MLS Playoffs: MLS Cup-bound NYCFC finds 'million-dollar' solutions on bench

The MLS postseason has been a battle of attrition.

Six of the first 11 playoff games, including all four conference semifinal games, weren't decided until the 90th minute or later, so it shouldn't have been expected that Sunday's Philadelphia-NYCFC game would be any different.

Which favored NYCFC.

After all, the Union was missing 11 players, including five starters, due to MLS's health and safety protocols, the most Covid-19-related restrictions to hit an MLS team in 2021.

NYCFC? MLS Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos (19 goals) was suspended after being red carded late in overtime of the win over New England on Tuesday, but Coach Ronny Deila's options to replace the Argentine included Heber, who scored 15 goals in his first MLS season in 2019, and 19-year-old Talles Magno, another Brazilian whom NYCFC acquired from Vasco da Gama for $8 million in May.

Most MLS clubs don't have the luxury of stashing $8 million signings on the bench with the goal of grooming them for the future.

Talles Magno, who played just 444 minutes in the regular season, was NYCFC's ace in the hole, coming on for Heber in the second half and scoring the winning goal in the 88th minute to send the Cityzens to MLS Cup for the first time with a 2-1 win over the valiant Union.

The goal came after Gudi Thorarinsson, another second-half replacement, beat Union defender Olivier Mbaizo to the ball on the endline and fed Magno in the middle.

Buoyed by a sellout crowd of 19,487 -- the largest in Subaru Park history -- the patch-work Union stymied NYCFC in the first half and even took the lead in the second half on an own goal credited to NYCFC center back Alexander Callens. But less than 90 seconds later. Maxi Moralez equalized, scoring on a pass from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi following a shot by center back Maxime Chanot that goalkeeper Matt Freese parried away.

Five minutes before the game's first goal, Delia made a triple substitution. The momentum in the game soon switched, and th three subs -- Talles Magno, Thorarinsson and Tajouri-Shradi -- were involved in the two goals in the comeback win.

Thorarinsson, an Icelandic international signed on a free transfer in 2020, had set up the go-ahead goal in overtime on Tuesday against the Revs. Tajouri-Shradi, a Libyan international who grew up in Switzerland and Austria and has scored 26 goals in four MLS seasons, provided needed energy to the NYCFC attack on Sunday.

“The subs looked like they were a million dollars," said Delia, all three of them, and that’s good."

Dec. 5 in Chester, Pa.
Philadelphia 1 NYCFC 2. Goals: Own goal 63; Moralez (Tajouri-Shradi) 65, Talles Magno (Thorarinsson) 88.
Philadelphia -- Freese; Mbaizo. Collin, Findlay, Harriel (Fontana 90); Flach (Aaronson 90), Gazdag, Martinez, McGlynn (Bueno 75), Monteiro; Przybylko.
New York City FC -- Johnson; Amundsen (Thorarinsson 58), Callens, Chanot, Gray; Morales, Sands; Rodriguez, Moralez, Medina (Tajouri-Shradi 58); Heber (Talles Magno 58).
Att.: 19,487.

Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

6 comments about "MLS Playoffs: MLS Cup-bound NYCFC finds 'million-dollar' solutions on bench".
  1. Kent James, December 6, 2021 at 11:55 a.m.

    I was disappointed Phila didn't win; the adversity they faced and the effort they put in (as well as their supportive crowd) led them to dominate the first half (NYFC didn't seem interested in the match).  Credit to the NYFC coach for making some radical subs, since the game did become much more competitive after that (NYFC actually started to look dangerous). The first NYFC goal was set up by just a rocket of a shot from distance, and NYFC was fortunate to have a player in good position for the rebound (and he also hit a nice shot).  Phila player their hearts out, but soccer can be a cruel game (especially when you're missing 11 players!).  But credit to Phila, they did not hunker down and play for a shootout, they took the game to NYFC.  

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, December 6, 2021 at 1:49 p.m.

    Interesting that Philly can send out the "2nd Team", In a SEMI FINAL and still be so Competetive. 
    Sounds like Proof that MLS needs to set a Limit on Non-USA/Canada Players on the Field.
    I would much Rather watch "OUR" Players Struggle and Improve, versus a Bunch of Imports that just Scramble-Up the Game anyway... 
    Is there REALLY that much Difference anymore.???

  3. Greg Bennett, December 6, 2021 at 1:26 p.m.

    I was truly disappointed as NYFC are one of the dirtiest teams in the league.  The match official is one of the worst and let a lot of "fouls" go un called.  NYFC had it handed to them.  In a world that we are in with all the uncertanties of the "Virus" I think they could have postponed to allow them to put the best 11 on the pitch.   The fans would have appreciated it and it would have been the right thing to do.  Now there is * next to the match.  NYFC got lucky and don't deserve anything.  The coach is responsbile for the behavior and poor tactics they display.  I hope Toronto rips them apart. My hat goes off for the valiant effort Philly put forth as they showed more heart and desire for the match.   Maxi M had a yellow then fouls so hard on someone and nothing, he's always dirty anc cries constantly when he gets touched.   They stepped on Philly striker he goes down, can hardly walk and no card.   It seems like too much one sided.  

  4. Santiago 1314, December 6, 2021 at 1:44 p.m.

    GB...One Second of Loss of Concentration on the Part of Mbaizo, Otherwise I don't think NY.MFxxCU didn't look like they had a Clue... #8 Philly Martinez, Could have "RED" Carded Out Multiple Times in the Game.. So, Ref was "Bad" for Both Teams... but, I don't Blame Either... 
    It's the Culture and Qualities of the Players that MLS is Bringing IN... 
    This was Just another "Home Style" of Play that these Players are Brought Up in and Live in, to Survive and Make a Living... Did anyone watch the MX Semi(UNAM vs Atlas).??? Look Familiar.??? ... What is Ref to do... Whistle EVER Play.???
    I think you meant Portland and Not Toronto...
    They may Indeed "Rip them a New One" because ON TURF and the Fact that they also Play that different Cultural Style... I anticipate a "Blood Bath"

  5. frank schoon, December 6, 2021 at 4:53 p.m.

    Of all the players out there that I watched, Mbaizo was the only that could do something with the ball, the rest out there could go into the trash can for Monday pickup.....

    Sorry, but it is gone to take another 50years for the MLS to improve in quality soccer.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, December 6, 2021 at 11:36 p.m.

    Frank, the impression I get from the comments here is that MLS is actually worse than 20 years ago, both in terms of US player invovlement and in terms of soccer skills. Remember DC United won both the CONCACAF Champions League and Cupa Interamericana in 1998.

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