NYCFC's MLS Cup title defense continues with road demolition of CF Montreal
- NYCFC title defense continues
- Goals from stars Moralez, Heber and Magno
- Rematch with Union in conference final
WHAT HAPPENED? NYCFC quieted the crowd moments after the opening whistle, with longtime captain Maxi Moralez scoring just six minutes into the match. And it only got worse for Montreal just before halftime as Heber scored to give the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break.
Needing a spark early in the second half to drive themselves back into the game, Montreal instead conceded a penalty, allowing Talles Magno to add NYCFC's third in the 61st minute to effectively end the contest. Djordje Mihailovic added one late for the hosts, but the result was already too far gone for Montreal.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: The defending MLS Cup champions were at their very best on Sunday as they thoroughly beat a Montreal team that was spectacular in the regular season. However, this was another example of the difference between regular season and postseason. NYCFC are proven winners at this level, and CF Montreal are not. On Sunday, NYCFC did everything postseason veterans do in these situations. They quieted the crowd, they struck when opportunities arose and largely played mistake-free soccer against a team that proved it could go toe-to-toe with any in MLS across the 34-game season.
ALL EYES ON: Taty Castellanos' departure still looms so large for NYCFC, and of course it does. He was on pace for another Golden Boot before heading to Girona this summer. That's what makes Heber's resurgence so important. The Brazilian striker missed nearly all of 2021 with an injury and has largely been eased back into everything this season. He's starting to rediscover himself, though, having now scored in three straight games. He's not Castellanos, but before the Argentinian's breakthrough, Heber was the guy, and he's now healthy enough to be the main man again for NYCFC.
THE VERDICT: It's a disappointing end to the season for Montreal, who will now head into the offseason with all sorts of questions to answer. Mihailovic and Victor Wanyama are leaving. Ismael Kone could follow after the club received offers for the Canadian star this past summer. How they replace those guys will determine whether they can sustain success or if this season was just a flash in the pan.
NYCFC, meanwhile, are a great example of sustainability. They lost their star striker and their coach midseason, but they continue to chug along toward a return to MLS Cup. Can they do it? It'll be tough, but it's clear that this team is built for the postseason despite the subtractions this summer.
WHAT NEXT FOR NYCFC? The Eastern Conference final will be a marquee matchup. Will it signify a champion's return or a changing of the guard?
NYCFC's next step of their title defense will see them face the Philadelphia Union, the No. 1 seed that smashed offensive and defensive records this season, in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finale.