;s going to be a game where you have to be a bit more ruthless in front of goal.
Overall, it is a night where if you look at how hard we have to work and how many plays we have to get right to score a goal, and then we concede kind of in direct balls, maybe a mis-played or mistimed contact on the ball, or someone slipping in the box. We had just a way of giving up easy goals and we had to work so hard to get ours.
It’s a good learning lesson for the guys. I think in that, the game is where things get magnified, where the intensity gets raised. We have to find ways to be a little bit smarter, so like I said, we are close to becoming a top team but we’re not there yet. We have room for improvement.
PHILADELPHIA UNION FORWARD KACPER PRZYBYŁKO
On the second half of today’s match…
“We came into the second half leading 2-1, but we had no confidence, no construction, it was bad. I don’t know what happened, but our performance in the second half was very bad today.”
On preparing for the next game against Orlando City…
“I think we have to refocus and prepare for the next game, it’ll be more hot and more humid in Orlando. It’s up to us to practice and rest, we have to come out much better than we did in the second half today.”
On his form after scoring in consecutive games…
“It’s not about individual guys, or about my goals, it’s about the team. We have to do better as a team, especially defensively, because the defense today in the second half was bad. We have to concentrate on that as a team. Of course, I’m a striker, I have to score to help the team, but the score was 4-2.”
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