Heber celebrates his goal. (Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

It’s all about the proper mentality.

By halftime of its MLS Cup Playoffs first-round match on Monday night, New York City FC had done just about everything but score against Inter Miami CF.

The Cityzens had outshot the visitors, 16-4, and had three balls hit the woodwork – by Miami – but had nothing to show for their effort.

They kept up their pressure and struck three times in the final half to secure a 3-0 victory at Citi Field in Queens.

“Ultimately, it’s a credit to the guys,” NYCFC captain and goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “In the first half, obviously we created opportunities but that’s how playoffs are. We have to focus on making sure we keep the objective in mind. I think the guys stuck to that. That’s a testament to our mentality, a testament to all the work we’ve been doing, and how important it is to have a group of guys that are committed to doing whatever is necessary, but maintaining the goal in mind no matter the circumstances.”

Right back Anton Tinnerholm understood the frustration, but the defending MLS Cup champions never lost their focus.

“I mean, if you look at the first half we could’ve scored, we had one off the bar and one off the post and a couple of good chances,” he said. “We had a good talk in the locker room saying that we’re just going to keep on going and the goals are going to come. We know they have quality up front but today we handled it really well. I think everyone had a great performance today.”

NYCFC was a roll in the match, while Miami kept on making simple mistakes all over the field, which allowed the hosts to keep possession and continue to attack.

It resulted in goals by Gabriel Pereira, Maxi Moralez and Heber over the final 45 minutes.

“It just required some patience,” rookie defender Kevin O’Toole said. “What we were doing in the first half was good, we just needed to bring a little bit more intensity into our movements up the field, and I think the combination play in the second half was just amazing. We picked our moments to attack with numbers, and you know Maxi, Santi [Rodríguez], Gabi [Pereira], and Anton [were] incredible for us in the way they are so fluid in passing and moving off the ball, so we knew our chances were going to come. We just needed to stay ready for when they present themselves.”