New York City Goals: Pereira 63', Moralez 69', Héber 90'
Inter Miami CF Goals:
New York City secured passage to the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs with a superb 3-0 win over Inter Miami CF. Gabriel Pereira and Maxi Moralez struck two goals in six second half minutes to set the Boys in Blue on our way, before Héber sealed the tie in injury-time to claim a deserved victory at Citi Field, and set up a last eight trip to CF Montréal next weekend.
Looking to make home advantage count - unbeaten in Queens in 2022 - and on the back of a four-game winning streak, City were full of confidence heading into the encounter, determined to retain our trophy.
With Tayvon Gray, Talles Magno and Alfredo Morales ruled out through injury, Cushing made three changes to the side that defeated Atlanta United on Decision Day, as Anton Tinnerholm, Santiago Rodríguez and Héber were restored to the starting XI.
A frantic opening quarter-hour saw both sides lay siege to the opposition goal in search of a quickfire opener.
Alejandro Pozuelo carved the game’s first chance, curling wide of the target, and Sean Johnson’s reflexes were tested early on, as he tipped Robert Taylor’s powerful drive over the bar.
New York responded well and almost broke the deadlock with our first real chance of note, as Thiago Martins crashed a header off the crossbar after Santiago Rodríguez nodded Pereira’s corner into the dangerzone.
It would not be the last time the home side would strike the woodwork. A remarkable passage of play saw Aimé Mabika somehow claw Héber’s chip off the line, smashing the ball off his own bar, before Christopher McVey then sliced an attempted clearance off his own post.
Much of the pre-match discussion had centered around the threat of Miami dangerman Gonzalo Higuaín, with the in-form forward having announced he is set to retire at the end of the season, and the Argentine Forward thought he had broken the deadlock, beating Johnson with a fine first-time finish – only for the offside flag to be raised.
As the Herons threatened on the counter, Jean Mota was then denied by Johnson with a low drive before Higuaín blazed off-target.
Spurred on by a raucous home crowd, City rallied but just lacked the killer instinct in the final third, finding joy behind the visitors' backline without testing Drake Callender too often.
Our first half tally of 16 shots to Miami’s four marked the biggest difference in the first half of a playoff game since 2011 – yet the two sides headed into the break goalless.
The first chance of the second period fell to Miami with Johnson thwarting Higuaín once more, punching clear an effort that seemed destined for the far post.
The deadlock was finally broken three minutes after the hour, as Rodríguez did brilliantly to hold up play before playing neatly into the path of Pereira, who netted his ninth goal of the season with a superb curling finish into the top corner to spark jubilant scenes.
The celebrations had barely died down when NYCFC made it two six minutes later with a delightfully-crafted move, as Rodríguez collected Tinnerholm's pass and clipped a back heeled through-ball into Moralez, who drilled expertly across the goalkeeper.
Kevin O'Toole and Thiago Andrade almost made it three, forcing Callendar into low stops as City looked to put the game to bed, and Héber did just that in the dying embers, slotting home at the second attempt after his initial effort was saved to cap another memorable night.
New York City travel to CF Montréal in the Conference Semifinals of the 2022 MLS Playoffs next weekend on Sunday, 23 October at 1pm ET. Ticket details are to be confirmed so stay tuned to _NYCFC.com _in the coming days for updates.