New York City Football Club’s quest for Concacaf Champions League success continued on Tuesday night as they took on Comunicaciones.
There were two changes to the starting XI that took on Vancouver Whitecaps at the weekend with Andres Jasson and Thiago Martins replacing Tayvon Gray and Keaton Parks.
Ronny Deila also shifted the team to a back three formation and that afforded the likes of Alex Callens and new boy Thiago ample opportunity to bring the ball out from defence as NYCFC sought to control possession early on.
The Boys in Blue thought they had converted that early momentum into a goal when Talles Magno pounced on a loose ball to calmly stroke the ball home, only for VAR to chalk the goal off following a review.
The game was being played at a frenetic pace and that created a back and forth encounter with little in the way of clear-cut chances for either side.
As the game neared the half-hour mark the opening goal arrived after some neat combination play between Jasson and Rodriguez allowed the latter to cross for Taty Castellanos to glance a header past the goalkeeper.
In the 39th minute, a well-worked freekick from Maxi Moralez allowed Callens to head back across goal to Talles Magno but his effort was well gathered.
The second half brought with it no changes for the hosts, but a renewed sense of energy from Comunicaciones.
Meanwhile, NYCFC’s first chance of the half arrived early on after a delightful lofted pass from Moralez found Castellanos in behind but he failed to trouble the goalkeeper. The 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner would then strike the post a minute later after Talles Magno laid it off to him on the edge of the box.
Somewhat against the run of play the visitors struck level on the hour mark after a corner was driven back across goal and converted by Manuel Gamboa on the goal line.
NYCFC wouldn’t be behind for long, however, and in the 65th minute a sweeping team move finished with Castellanos chipping the ball over the defense for Moralez to excellently volley home.
In the wake of the goal Ronny Deila turned to his bench and introduced Thiago Andrade and Keaton Parks for Maxime Chanot and Talles Magno.
NYCFC were now able to settle into a rhythm and a third would arrive for the hosts in the 71st minute. This time it was a rapid counter-attack lead by Castellanos that saw him square it to an unmarked Santiago Rodríguez. After taking a touch the 22-year-old side-footed the ball into the net.
Deila’s side continued to push for a fourth goal and came close with several half-chances before the NYCFC head coach again turned to his bench in the 83rd minute to remove Moralez in place of Héber. That would be followed by Rodríguez’s departure in the 90th minute for Gedion Zelalem.
Midway through injury time, the visitors thought they had scored a second goal of the evening after a flick-on from a cross, but the ball struck Johnson’s post and was cleared for a corner.
That would prove the final act of the game and hand NYCFC a 3-1 win on the night ahead of the second leg in Guatemala next week.
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