NYCFC squeaks past Inter Miami, MLS is Back Tournament fate still unknown

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s goal lifted NYCFC to its first victory of the season. (Photo: MLS)

New York City FC kept its MLS is Back Tournament hopes alive, eeking out a 1-0 victory over expansion side Inter Miami CF in its Group A finale on Monday morning.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi provided the lone goal for NYCFC, which was just its second goal of the tournament and the season, in the 64th minute as the lone spark of brilliance in a rather mundane match.

Finishing group play with just three points (1 win, 2 losses, 0 draws), NYCFC will now have to rely on other results falling in its favor in order to advance to the Round of 16.

With Orlando City and the Philadelphia Union already securing the top-two automatic advancement spots in the group, New York will need to be one of the four best third-place finishers amongst the six groups.

At the time of the match’s finish, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Sporting KC were the only other third-place teams with three points.

Should another fringe team accrue at least three points, the team with the superior goal-difference will advance. NYCFC’s mark is at a precarious -2 (four goals allowed, two goals scored), meaning their place in the next round is far from preserved.

Unlike the first two matches of the MLS is Back Tournament — or the beginning of the league season before the pandemic — NYCFC did what it had to do by earning its first win of the season.

It wasn’t necessarily in dominating fashion considering both teams only posted two shots on target, but the Cityzens managed to take advantage of one of its few golden opportunities.

Just moments after the hydration break, in the 64th minute NYCFC poached its opener out of nothing when Alexandru Mitrita’s looping long ball from just inside his own half fell into the path of Tajouri-Shradi, who had timed his run perfectly past the Inter Miami defense.

In alone on Luis Robles, the midfielder brought down the long ball beautifully into his path before finishing cooly past the keeper to give NYCFC an invaluable lead.

Substitute Keaton Parks nearly doubled NYCFC’s lead eight minutes later when a chance fell to him in the middle of Inter Miami’s box, but Robles’ strong hand kept it a one-goal match.

Inter Miami’s elimination was all but sealed in the 90th minute when striker Juan Agudelo was shown his second yellow card of the match for a rash challenge in the NYCFC box on defender Anton Tinnerholm — ensuring the expansion side would play the final six minutes of stoppage time a man down.