Nicolas Acevedo (right): “Obviously, our wish and what we work towards is to be champions, and I think we have good players and the team to do that.”  (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

If New York City FC has any serious plans of defending its MLS Cup title, it needs to avoid giving up goals in the waning minutes of matches.

The latest case in point:

The Cityzens’ 2-1 defeat at Orlando City SC on Sunday night.

Tesho Akindele tallied six minutes into stoppage time to turn one road point into none for a frustrated City side.

“We just couldn’t get over the line.,” NYCFC interim head coach Nick Cushing said after the crushing result. “It’s two minutes, hot, a lot of games.

“Players are playing a lot of football at the minute and I can’t fault their effort, their togetherness, and the way that they are committing themselves. Their attitude is excellent. But when you’re away from home you’re always going to be put under pressure in those last 15 minutes.

“We just have to continue to find a way. It was only weeks ago that we had [CF] Montreal and [FC] Dallas away, and we were defending our positive results in those moments. We just have to get back to that.”

The setback left NYCFC (13-8-6, 45 points) in third place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Red Bulls (12-8-8, 44), as its hopes of catching leader Philadelphia Union (15-4-9, 54) have been all but frittered away with seven matches remaining in the season. Union holds a nine-point advantage over City.

Midfielder Nicolas Acevedo indicated City had started off well, but had some challenges to overcome in Orlando.

“We started off well in the first half, and I think we did well in the second half as well,” he said. “The field was very heavy. The team tried to get ahead, but in the end, we couldn’t.”

Still, Acevedo felt the team still has that championship feeling.

“I think the team and that the team is united,” he said. “There are some highs and lows, but we are still united. Obviously, our wish and what we work towards is to be champions, and I think we have good players and the team to do that.”

NYCFC has but a couple of days to lick its collective wounds – physically and psychotically – before meeting last-place D.C. United (6-17-4, 22) at its home away from home, Red Bull Arena, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night.

“I think it’s good that on Wednesday we have the opportunity to return and get revenge,” Acevedo said. “Now, it’s time to rest, train as much as we can, and give it all on Wednesday.”

Cushing indicated that he likely will use the same group of players against United, though he will get back Santiago Rodriguez will return after sitting out the Orlando game with a yellow-card accumulation suspension.

“It’s the same guys that we have to roll out again on Wednesday because we’re in a difficult period at the moment,” he said. “I don’t know how serious Thiago Martins’ injury is or whether it’s a recurrence of the last injury, but I’ll leave him with the medical team.

“When you’re getting injuries and it’s starting to affect the squad, you got to work with what you got. We know that we’ve got a roster that’s capable of getting points — we should’ve gotten a point today — but we’ll roll on to the D.C. game, recover the team, and make sure that we’re prepared to get three points.”

If City can’t secure three points at home, well, it’s home away from home against such a hapless side as D.C., we will need to wonder if the team has the wherewithal to dance around with the MLS Cup trophy again come November.