You could hardly see their loyal fans Saturday in the Bronx because weather conditions were not fit for a king as NYCFC, 2021 MLS Cup Champions, returned to Yankee Stadium for their home opener. The chill and occasional light snow did not stop them from being heard.
They are the fan base of NYCFC and anticipated the return of their champions after seeing their boys in blue make that successful run to their first MLS Cup. The MLS offseason is very brief, and it seemed like yesterday when league leading scorer Valentin Castellanos scored more than one decisive goal.
Castellanos received the largest ovation when the 2021 MLS Cup was displayed, and the championship banner raised. He did not score and that was a rare moment in the Bronx.
Regardless this was a team effort and a successful home opening 4-1 win over CF Montreal.
It was Alexander Callens, Santiago Rodriguez, Tallis Magno, and Thiago Andrade all scoring goals as NYCFC got their first win of the MLS season. They were scoreless in a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy and got a draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps to open their MLS schedule.
”It’s very important how many players we have that are coming from the midfield and central defenders,” coach Ronny Deila said. “Of course, today, Thaigo scored, Talles (Magno) scored, Santi scored, so that gives confidence to everyone and makes us more dangerous.”
We learned more about Castellanos during the championship run because he would always get the golden foot to land another ball in the net. But the best player on the Yankee Stadium turf is not expected to duplicate his heroics, of course, though, the tendency is to get Castellanos in position and ignite the offense.
The fans cheered “Taty ” numerous times. But it was a new nucleus that handled the offense and perhaps when NYCFC resumes play this week in the Concacaf Champions League tournament, their scoring machine will become a factor.
It’s a long MLS season. Deila and his team say a long stretch of matches at the beginning of their season is not taking a toll, instead the coach can use different lineups and they have depth to do that.
Four goals Saturday with this attack and it appears this team will be an offensive threat.
They take on Comunicaciones in the second leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League this Tuesday evening at the Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Then it’s back to the Bronx Saturday afternoon and another MLS match with division rival Philadelphia Union.
Delia, though, is blessed to have an advantage of resting some of those key components to the offense. He can change the lines a bit as he did Saturday.
“It helps a little of course, as I sat on the bench, I was thinking of more players that can do a good job for us,” he said. “I think the players have been excellent at resting themselves mentally and physically and then keep going and performing over and over again.”
Tuesday will be a tough game, Delia said. He made reference to conditions and hopes to see good results. The Union will be another early season test on the MLS schedule, a team that will seek revenge in the Bronx after NYCFC got a win in December at home that resulted in their higher seed of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We expect goals of course from Thiago, Talles,(Mango), Santi (Rodriguez)” Delia said. “They are good finishers, so as I said we have very good strength on the team. We can score from different locations, we scored four today without Taty and Maxi (Moralez) scoring and we already know what they can do so that’s a strength of the team.”
Callens scored the first NYCFC goal of the season in the seventh minute and Rodriguez followed with pouncing on a loose ball high up on the field. You heard the crowd when Magno and Thiago closed it out prior to a second half of NYCFC defense that shut down Montreal.
A total team effort on a nasty day in the Bronx which worked to perfection.
“I think it’s easy to see we wanted to attack and it feels like we’re a different team here at Yankee Stadium,” said defender Malte Amundsen, “Everyone loves to play here. We’re just at the playground here.”
He said four goals were good but it is important to not give teams open chances in the second half. A good home opener in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium but this team will have dates at Citi Field and at Red Bulls Arena in New Jersey because of conflicts with the Yankees baseball schedule.
Important, though, is the scoring from others the coach utilized in key situations.
“I think it’s always a strength in not relying on one or two players to create the goals,” Amundsen said. “When we have different goal scorers it’s only good for us and means if one player has a down period we have other players can step up and score the goals.”
They are capable of scoring when they are called. And with every goal those loyal fans in the chill made noise for their champions.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso