Sputtering NYCFC, now without Maxi Moralez, could face elimination Tuesday vs. Orlando City

Maxi Moralez
NYCFC star midfielder Maxi Moralez will miss Tuesday’s must-win match against Orlando City. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

New York City Football Club already has its collective backs up against the wall — and they’ve only played one game.

Following its “MLS is Back Tournament”-opening loss to the Philadelphia Union on Thursday, NYCFC sank to the bottom of Group A.

It was their third-straight loss dating back to the start of the regular MLS season that was cut short just two weeks in due to the coronavirus outbreak. And they haven’t scored a goal in any of those matches, either.

An inability to get at least one point against Orlando City SC on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, Twitter) would spell elimination for NYCFC if the Union can pick up at least one point against expansion side Inter Miami CF (10:30 p.m. ET, Twitter).

Orlando City defeated Inter Miami 2-1 in the tournament’s opener on Wednesday night.

“If we want to have it in our hands, we need to win the next game,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said. “If we draw, then it’s not in our own hands but it’s still a possibility. We, of course, are going into it wanting to win and going for three points.”

The misfiring New York club is one of the biggest surprises of the early portions and subsequent return of MLS.

On paper, this was perceived to be one of the strongest sides in the league — a reputation built last season when they captured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference under head coach Domenec Torrent. Citing frustrations with the format and makeup of the league, Torrent’s departure was a sizable loss for the Cityzens which they still seem to be dealing with. NYCFC’s swoon to start the season only puts more pressure on Deila, who has big shoes to fill considering Torrent was a well-established coach who previously worked with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. An early exit from the MLS is Back Tournament won’t help.

To make matters worse, Deila confirmed with reporters on Sunday that playmaking midfielder, Maxi Moralez — who led MLS in assists last year — will not be available after picking up a quad injury. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday and could miss several weeks.

Orlando City is flying high after their late win over Inter Miami last week. The hosts are headlined by the aging Portuguese star midfielder, Nani, who spent a considerable portion of his career with Manchester United and scored the late-stoppage-time winner on Wednesday night.