With familiar faces out, NYCFC plan to lean on depth during stretch run

What a difference a few days makes.

On Wednesday, a dejected New York City FC team walked off the Red Bull Arena pitch after a 1-0 defeat to Toronto FC, a match that saw them outshoot the Reds 16-9 — with 8 shots on target — only to fall on a 90th-minute penalty conversion by Alejandro Pozuelo.

Things were much different on Saturday in a 4-0 win over FC Cincinnati. Not only did the Cityzens bag their most goals in an MLS match this year, but they saw history set in the process: Alexandru Mitrita's opener at 30 seconds was the fastest in the club's six seasons.

Doyle: How NYCFC tore apart FC Cincy

"I think the game was more open this time than it was [against Toronto] because we scored and [it was] three days after last game." said NYCFC head coach Ronny Delia after the match. "The players were more tired...but we did our job really [well] and kept them away from chances."

NYCFC won despite missing Heber, out with an ACL tear that will sideline him for the remainder of the season, and Maxi Moralez, lost to a knee injury when the two teams played on September 12. That didn't seem to phase them, as they recorded their highest output in a league match since a 4-1 win against Atlanta United last September.

"I think they're a very deep team," said FC Cincy's Greg Garza. "You have [Valentin] Castellanos, who came in for Heber, and Mitrita, [Ismael] Tajouri[-Shradi]...guys that have a lot of talent up front who sometimes play and sometimes don't...I think in that situation they have a very deep team with a lot of talent."

For Tajouri-Shradi, it was his first start since a hamstring injury in the MLS Is Back Tournament, coming off the bench in four straight matches prior to Saturday's win.

"For me, I've been waiting [to start again], and today I got the chance," he said. "I wasn't happy with the [injury] and I think everyone [knew] that, but I was training and working hard. I'm just happy to be back and I want to do more for the team and for myself."

And while injuries have been a concern for the midfielder since his arrival, Delia hopes to be able to lean on him a little more with some key parts missing.

"He's a good player," he said. "Today was his first start after injury, and he did well. It's good to have those options we have now, because Heber is out and Maxi are out, and [Alexander] Callens is out because of yellow cards. So we need the whole squad...in the [best] shape [because] that's a positive for us."


MLS Unites to VOTE

Join Major League Soccer, Black Players for Change, and the MLS Players Association in participating in the November 3 general election. In-person early voting has started in 40 states. Make a plan to vote.