Thiago Andrade’s reaction says it all for NYCFC. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Gudmundur Thórarinsson saved New York City FC from a ignominious fate Wednesday night.
The second-half substitute rifled home a free kick in the 90th minute to lift City into a 1-1 draw for a precious road point against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
The goal snapped NYCFC’s epic scoreless streak at 509 minutes and gave the squad a vital point in its battle to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. While the goal was important, NYCFC has won only once in its last games (1-5-4).
“This is a massive point for us,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said.
Indeed, it was.
“I was very pleased with the performance,” Deila said. “I think we fought like we did two last games … where we stayed together the whole game. We had really good substitutes coming on and make a difference. So it says something about the togetherness and the belief in the, in the squad. I think we deserve to get that.”
After Amar Sejdic fouled Talles Magno 24 yards out on the right side, Thórarinsson lofted a direct kick over the reach of goalkeeper Brad Guzan and into the top right corner of the net.
While NYCFC (11-11-8, 41 points) mathematically is still alive to finish among the top seven teams that will reach the Eastern Conference postseason, it hardly looked like a playoff team.
The Cityzens hadn’t scored in four consecutive matches as they showed very few signs of snapping the ignominious streak against Atlanta (11-9-10, 43).
Atlanta drew first blood in the 17th minute. Luiz Araújo stripped the ball from Jesus Medina at midfield and raced down the middle of the field before dishing off the ball on his left side to Marcelino Moreno. Moreno then fired a 12-yard shot into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Sean Johnson for his ninth goal of the season.
Until then, NYCFC held its own. The goal seemed to deflate the side.
Incredibly, Deila did not make any halftime substitutes.
And incredibly, the visitors came out flat in the second half as Atlanta looked like the desperate side trying to score goal.
United almost did in the 55th minute as his 10-yard blast from tbe left side of the area ricocheted off the crossbar.
With NYCFC hosting seventh-place D.C. United (41 points) at Yankee Stadium Saturday night, that game will go a long way in determining the team’s postseason fate. City has four matches remaining in the regular season.
“We need to create that atmosphere and Yankee Stadium, finally play at home, real home in front of our supporters,” Deila said. “That’s going to be massive. So, we have belief in this team, where we’re going to fight … to the playoffs and then never think again we have to dig deep to get results and especially when you ever had a tough, tough period.”