Citi Field—NYCFC has nothing on their mind but another MLS Championship and they are off to a great start in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC beat Inter Miami CF 3-0 victory in the first round of the playoffs on Monday night at Citi-Field in front of an announced crowd of 18,066. Gabriel Pereira (63rd minute) and Maxi Pereira scored two goals six minutes apart in the second half to seal Miami’s fate.
The final goal came in extra time when Heber chipped in a rebound after a save by Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender. NYCFC has now won four in a row heading into Sunday’s East semifinals against No. 2 seed CF Montreal.
NYCFC had the home-field advantage but their home field, Yankee Stadium, was being used for the MLB playoffs, so the game was relocated to the Mets’ home in Queens. Grass covered the infield dirt and the pitcher’s mound was flattened and decorated with an NYCFC logo. Nico Abad could care less. Abad is a member of “The Siege,’’ one of the supporter groups that make up “La Familia”, the club’s most ardent fans, and this was his 10th road game of the season. As soon as Miami clinched a playoff spot, he made his business to be there to support.
“We were well-beaten. When you’re playing games of this magnitude, mistakes are going to cost you,” Inter Miami CF coach Phil Neville said. “I told the players that they know now what it takes to get into the playoffs; but more importantly, they now know what it takes to perform in a playoff game. That’s the extra 20 percent we need to add to this team for next season. They’ve had a great learning experience even though it hurts and we’re all emotional.”
NYC at one point went unbeaten in 16 of 17 regular-season games (11W-5D-1L), but that stretch was derailed following a ten-match run that saw them claim just five points out of a possible 30 (1W-2D-7L). While that can be partially attributed to the loaning-out of club legend Taty Castellanos to La Liga side Girona on July 27, Cushing talked about “really bad luck with injuries” during that period, with “about seven” key players “in the treatment room” at one point.
“That affects the balance of the team, when you lose players like Keaton Parks and Alfredo Morales, you lose players like Thiago Martins and Alex Callens,” he said. “At the same time, you have to then try and piece the team together and try to find a balance, and that’s not an excuse because the roster has to be robust enough to cope with injuries.”
But NYC’s current four-match win streak means they’re headed on the road for the next round of the playoffs. It’s not a new experience for them, having played all but Round 1 away from the Big Apple during last year’s dramatic Cup run.
Miami was known for late-game heroics this season, but the magic ran out on a rainy Monday night in Queens.
Miami’s defeat marks the end of the career of striker Gonzalo Hiquain, who announced weeks ago he would e retiring following the season.
Drake Callender was credited with five saves while NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson stopped four shots.
“I think that’s a real testament to the professionalism and the collective thinking that we have in the group, that we continue to do the same things, switch the play, run the spaces in behind, and continue to create chances,” NYC interim head coach Nick Cushing said.