New York City FC came out on top in the most tightly-contested episode yet of the eMLS Tournament Special presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation, with their quarterfinal against FC Dallas going right down to the wire before NYCFC's Sean Johnson picked up a golden goal winner against FCD's Fafa Picault to cap Sunday night’s action.
The opening match of the evening, a virtual Hudson River Derby between Johnson and Aaron Long of the New York Red Bulls, was the only contest of the night decided by a more than one goal, as Johnson comfortably took home the bragging rights. From there on out, the remaining five games (plus a golden goal tiebreaker) offered nothing but closely-fought FIFA 20 action.
After an equally compelling second leg of the New York rivalry affirmed NYCFC’s passage to the final game of the night — the tournament’s third quarterfinal — Picault and Dallas came topped Memo Rodriguez and the Houston Dynamo in the Texas Derby, another contest that went all the way to golden goal after two scoreless draws.
The evening’s results mean NYCFC will join LAFC and Sporting KC in the final episode of this five-week tournament to support hunger relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is contested by MLS teams represented by one of their players and their eMLS pro. Atlanta, Orlando, Toronto and Vancouver will contest the fourth part of the tournament on May 10 (7 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN) before the four semifinalists return to compete for the title on May 17.
You can find a recap and highlights of Sunday night’s action as it happened below, and can refresh yourself on previous results and upcoming games on the eMLS Tournament Special schedule page.
New York City FC 5, New York Red Bulls 1
Sean Johnson 3, Aaron Long 0: Johnson (half-)joked in his pregame interview about wanting to embarrass his RBNY counterpart and backed up the trash talk in no time, putting Long on the back foot and taking a one-goal when he bamboozled his opponent thanks to some tricky footwork with Alexandru Mitrita.
Long nearly got one back to start the second half, only to be denied a one-on-one by Johnson himself. It proved to be a crucial moment in the game, as Johnson piled on two more to give NYCFC a dominant win.
Didychrislito (NYC) 2, Adamou (RBNY) 1: As expected after his teammate's heavy first-leg defeat, Adamou piled on the pressure and created two good looks to start the game, but was unable to convert on either. Didychrislito also had an open look to really bury the Red Bulls, but fired just wide to keep it scoreless at the half. Adamou couldn't convert a one-on-one chance on the hour mark, which proved to be his last clear shot as a comeback as Didychrislito took it back down the field against the run of play and scored.
Adamou got one back, but it wouldn't stop his opponent from adding insult to injury, adding the final goal with Sean Johnson from the penalty spot and throwing in the one-handed pushup celebration for good measure:
FC Dallas 1, Houston Dynamo 0
Fafa Picault (DAL) 0, Memo Rodriguez (HOU) 0: The on-field Texas rivals played out a quiet first half, with neither playing generating a dangerous look on goal, though Picault lobbied the virtual ref for a red card on his opponent after his player was brought down on the counterattack, only to see the Dynamo defender shown yellow. It was more of the same in the second half, with Picault coming closest on a one-on-one chance that was saved.
i9ibbs (DAL) 0, KidM3mito 0: Unlike the chatty showdown between Picault and Rodriguez, the two eMLS rivals were laser focused in a quiet first half. That silence on the mics was echoed on the field in both halves, with neither player opting to take too many risks in such a finely balanced series. The second leg would end the same as the first, with no goals over 180 minutes of virtual play meaning a golden goal showdown between the MLS players.
Fafa Picault (DAL) 1, Memo Rodriguez (HOU) 0: Picault nearly had it in the bag on his first attack of the golden goal showdown, forcing a point-blank save out of the Houston 'keeper. He kept the pressure on, as he also failed to properly connect on a close-range header at the back post. He wouldn't miss a third time, though, as he took advantage of a misplaced pass out of the back and a kind rebound to tap in the first — and decisive — goal of the series before 45 minutes hit.
Quarterfinal: New York City FC 1, FC Dallas 0
Sean Johnson (NYC) 0, Fafa Picault (DAL) 0: The two MLS player finalists got off to spirited start, but somehow Picault could not find the net on any of three great chances. He pinged a placed finish off the bar, narrowly missed on another, and then had a chance at the end of the half expertly palmed over by the virtual SeanJohn, who starred on a number of occasions through the night for NYCFC.
Although Johnson's halftime adjustments helped a bit, Picault almost certainly should have won it in the closing stages of the match, when he somehow hit the outside of the post with a wide-open goal at his mercy to keep it even heading into the eMLS leg.
Didychrislito (NYC) 0, i9IBBS (DAL) 0: One of the top players in eMLS, Didychrislito was the favorite heading into the final, but had to rely on his goalkeeper again early to tip over an early chance from eMLS newcomer i9IBBS. The NYCFC man started to come into the game after that, though, and narrowly missed over the bar after a period of sustained pressure at the end of the half. The second half began much the same as the first, with i9IBBS looking dangerous for much of the opening stages, forcing yet another save out of the NYCFC 'keeper in the 75th minute before firing just wide on a potential winner.
Sean Johnson (NYC) 1, Fafa Picault (DAL) 0: The lack of goals in this series clearly wasn't for lack of trying, as evidenced by great saves from the goalkeepers on both ends in the early stages of this golden goal tiebreaker. However, Johnson was able to pin Picault in his own half and found a dramatic winner off a turnover to send NYCFC to the championship episode on May 17: