Anton Tinnerholm: “This is one game, but if we can reach this level again hopefully we’re going to win.” (Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccere.com Editor

After stumbling through 10 games during the summer, New York City FC has regained its mojo.

After dispatching Inter Miami CF in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, 3-0, the reigning MLS Cup champions won for the fifth consecutive time over all competitions.

That just might send a shiver through CF Montreal, which hosts City in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday, and the Philadelphia Union, the regular-season conference champs.

“I think that today we showed that there is a lot of quality in this team, and if we play at this level I think we’re the best team in the league,” NYCFC right back Anton Tinnerholm said. “We know it’s going to be a much tougher game on Sunday, playing Montréal [CF] who like to hold the ball as well. This is one game, but if we can reach this level again hopefully we’re going to win.”

After former head coach Ronny Deila left to manage Standard Liege in Belgium and leading goal-scorer Taty Castellanos joined Girona in Spain, City endured a malaise.

Then, suddenly, in September, things clicked.

“It felt like we had some confidence and that we really knew how we wanted to play. It took some time for Nick [Cushing, the interim head coach] to get into it but he has clear ideas for what he’d like us to do,” Tinnerholm said. “I’m feeling like we’re really playing the way he wants us to as well, together we are really strong.”

It took a while, but Cushing’s ideas finally found its way with his players.

“We now understand the way the coach wants us to play,” said Heber, who tallied the final goal. “He told us how before the match and we followed his directions. That’s why we grew in confidence and improved our form.”

NYCFC will play at CF Montreal in the conference semifinals on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

“I watched the game yesterday. They looked really strong against Orlando [City SC],” rookie defender Kevin O’Toole said about the 2-0 playoff win on Sunday. They have a combination of good young players and experience, and their stadium is a tough environment to play in. We will enjoy this one tonight and refocus and come up with a game plan for Sunday.”